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Before & After: San Marco Square's Balis Park

Metro Jacksonville takes a before and after look at the transformation of San Marco Square's Balis Park.

Published August 21, 2013 in Neighborhoods      52 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature



It doesn't take millions of dollars and years to significantly transform the atmosphere of Jacksonville's walkable commercial districts. In November 2012, Metro Jacksonville highlighted plans to modify a roadway intersection into a public square, as a late addition to a streetscape project that was already underway.  Less than a year later, the conversion of Balis Park into a bonafide centralized public square for San Marco has been realized.

As a result, automobile movement has been improved on existing streets and the community gained a great public amenity. The most impressive feat may be that this project was funded through private donations and took advantage of existing amenities in the area.  Here is a before and after look at Balis Park and the intersection of San Marco Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard today.









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52 Comments

Noone

August 21, 2013, 04:41:13 AM
Very nice. Looks like a rectangle shape. Did you gain more on street parking with the design?

Charles Hunter

August 21, 2013, 06:57:15 AM
Did the lions move, or does it look that way just because the 'before' and 'after' pics are not framed the same?  Anyway, the new park looks nice ... need to head over and check it out.

tufsu1

August 21, 2013, 07:03:52 AM
There are a few more spaces....and the lions were not moved

Charles Hunter

August 21, 2013, 07:20:44 AM
Thanks, didn't think so, but some of the angles make it hard to tell as someone not familiar with the area.

thelakelander

August 21, 2013, 07:29:46 AM
^Sorry about that.  I originally planned to just show images of the recent conditions.  Then once I went into our photo archives, I decided at the last minute to toss a few shots from year's past.  These graphics should help visual the changes in the space.

Before:


After:




more renderings: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2012-nov-a-public-square-for-san-marco

dougskiles

August 21, 2013, 09:14:48 AM
Here is a rendering that was prepared based on the design and used for fundraising:



Here is what we got:

exnewsman

August 21, 2013, 09:47:12 AM
Stopped in SM last Friday for dinner. Park looks great. Lots of street lights were out though.

jcjohnpaint

August 21, 2013, 09:52:43 AM
beautiful

Tacachale

August 21, 2013, 11:07:13 AM
Definitely one of the most impressive projects Jax has seen recently. Definitely a much different and better atmosphere than just a few months ago.

hightowerlover

August 21, 2013, 11:24:59 AM
Glad they scrapped the palm trees in that green patch by the lions

ProjectMaximus

August 21, 2013, 01:14:28 PM
Yeah I love it, and all the roundabouts down San Marco Blvd.

Doug, where was that photo taken from?

PeeJayEss

August 21, 2013, 01:26:36 PM
Anyone know if the STOP sign at Balis Place turning onto westbound San Marco Blvd or eastbound Atlantic Blvd was supposed to stay? It seems they eliminated the ability to go straight across to San Marco Place past the firehouse, so that leave left and right turn options, both of which have a dedicated lane. Even if they didn't, I would think Balis would have the right of way.

Also, were the roundabouts put in for aesthetic purposes or to slow traffic down? I wouldn't think Landon or Naldo would have sufficient traffic to justify disrupting the flow of San Marco Blvd, otherwise.

dougskiles

August 21, 2013, 01:36:49 PM
Doug, where was that photo taken from?



Photo taken by Grant Ward and his flying camera.  See more of his photos here:
www.bluedogaerial.com

Bill Hoff

August 21, 2013, 03:13:36 PM
Great job!

tufsu1

August 21, 2013, 04:27:38 PM
Anyone know if the STOP sign at Balis Place turning onto westbound San Marco Blvd or eastbound Atlantic Blvd was supposed to stay? It seems they eliminated the ability to go straight across to San Marco Place past the firehouse, so that leave left and right turn options, both of which have a dedicated lane. Even if they didn't, I would think Balis would have the right of way.

