The former Times Union helipad will potentially become the site of a new isolated full service restaurant.
Another issue with poor planning arose with the DIA’s request that the former helipad site on the property be adapted for a restaurant. In fact, the DIA considered this a key priority in the deal and agreed to give the developer a forgivable loan of up to $750,000 to build out the restaurant. It is easy to see why Fuqua agreed to this, as the loan reduces the risk they take on and there’s no real loss to them if the restaurant fails and the building stays shuttered. But will it work?
In DIA’s defense, more riverfront dining is badly needed in Brooklyn and the rest of the Downtown neighborhoods. There has been no cluster of eateries and bars on the waterfront since the city shuttered the Jacksonville Landing over two years ago. But this does not mean that just any nook and cranny on the river can make for a successful restaurant location. In this case, the site has no visibility from Riverside Avenue, confusing parking, and little connectivity or cohesion with the other retail components of the site. Just up the street, these same issues caused the most of the retail strip at 220 Riverside to shutter and remain closed since 2019, despite the fact that retail is booming in much of the rest of Brooklyn. We fear that a restaurant in such an isolated spot will suffer the same fate.
A ray of hope
Fortunately, it isn’t too late for the DIA to resolve these issues. If the DIA really sees this as conceptual, they can simply commit to hashing out a better site plan and working with Fuqua to make it happen. Some of the problems could be resolved relatively painlessly. For instance, simply flipping the grocery store to Riverfront Avenue, with parking behind it, would go a long way to reducing the suburban, driving-centric current design. This would require acting immediately to avoid Fuqua wasting time and money on the current site plan, but it would be well worth it to fix things now while it’s still on nice, cheap paper.
Editorial by Bill Delaney, Ennis Davis, AICP, and Mike Field, managing partners of The Jaxson. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org, Ennis at email@example.com and Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Delaney’s new book Secret Jacksonville: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure is out. Order a copy here.