Future of the Landing site

The former Jacksonville Landing

The Downtown Investment Authority has chosen three firms to submit proposals to finally turn the former Landing space, colloquially “Lenny’s Lawn,” into a park. Plans are due by June 23, 2021 with the selection made on June 24. Construction costs are as yet unknown, but the city has included a $10-15 million “placeholder” in the 2022 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to use toward the Landing.

This addition further inflates the already considerable cost of the Landing project, but unfortunately, it’s not nearly enough to build the type of iconic public space many have clamored for.

The cost of a real urban park

Citygarden is a 2.9 acre park that was completed at the cost of $30 million in St. Louis in 2009.

The reality is that a good urban park requires a level of investment that Jacksonville has been reluctant to make in recent years. $15 million is markedly less than other cities like Savannah, Birmingham, St. Louis, Tallahassee, Tampa and St. Petersburg have spent on their showpiece parks in the last 20 years. While a decent park can be had for this price, it’s a fraction of the cost of the iconic spaces that local advocates have cited as examples for Jacksonville’s waterfront.

St. Petersburg Pier

The St. Pete Pier

Often listed as an example Jacksonville should strive for, the St. Petersburg Pier has been one of the best new urban spaces in Florida since it opened in July 2020. Planned as a premier destination accessible to the entire community, the space includes restaurants, a market, history museum, aquarium, beach, children’s playground, nature, art and more.

A look at the level of investment required for the St. Petersburg Pier is sobering for anyone hoping to see such a space in Jacksonville. The total cost of the park is $92 million for 26 acres of land, a far more substantial project than even $15 million spent on the 6 acre Landing site.

Tampa: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Similarly, Tampa has invested considerably in its main waterfront park. This 12.5 acre space was revamped to the tune of $43 million back in 2010. Tampa also took advantage of the “Three C’s”, the clustering of complementing uses in a compact setting, by investing in two museums to anchor the park. The Tampa Museum of Art cost $34 million and the Tampa Children’s Museum cost $22 million. Together, this made for a $98 million investment in a space about twice the size of the Landing lawn.

What can we expect?

Tampa’s Water Works Park

One example from Florida that’s similar in both size and likely cost to Lenny’s Lawn is Tampa’s Water Works Park. The City of Tampa invested $7.5 million to convert the space into a 5-acre park in 2014. It features a garden, playground, splash pad, docks and an open lawn. While it’s a nice, well-maintained city park, it would be a stretch to call it iconic.