Also, were the roundabouts put in for aesthetic purposes or to slow traffic down? I wouldn't think Landon or Naldo would have sufficient traffic to justify disrupting the flow of San Marco Blvd, otherwise.

in the traffic design, the stop sign goes away (not sure why it is still there)....and roundabouts were both aesthetic and traffic calming

Keith-N-Jax

August 21, 2013, 04:32:40 PM
Looks very nice, should have left the Palm trees in.

kbhanson3

August 21, 2013, 04:53:26 PM
Big improvement for the Square! Now if we can just get everyone up to speed on traffic rules for roundabouts....

Overstreet

August 21, 2013, 04:57:32 PM
I got used to the detours and now  just bypass it all.

JayBird

August 21, 2013, 04:57:36 PM
LoL you mean once in the circle you're not suppose to come to a full and complete stop because there is another car planning to enter? Who knew.

Charles Hunter

August 21, 2013, 05:29:30 PM
Amazing rendering!  Even got the red car right!!

JaxArchitect

August 21, 2013, 05:45:35 PM
Very nice job!  Not only is it a much nicer space and more usable park, but the traffic situation is greatly simplified.  Way to go!

chipwich

August 21, 2013, 06:14:01 PM
I have to disagree with the positive responses for San Marco.  While southbound traffic is almost just as simple (though seemingly snarled at times), Northbound San Marco traffic has been permanently disheveled.

It is almost impossible to drive through the square anymore without encountering people who do not know how to use the (tight) roundabouts.  Several times, I have had to back up due to people driving the wrong way on the new road directions.

I could honestly care less about a few new palm-trees or a larger park.  Easily navigable traffic on the square has been compromised indefinitely and it is really annoying.

The only positive note is that it has slowed down traffic to reduce the risk to pedestrians in the square, but it is otherwise a nightmare to drive through.

Tacachale

August 21, 2013, 06:33:27 PM
^As a resident, I put a lot more value in better and safer pedestrian access than in making it easier for cars to blow through the neighborhood. Though I really can't see how the traffic flow was any better before with the crossovers and stoplights.

tufsu1

August 21, 2013, 09:14:11 PM
^ agreed...that said (to chipwich's point), I have personally observed traffic conditions several times cduring the pm peak rush hour...and not once have I seen an issue northbound...it is pretty much slow speed free-flow conditions, which was the idea

thelakelander

August 21, 2013, 09:17:35 PM
One thing I love is the stop if pedestrians are in crosswalk signs.  Those appear to be having a great impact in slowing auto traffic down and making drivers look for pedestrians. We need more of those across the urban core if you ask me.

fieldafm

August 21, 2013, 09:24:45 PM
One thing I love is the stop if pedestrians are in crosswalk signs.  Those appear to be having a great impact in slowing auto traffic down and making drivers look for pedestrians. We need more of those across the urban core if you ask me.

I suggested these for the Shoppes of Avondale.  The 'Parking Overlords' however think that interferes with residential parking passes. 

tufsu1

August 21, 2013, 09:51:33 PM
^ either that or they aren't pretty enough...in fact, I'm sure one vocal resident will tell you that signs aren't historic

ProjectMaximus

August 22, 2013, 12:50:08 AM
Doug, where was that photo taken from?



Photo taken by Grant Ward and his flying camera.  See more of his photos here:
www.bluedogaerial.com

Wow, that explains it. Awesome!

LoL you mean once in the circle you're not suppose to come to a full and complete stop because there is another car planning to enter? Who knew.

Lol. In fairness, I know how the Five Points intersection works yet I'll still break unnecessarily on occasion out of fear that others do not...

Bridges

August 22, 2013, 07:43:56 AM
One thing I love is the stop if pedestrians are in crosswalk signs.  Those appear to be having a great impact in slowing auto traffic down and making drivers look for pedestrians. We need more of those across the urban core if you ask me.

