The challenges associated with Mayor Curry’s downtown demolitions should raise questions about the plans to demolish the Jacksonville Landing. The Administration has been on a “PR blitz” over the past week, making curious statements regarding the Landing’s fate. According to Brian Hughes, the mayor’s chief of staff and interim head of the Downtown Investment Authority, “public input is genuinely unnecessary” and reuse is off the table because “the exact numbers, you know, aren’t in hand, but it’s cost prohibitive.”
Those are interesting claims considering the administration managed to find $22 million to buy and raze the Landing. Recent experience suggests that that number will continue to climb. A look at two nearby demolition projects, neither with any accompanying redevelopment plans, proves that demolition is not necessarily cheap nor expedient.
Liberty Street Reconstruction
After being closed to the public since 2012 due to structural problems, a portion of Liberty Street fell into the river in 2015. When Mayor Curry came into office, his first budget included a “final fix” proposal to demolish a former parking deck, repair bulkheads and build new roadways along Liberty Street and Coastline Drive. At the time, the Mayor’s office pounded their chests over their quick action to solve a long-ignored problem.
Superior Construction Company Southeast was awarded a $24.7 million contract to complete that work. The project finally began in 2017 and was originally scheduled to be completed in July 2018. In early 2018, the company requested and was granted an additional $1.026 million and 7 month extension. The company then requested another $199,551.41 with a projected completion date of January 2020. Now, WOKV reports that a third change order has been requested, although details regarding any cost increases or further delays are not available at this time.
The Florida Department of Transportation contributed roughly $7 million towards the overall project cost. Visitors attending conferences or staying at the Hyatt Regency or dining at the newly-opened Mortons Steakhouse have endured the sights and sounds of demolition for going on three years, with the finish line for this carnage still not yet in focus.
Delays and unknown costs have also cast a shadow on another nearby demolition project. Environmental Holdings Group LLC was awarded an $8 million contract to demolish the seven-story former Duval County Courthouse and 15-story former City Hall Annex building. That work began in October 2018 and was scheduled for completion in April 2019.