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New plans for the Times-Union site

The future of the former Florida Times-Union headquarters at 1 Riverside Avenue in the Downtown neighborhood of Brooklyn has become a bit clearer. Since the paper relocated to the Wells Fargo Center in 2019, there has been much speculation as to what would happen at this strategically located site. In May 2021, Fuqua Development announced that it had put the entire site under contract from Morris Communications, owners of the property and former owners of the Times-Union, with the intention of totally redeveloping it as part of the continued redevelopment of Brooklyn.

Fuqua’s plans called for razing the historic Times-Union office building and adjacent printing facility. The parking lot would also be torn up to expose and rechannel McCoys Creek, which now flows into the St. Johns River through an underground culvert. On September 2, 2021, the Downtown Investment Authority approved a $31.59 million incentives package for the project, whose total costs are estimated at $182.2 million. New uses will include a grocery store, two apartment buildings with 271 units, and retail storefronts. Many locals expressed their concern that the site design, which shows buildings separated and surrounded by surface parking lots, was too suburban for the Urban Core. The DIA assured the public that the site plan was only conceptual and that a better design would be forthcoming. But is it?

Ups and downs of site plans

An early conceptual site plan of the proposed One Riverside Avenue development.

Arguably, a site plan is the single most important element to get right at the conceptual stage. Mess up in this phase, and from a pedestrian scale perspective, the architectural design of the building facades won’t be able to overcome poor land planning. The DIA has spoken about the 1 Riverside Avenue project as if it were a only conceptual plan, however Phase I appears to have moved beyond conceptual planning, as apartment units are shown in great detail. Compared to the minimal amount of detail on Phase II, it appears that a portion of the plan has progressed into the engineering phase.

A more recent version of the One Riverside Avenue site plan with greater detail of the structures proposed in Phase I. Phase I in white appears to further along in site planning and engineering that Phase II. Much of Phase II is highlighted in green and with residential boxes that don’t show the size and location of individual apartment units.

With the passage of this incentives package, the city may have effectively committed to the Phase 1 shown in the plans. This includes several suburban-style elements that are totally out of place in an urban setting, most concerningly the suburban surface parking lot separating the grocery store from the development’s entrance to Riverside Avenue. This is a car-centric design that hampers future walkability. Accepting this site plan also misses an opportunity to integrate the retail and dining into a central street/view corridor, akin to Tapestry Park or Downtown Dadeland, that could have connected Riverside Avenue with the Riverwalk. Instead, it appears we will get an access road for cars with disconnected strip mall shops in the western corner of the site.

The main retail and dining view corridor of the Downtown Dadeland transit oriented development in suburban Miami-Dade County.