I have been wanting these for years in certain areas.  Was so happy to see them in San Marco  I think several parts of town could use them.  Five points and Murray hill are two. 

cline

August 22, 2013, 08:46:58 AM
One thing I love is the stop if pedestrians are in crosswalk signs.  Those appear to be having a great impact in slowing auto traffic down and making drivers look for pedestrians. We need more of those across the urban core if you ask me.

I suggested these for the Shoppes of Avondale.  The 'Parking Overlords' however think that interferes with residential parking passes. 

I have suggested those for the Shoppes as well.  They have been installed on Riverside Ave at St. Vincents but they are really needed at the Shoppes.

dougskiles

August 22, 2013, 11:26:32 AM
We (SMPS) have fielded a few complaints about the look of the ped signs (too bright, ugly, etc.)

But - they work.  90% of the time when I am standing on the side waiting to cross, an approaching car will stop.  Before the project, it was more like 1% of the time.

cline

August 22, 2013, 11:40:41 AM
We (SMPS) has fielded a few complaints about the look of the ped signs (too bright, ugly, etc.)

But - they work.  90% of the time when I am standing on the side waiting to cross, an approaching car will stop.  Before the project, it was more like 1% of the time.

I heard the same complaints when they were suggested in Riverside.  I understand that they might not be aesthetically pleasing but that's kind of the point- they need to be that way so that drivers notice them and yield to peds.

fieldafm

August 22, 2013, 11:58:26 AM
We (SMPS) has fielded a few complaints about the look of the ped signs (too bright, ugly, etc.)

But - they work.  90% of the time when I am standing on the side waiting to cross, an approaching car will stop.  Before the project, it was more like 1% of the time.

I heard the same complaints when they were suggested in Riverside.  I understand that they might not be aesthetically pleasing but that's kind of the point- they need to be that way so that drivers notice them and yield to peds.

Amazing how these wayfaring markers work extremely well in keeping pedestrians safe wihout destroying the 'ambience' of popular places like Jax Beach, St Augustine, Destin, Savannah, St Armands (all pretty apt comparables to say the Shoppes of Avondale), etc but yet somehow they are feared in Riverside/Avondale.

Bridges

August 22, 2013, 12:17:55 PM
We (SMPS) have fielded a few complaints about the look of the ped signs (too bright, ugly, etc.)

But - they work.  90% of the time when I am standing on the side waiting to cross, an approaching car will stop.  Before the project, it was more like 1% of the time.

Normally I've seen these signs dead in the middle of the street.  I actually think they're not bad at all in their current locations. 

Not only do they work in alerting drivers to walkers rights, but they also say that "this area is designed to be walked, park your car and feel free to walk".  Suddenly parking down the opposite side opposite end from your destination, doesn't seem like such a hike.  Perception is reality. 

cline

August 22, 2013, 01:36:56 PM
We (SMPS) have fielded a few complaints about the look of the ped signs (too bright, ugly, etc.)

But - they work.  90% of the time when I am standing on the side waiting to cross, an approaching car will stop.  Before the project, it was more like 1% of the time.

Normally I've seen these signs dead in the middle of the street.  I actually think they're not bad at all in their current locations. 

Not only do they work in alerting drivers to walkers rights, but they also say that "this area is designed to be walked, park your car and feel free to walk".  Suddenly parking down the opposite side opposite end from your destination, doesn't seem like such a hike.  Perception is reality. 

I can't remember off of the top of my head but I think one of the signs installed in front of St. Vincents is actually in the middle of the street in that small raised median.  At any rate they are very much needed in the Shoppes asap.  It is such a no-brainer that I'm baffled by it.  With all the lip service paid by the City and FDOT about safety one would think that something this easy and cheap to install would have been done long ago.

fieldafm

August 22, 2013, 02:09:51 PM
We (SMPS) have fielded a few complaints about the look of the ped signs (too bright, ugly, etc.)

But - they work.  90% of the time when I am standing on the side waiting to cross, an approaching car will stop.  Before the project, it was more like 1% of the time.

