Rethinking Jacksonville's Courthouse Site

Click to view full-size graphic → CONCEPT DETAILS: City Hall Plaza would have a monument, fountains and a pool creating a dynamic public gathering space. Newnan Commons, a lawn at the edge of Newnan Street, would be a venue for cultural/civic events and community gatherings. Market Grove, a circular space straddling Market Street, allows the street and right-of-way to become a part of the park and hold east and west parcels together. A potential venue for civic/cultural events that allows for temporary closure of Market Street. Hyatt Loggia, along the rear of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront hotel, would provide a venue for wedding groups, etc. Bay Street Plaza has a seat wall with shade trees and interactive at-grade water plaza. It would be a gathering place with potential to support food vendors and programmed events and would capitalize on the Bay Street activity zone. Wetland Cells provide a location for alternative storm-water storage and treatment. The Conservatory could be a civic, group meeting, or cultural venue as the eastern “anchor” of park blocks. Great Lawn is non-programmed open space, suitable for parties, recreation or highly programmed fairs, cultural and community events. The Promenade is an avenue of live oaks organized to connect the Bay Street activity zone with the St. Johns River and the Riverwalk. Courthouse Plaza has a seat wall with shade trees and interactive at-grade water plaza. It would be a gathering place with potential to support food vendors and programmed events.

Click to view full-size graphic →

CONCEPT DETAILS:

City Hall Plaza would have a monument, fountains and a pool creating a dynamic public gathering space.

Newnan Commons, a lawn at the edge of Newnan Street, would be a venue for cultural/civic events and community gatherings.

Market Grove, a circular space straddling Market Street, allows the street and right-of-way to become a part of the park and hold east and west parcels together. A potential venue for civic/cultural events that allows for temporary closure of Market Street.

Hyatt Loggia, along the rear of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront hotel, would provide a venue for wedding groups, etc.

Bay Street Plaza has a seat wall with shade trees and interactive at-grade water plaza. It would be a gathering place with potential to support food vendors and programmed events and would capitalize on the Bay Street activity zone.

Wetland Cells provide a location for alternative storm-water storage and treatment.

The Conservatory could be a civic, group meeting, or cultural venue as the eastern “anchor” of park blocks.

Great Lawn is non-programmed open space, suitable for parties, recreation or highly programmed fairs, cultural and community events.

The Promenade is an avenue of live oaks organized to connect the Bay Street activity zone with the St. Johns River and the Riverwalk.

Courthouse Plaza has a seat wall with shade trees and interactive at-grade water plaza. It would be a gathering place with potential to support food vendors and programmed events.

By: Steve Lovett

Last month marked the opening of Jacksonville’s new courthouse and heightened the question of what should be done with the old courthouse building and site. Recently, I was asked by city leaders to prepare a concept of what should be done, and this assignment got me thinking.

I’ve long felt that Jacksonville’s Downtown has greater unrealized potential than anywhere. We have a sunny climate, a strong corporate history in banking, insurance and maritime industries, a walkable historic Downtown, and a huge natural ecological asset in the St. Johns River that creates one of the most beautiful urban waterfront settings in the world. The “bones” and setting of the city are envious, but what have we done with it?

We need to make decisions on a larger set of values and priorities that define who we are and what we aspire to. I applied the following priorities/goals to the solution of “what’s next” for the old courthouse:

  • To be an asset to all people in the region, socially, culturally and recreationally
  • To create something attractive that adds value to Jacksonville through its beauty
  • To stimulate private investment and long-term economic growth
  • To promote an ecologically healthy river

The Courthouse Park concept, illustrated at right, achieves each of these goals, creating what will hopefully become a permanent great urban park.

Courthouse Park will:

  • Enhance value and redevelopment potential for the Bay Street District, a point of emphasis for the city with a new “front door” to the river and waterfront park and potential location between a major hotel and convention center.
  • Strengthen the connection between the sports complex and Downtown core, another point of emphasis for the city.
  • Provide a beautiful, flexible and programmable venue for passive or active recreation, events and daily life.
  • Create greater potential for development perpendicular to the river, translating value several blocks north into the city.

Steve Lovett is a principal in the planning, architecture, landscape architecture and urban design firm ELM/Ervin Lovett Miller, based in Jacksonville with an office in Seattle.