Hurricane Irma may have kissed Jacksonville throughout Sunday evening and into the early hours of Monday morning, but the storm’s impact on downtown Jacksonville was significant. An estimated 4-6 foot storm surge crested the bulkheads and submerged Water Street, Hogan Street, Independent Drive and Coastline Drive.
Image: Mike Field
While workers frantically worked Tuesday to clear up debris to get downtown back open for business, a major building remains without power. The Wells Fargo Center experienced significant flooding within the underground parking facility. More than 72 hours since the storm passed, efforts to pump out the water that entered the subterranean chambers of the building have hindered the ability for crews to restore power within the building.
Once Florida’s tallest building when the facility opened for business in 1974, the structure still stands as one of the Southeast’s most distinctive office towers. The tower’s design concept included a sloping base and larger corner frames to provide a distinctive image not only for the company, but also as an identifying landmark for the city of Jacksonville. The building was also intended to become a “city under one roof.” When completed, the first floor contained several retail spaces, restaurants, a bank, a 360 seat theater-style auditorium, and an indoor four story atrium of tropical vegetation.
Now the third largest commercial office structure in the city (measured by net leasable square footage), thousands of employees from major employers such as Wells Fargo and Regency Centers (among others) remain locked out of the building for the foreseeable future. Some initial estimates have indicated that it may take an entire week to restore power to the iconic skyscraper. Beyond the sheer loss of productivity, having several thousand less employees within downtown during normal business hours has a spill over affect that negatively impacts restaurants and retail establishments that rely on the foot traffic generated by downtown’s daytime population.
As a major landmark in downtown’s skyline remains dark, it serves as a reminder that Jacksonville still has work to do in order to recover from a massive hurricane that touched virtually the entire state of Florida.
Cover Image: Ennis Davis