Article originally published at WJCT.org
The Downtown Jacksonville eyesore on the Northbank known as the Berkman II is coming down, and details have been released about what’s going up in its place.
At least for now, the project is to be known as 500 East Bay. Developers said Wednesday the space will come in at $135 million and will include 40 townhomes, 4 penthouse units, and 249 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. The development will also contain luxury amenities, including an elevated garden plaza with a pool.
On the ground floor, a grocery store will be the anchor retail space, with other retail offerings almost 360 degrees around the building.
Tom Rensing, president of project partner KBJ Architects, said the tower would be moved farther from the Berkman Plaza I tower next door so residents wouldn’t be looking directly into one another’s windows. The building will be moved further north on the property than the existing Berkman II shell so there will be more space on the riverfront for public walking trails and greenspace.
Steve Pece with demolition firm PeceOfMind said that before the Berkman II comes down, his team needs about three weeks to clean up the site, reconfigure the fence, and take over one lane of traffic along Bay Street to expand the demolition site for safety. Then, a high-reach excavator will take the building down one piece at a time, beginning at the top. The building will not be imploded. About 99% of the concrete and metal will be recycled. The total cost of demolition is just over $1 million, paid for by developer Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization.
The project has been helmed by Reggie Gaffney, the Jacksonville City Council member who represents Downtown. He said renovating the eyesore has been a top priority for him since he came to City Council six years ago.
“This will help the city continue to get to its goal of trying to get 10,000 people Downtown within the next two to three years,” he said.
Lori Boyer, the CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, told WJCT News earlier this month that about 6,000 people currently live Downtown.
“I believe that for Jacksonville to be the great city that it is, and to even be greater, it has to have a great Downtown,” said City Council Vice President Sam Newby, another proponent of the project. “And this is one of the first steps to having a great Downtown.”
The Berkman II at 500 E. Bay Street was originally designed as the second phase of the existing The Plaza Condominium at Berkman Plaza and Marina, which also includes riverfront townhouses.
During its construction in 2007, the Berkman II’s parking garage collapsed, killing a construction worker and injuring several others. Construction was permanently halted as a lawsuit was filed against the original owners.