Urban Infill: A Courthouse Square for Jacksonville?

July 24, 2009 43 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Now that the Duval County Courthouse is finally under construction, Metro Jacksonville takes a look at the plans for the remaining courthouse parcels.

A question and answering converstation with Misty Skipper, Director of Communications for the Office of the Mayor

Metro Jacksonville: What are the City's plans for the remaining courthouse parcels?

Misty Skipper: The short answer is the current budget proposes the space in front of the building be a green space. The adjacent property (current staging area) could be sold.

The land bounded by Adams, Broad, Monroe, and Pearl Streets will be developed into public green space.  The block surrounded by Adams, Pearl, Monroe and Julia Street cold be sold to the private sector.

Metro Jacksonville: What is the budget set aside for the green space?

Misty Skipper: The exact amount is yet to be determined. It will be paid for out of the owner contingency line item (I believe that the amount for that is approx. $16 million.) BUT, we will not know what else it will need to be used for until the project gets closer to completion.

For example, if in the process of doing the foundation work we were to encounter underground storage tanks (which is not unheard of) we would have to pay for their removal and remediation out of this contingency fund. The Guaranteed Maximum Price agreement we have with the contractor has many protections for cost escalations in it, but it cannot anticipate unforeseen items such as the example I gave above.  

What Does This Mean?

With plans online for another green space for downtown, the city will have the opportunity to design a space that interacts with its surroundings and that could be a catalyst for attracting future infill development in LaVilla.  With this in mind, Nashville's recently constructed Public Square can be used as a visual example of a recent well designed public space.

Facing Nashville's historic courthouse, the five-acre civic square was constructed over a new 1,200-space underground parking structure that serves courthouse employees and visitors.  This $11 million project was designed to maximize year-round activity through provision of venues for concerts, civic events, marketplaces, craft fairs, and outdoor play.  The design celebrates the courthouse by providing a tree-lined frame, punctuated by civic monuments and gateways.  A central, oval-shape lawn acts as a flexible space suitable for large gatherings.  Participatory fountains, river overlooks, and memorials energize the surrounding streetscape, knitting the square into the larger urban context.

images by http://www.wrtdesign.com/project-Nashville-Public-Square-84.html

In June 2007, the Public Square project was honored with the Green Roof Award of Excellence from the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities organization.

Nashville's public square

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A well designed space can easily fill up the vacant courthouse garage retail spaces and encourage infill development on the surface parking lots surrounding the courthouse site.  It also has the ability to become an everyday destination in an area of the Northbank that has struggled for decades to attract pedestrian traffic.  Lets get it right this time Jacksonville!

Article by Ennis Davis