5. Jacob Brock is either a hero or villian

Jacob Brock with shipyard workers during the 19th century. (State Archives of Florida)

During the 1850s, Jacob Brock opened a shipbuilding operation that eventually grew into the Jacksonville Shipyards. By the early 20th century, the shipyard employed 1,500 and included the largest dry dock on the east coast, between Newport News and New Orleans. During this era, the barges used in the construction of the Panama Canal were constructed on-site. By the end of the 1960s, it had become known as the Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc. (JSI) and was the city’s largest civilian employer with a workforce of 2,500. JSI’s demise was gradual, beginning in the 1980s before the business permanently closing in 1992, leaving a trail of 140 years of industrial contamination behind.

In recent months, leaders have bragged about the deal that would use a portion of the shipyards property for an amusement park and parking garage next door to a revamped Berkman 2. Despite receiving up to $36 million in tax incentives, Barrington Development has backed out, due to concerns about the level of existing contamination on the shipyards site and the costs and timing to overcome the challenges.

… over the past few months, the group’s engineering partners also raised concerns about the level of existing contamination on part of the Shipyards property Barrington was to secure from the city as part of the agreement.

“They got less and less comfortable from both a cost and a timing perspective that the contamination issue could get resolved quickly,” he said.

Source: https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/article/plan-to-redevelop-berkman-ii-property-with-an-amusement-park-withdrawn

With the Shipyards being a grass field already, perhaps its time to consider the possibility of using large portions of the land as a green space?

City leaders have struggled for 27 years to find a new use for the shipyards. Depending on how you felt about the latest proposal, from the grave Jacob Brock is either the citizen of the hour or the father of a permanent curse. Nevertheless, if we step back from the current situation and look at downtown holistically, Brock and the Shipyards may be telling us a message we’ve ignored to date. Perhaps Jacksonville has been attempting to force a square peg into a round hole and the entire vision for what this site should become in the future should be reconsidered?

4. Yes, clustering means something

A rendering illustrating the USS Adams serving as a complementing centralized attraction to the Berkman 2 miniature amusement park.

According the the Jax Daily Record, the development firm’s lobbyist said the group’s decision to withdraw its plans for the shipyards site were based on issues outside of their control. Originally viewing their amusement park featuring the USS Adams as an anchor, that vision abruptly disappeared when the U.S. Navy announced in December 2018 that it would not donate the USS Charles F. Adams to the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association.

“For one, the USS Adams not coming to Jacksonville caused them to look at their projections,” Brockelman said.

“When that was taken off the table, they had to look at the current deal and think about how that loss would impact the entire project,” Brockelman said.

Ever wonder why competing department, car dearlerships and fast food restaurants tend to cluster together as opposed to opening miles away from one another? Or why complementing and competing vendors tend to co-locate in the same farmers markets, food halls and wholesale districts?

Giralda Avenue in downtown Coral Gables is a result of clustering restaurants, cafes and bars together. Turned into a pedestrian only-street in 2017, the one block strip currently features over 15 different establishments, while also doubling down as a place for special events and festivals.

The Jaxson has long supported what we call the Clustering of Complementing uses within a Compact setting (CCC) as a key downtown redevelopment tool. Jacksonville leaders have continued to ignore this simple principle with devastating results. CCC is a subliminal key to successful urban revitalization that works by locating people, activities (like special events or outdoor dining), and uses (like restaurant or bars) together in close pedestrian scale proximity, allowing them to feed off one another, which in turn stimulates more market rate growth, activity and economic opportunity.

CCC is the reason downtown Orlando and West Palm Beach have developed vibrant urban corridors that are open nights and weekends, and Downtown Jacksonville hasn’t. Berkman 2’s feasibility was partially based on being situated around a complementing attraction - the USS Adams - that would help pull a potential customer base into the site. When that project failed to materialize, the financial benefit for Berkman 2’s developer in locating an amusement park, entertainment and dining around it disappeared as well.

The development lesson here is that even the riskiest of ventures stand a much better chance at being successful when located near a complementing use that allows the ventures to stimulate and feed traffic off one another.

Chicago’s River North is an example of how clustering can activate the streetscape and generate pedestrian traffic.