Want to run through Friendship Fountain? ULI panel presents early thoughts on Southbank
Thursday, March 31, 10:50 AM EDT
Published by the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record
By Max Marbut, Staff Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The best use in the next 50 years for the centerpiece of the Southbank could be to go back in time by about 50 years.
Their report won’t be published for at least six weeks, but that was the early impression presented Wednesday by a seven-member panel commissioned to study the area between the Acosta and Main Street bridges and Prudential Drive and the St. Johns River.
A Technical Assistance Panel comprised of Urban Land Institute members spent two days touring the site, meeting stakeholders and considering options for redevelopment. Panel members are architects, planners and administrators.
“It’s a great group with a lot of disciplines,” said David Powell, a land-use attorney from Tallahassee who chaired the panel.
He described the 15-acre site, owned by the city, as a keystone parcel and “the lynchpin for the whole district.”
It includes the Museum of Science & History, the River City Brewing Co. restaurant, Friendship Park, a boat ramp and marina, and two mid-rise office buildings.
The institute advocates for healthy living places that promote economic growth, diverse public and private uses of sites and mobility, Powell said.
Steve Lovett, a planner, landscape architect and partner at Ervin, Lovett and Miller, was the only member of the panel from Jacksonville.
He said the property is one of the few St. Johns River public access points Downtown and therefore must be treated “carefully and with respect.”
The panel concluded there should be more public interaction with the site and more greenspace — much like the original design of the park and fountain that opened in 1964 — but with a few modifications.
Lovett said the fountain is large and impressive when viewed from the Northbank, “but when you’re there, the only opportunity is to look at it.”
Tom Murphy, former mayor of Pittsburgh and ULI senior resident fellow for urban development, said the fountain could be more of a destination if people had the opportunity to run through it.
“Water and people want to come together,” he said.
Lovett said some of the constraints that will be encountered in any redevelopment plan for the site include the long-term property leases the restaurant and museum have with the city and the historic nature of the site.
Future residential development, he said, should “cross the strata of all economic and demographic groups,” including workforce housing.
The panel suggested slowing down traffic around the site and possibly reconfiguring the Main Street Bridge to allow on each side one lane for vehicles and one lane for pedestrians.
The boat ramp and marina should be relocated and long-term leases for slips should be prohibited in favor of transient use to encourage more people to visit the Southbank by boat.
Parking was another focus of the study. There is plenty of parking on and around the site, but it’s in the wrong places, the panel determined.
Powell said the next step is for the city to develop a “true plan for the Southbank” and more detail will be included in the formal report the panel will provide in six to eight weeks.