Normally I've seen these signs dead in the middle of the street.  I actually think they're not bad at all in their current locations. 

Not only do they work in alerting drivers to walkers rights, but they also say that "this area is designed to be walked, park your car and feel free to walk".  Suddenly parking down the opposite side opposite end from your destination, doesn't seem like such a hike.  Perception is reality. 

I can't remember off of the top of my head but I think one of the signs installed in front of St. Vincents is actually in the middle of the street in that small raised median.  At any rate they are very much needed in the Shoppes asap.  It is such a no-brainer that I'm baffled by it.  With all the lip service paid by the City and FDOT about safety one would think that something this easy and cheap to install would have been done long ago.

Locally, you don't have to travel far.  Those particular signs are located along Riverside Ave across from St Vincents, as well as on Water Street in b/w the Water Street Garage and the CSX and 550 Water St Buildings in Downtown.  You can travel a little further down south and see them in use in St Augustine along King Street.




Is that sign (which works) all that contextually unsensitive to the neighborhood?  I'd argue that people speeding through St Johns Ave without regard for pedestrians crossing the street is much less contextually sensitive than a small yellow sign.

Josh

August 22, 2013, 03:06:22 PM
^ either that or they aren't pretty enough...in fact, I'm sure one vocal resident will tell you that signs aren't historic

This is literally true.

fsujax

August 22, 2013, 03:10:17 PM
we need more of those ped signs around town.

cline

August 22, 2013, 03:15:06 PM
Well, the AC unit in my historic home is less than 10 years old so I guess the historic value has been tarnished by modern comforts.  I'm pretty sure the street light on my street isn't historic either.  Just because the things don't look historic doesn't mean they don't belong in the district.  Perhaps when someone is seriously injured or killed by a car then those that opposed the signs due to their "look" can explain the reasoning to the victims loved ones. I'm sure that would go over well.

fieldafm

August 22, 2013, 03:23:12 PM
It costs between $250-300 to have one of those signs installed.

That's it.  In Avondale, to install one at each of the 4 crosswalks would cost about $1200.  $1200 to clearly let drivers know who has the right of way and to enforce a state law that is hardly known nor enforced here in Duval County (a municipality which to no one's surprise has a horrible record on pedestrian/cycling deaths and injuries).

If the stop on Ingleside (near the Sherman Williams store) wasn't so set back from the street and the driver's view blocked by parked cars... you could replace all those expensive stop lights with stop signs and really slow down traffic and make a safe and calm environment for pedestrians.  As it stands, drivers exiting Ingleside South of St Johns Ave have an obstructed view of oncoming traffic due to the on street parking... so removing the traffic signal wouldn't be the safer option unfortunately.

I'm not a traffic engineer, but it doesn't take a brainiac to figure out the better option.

Of course, I don't want residential parking passes... so an opinion based on actual study of best practices, is arbitrarily discounted as coming from one of those pesky yard pissers which have apparently laid their trick money down and infiltrated the neighborhood.

dougskiles

August 22, 2013, 03:34:58 PM
One thing to know about these signs is that they are only permitted in marked crosswalks where there is no traffic signal (or so I have been told by FDOT's engineer).

At the traffic signal, the red light is what is supposed to stop the cars for the pedestrians.  Of course the problem comes with drivers turning right on red and left turning drivers.  There is no standard sign for those conditions that I am aware of.

fieldafm

August 22, 2013, 03:50:41 PM
Even better.  Close off vehicular access from Ingleside South of St Johns to St Johns Avenue (this creates an opportunity for more parking, especially for employee parking-which an honest parking turnover study should show as being a major contributor to parking in Avondale), tear down the traffic lights, put up stop signs instead and slow traffic down.

When the lights are green, vehicular speeds often well exceed 35mph on St Johns Ave going through the Shoppes.  That's not safe for pedestrians nor cyclist, and the area has lots of both.

