Article by Bill Bortzfield originally published on WJCT

An ambitious plan to link Jacksonville’s urban core neighborhoods in a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly way is moving forward.

On Thursday, June 18, Groundwork Jacksonville unveiled the design for the first $3.9 million piece of the Emerald Trail, called the Emerald Trail Model Project.

Construction on this first phase is scheduled to begin this fall and link Brooklyn to the S-Line Rail Trail through LaVilla.

The 1.3-mile LaVilla link will cross over the Park Street Bridge and head north along Lee Street. It then turns west at Church Street and northward across Beaver Street until reaching the S-Line Rail Trail at Wilcox Street and State Street in the Railyard District.

The Emerald Trail is a public/private partnership between the city of Jacksonville and the nonprofit Groundwork that is scheduled to connect 14 urban neighborhoods to Downtown, the St. Johns River, McCoys Creek, and Hogans Creek. It’s expected to be completed by 2029 and eventually encompass 30 miles.

“Our guiding principles are to design a beautiful, low-maintenance amenity that connects and honors our historic neighborhoods, incorporates green infrastructure wherever possible, and creates a safe habitat for birds, bees, pedestrians, and bicyclists,” said Kay Ehas, CEO of Groundwork Jacksonville in an email to WJCT News.

The design of the next two segments, Hogans Street and the S-Line Connector, will begin later this summer, according to Groundwork Jacksonville.

“We are one step closer to creating an amenity unlike any other in our city,” said Mayor Lenny Curry in a news release.

Groundwork Jacksonville has raised nearly $1,000,000 for the Emerald Trail design from private donations.

The LaVilla Link of the Emerald Trail was designed by Pond, an architecture, engineering, planning, and construction firm based in Atlanta with offices in Jacksonville. Pond has designed and implemented more than 400 miles of greenway and multi-use trail projects throughout the South, including work on the Atlanta BeltLine and The Island Trail on St. Simons Island, Ga.

Related: View the Emerald Trail Master Plan

The Emerald Trail will eventually link 16 schools, two colleges, and 21 parks, among other destinations like restaurants, retail, and businesses, with an additional 13 schools and 17 parks located within three blocks of the trail.

LaVilla Link: Before and After

Park and Stonewall Streets - Before

Lee Street Viaduct - Before & After

Lee Street Viaduct - Before

Lee and Water Streets - Before & After

Lee and Bay Streets - Before & After