When will Southbank Riverwalk be replaced?

City officials say contractor working to begin demolition next summer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Major problems continue along the Southbank Riverwalk, and now it looks like there are more delays on replacing it.

For years, Channel 4's Jim Piggott has been watching and following how the Southbank landmark has been deteriorating. There have been promises of repairs and replacements, the most recent in which the city said it was ready to move ahead with a new Riverwalk by the end of the year.

Now, however, city officials say work won't begin until next summer.

The developer has come with a plan and schedule to replace the still-popular attraction that serves as a place to exercise or relax.

Piggott said since his visit to the Riverwalk last month, things appear to have gotten worse. Areas are barricaded off underneath the Main Street Bridge, and parts are caving in, making it dangerous for those who use the Riverwalk.

"When you walk on it, it feels like its going to drop right though to the river," Piggott said. "There is nobody here to warn people, there is no barricade set up. It's really dangerous."

"I did not think it was like this the last time we were here," said Suzanne Rader, who visits the Riverwalk. "It looks like they recently cut a whole in there to do something. It was not like that."

The city is now giving some answers about how it plans to fix the problems. For several years, it has set aside $15 million to replace the Southbank Riverwalk. Instead of wood, the plan is for it to be concrete like the Northbank Riverwalk.

The first part of the project is demolition.

Starting in July, the contractor is proposing tearing down the portion of the Riverwalk from Friendship Fountain to the Riverplace Tower.

Instead of using equipment that creates loud pounding noises to put in concrete pilings, the contractor has come up with a new method that property owners like the Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront say they can live with.

"We are working to get this done as soon as possible, but you have to understand we are working with the contractor and look for savings and design improvements on the route," said David DeCamp, a spokesman for the mayor's office. "But we want to make sure the adjacent property owners accept what we are doing."

The city has not signed off on the plans. Even though there is money set aside, it could cost more.

The work is planned when hotel occupancy is at its lowest. The contractor says the entire Riverwalk may be finished by 2014.

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