Stop signs cost a considerably less than traffic lights.

stephendare

August 22, 2013, 03:51:41 PM
Even better.  Close off vehicular access from Ingleside South of St Johns to St Johns Avenue (this creates an opportunity for more parking, especially for employee parking-which an honest parking turnover study should show as being a major contributor to parking in Avondale), tear down the traffic lights, put up stop signs instead and slow traffic down.

When the lights are green, vehicular speeds often well exceed 35mph on St Johns Ave going through the Shoppes.  That's not safe for pedestrians nor cyclist, and the area has lots of both.

Stop signs cost a considerably less than traffic lights.

maybe you could use one of the hundred useless streetlights of downtown's ghost traffic grid

thelakelander

August 22, 2013, 05:11:23 PM
Even better.  Close off vehicular access from Ingleside South of St Johns to St Johns Avenue (this creates an opportunity for more parking, especially for employee parking-which an honest parking turnover study should show as being a major contributor to parking in Avondale), tear down the traffic lights, put up stop signs instead and slow traffic down.

When the lights are green, vehicular speeds often well exceed 35mph on St Johns Ave going through the Shoppes.  That's not safe for pedestrians nor cyclist, and the area has lots of both.

Stop signs cost a considerably less than traffic lights.
If San Diego can get away with this solution in the Gaslamp District, it should work in Avondale.

dougskiles

August 22, 2013, 05:43:34 PM
Even better.  Close off vehicular access from Ingleside South of St Johns to St Johns Avenue (this creates an opportunity for more parking, especially for employee parking-which an honest parking turnover study should show as being a major contributor to parking in Avondale), tear down the traffic lights, put up stop signs instead and slow traffic down.

When the lights are green, vehicular speeds often well exceed 35mph on St Johns Ave going through the Shoppes.  That's not safe for pedestrians nor cyclist, and the area has lots of both.

Stop signs cost a considerably less than traffic lights.

Brilliant idea.  It is so much nicer, calmer and quieter in the Square without the traffic lights.  With the traffic lights, it was a constant drag race to either beat the red light or beat someone from the green.  Now with the lane width restricted people rarely drive faster than 20 mph through.  Traffic moves steadily so that the net time through the area is faster, without people having to drive faster.

tufsu1

August 22, 2013, 10:37:46 PM
^ either that or they aren't pretty enough...in fact, I'm sure one vocal resident will tell you that signs aren't historic

This is literally true.

oh I know...the same is said about striping...can't have bike lanes or even double yellow lines because they aren't histotic

tufsu1

August 22, 2013, 10:41:18 PM
It costs between $250-300 to have one of those signs installed.

That's it.  In Avondale, to install one at each of the 4 crosswalks would cost about $1200.  $1200 to clearly let drivers

sorry, no money left....was all spent on those useful, but riculously expensive, bike racks recently installed in the R-A area

thelakelander

August 22, 2013, 10:46:50 PM
^ either that or they aren't pretty enough...in fact, I'm sure one vocal resident will tell you that signs aren't historic

This is literally true.

oh I know...the same is said about striping...can't have bike lanes or even double yellow lines because they aren't histotic

Neither is asphalt or the vehicles traveling on it. I wonder if half of Jax is ready to really get historic and go back to dirt roads?

tufsu1

August 22, 2013, 10:50:19 PM
^ Texas is doing just that...apparently they aren't bringing in enough dollars to maintain the paved roads leading in and out of many oil refineries...so they're going back to dirt and gravel...kind of comical

fsujax

August 26, 2013, 04:04:21 PM
The improvements look great. Just out of curiosity who is responsible for maintaining the all the landscaping and the uplighting I saw?

dougskiles

August 27, 2013, 05:18:31 AM
SMPS is maintaining the landscaping in the new park.  The landscaping (and uplighting) starting at Naldo and going north on San Marco Blvd will be maintained by the city (hopefully).

ga. resident

September 09, 2013, 10:29:29 AM
i REMEMBER PLAYING HERE AS A CHILD.  WHAT A MARVELOUS PLACE!
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