Rethinking Jacksonville's Courthouse Site
Viewpoint: We need to make better decisions
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
attractivethat 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.