No matter how hard we might have tried to keep a working waterfront, it wouldn't have happened and today we'd probably be complaining as the city was in roughly 1960 that the whole dock, warehouse, waterfront complex is rotting and falling into the St. Johns River.
I agree that this was a much more 'human' time, and the downtown was blessed by it's location. However today it is simply impractical to think anyone would want this labor intensive method of shipping for nostalgia's sake. As we struggle with hundreds of empty lots stupidly left in the wake of hopeful investors or irresponsible owners, imagine how much more we would struggle had that shipping industry stayed downtown. Safe to say the whole area south of Union and north of the River would be a massive container lot. Downtown Jacksonville would be straddling the Trout River.
Keeping a few of the old docks in place would have been wise, provided there would have been a way to maintain them through those transition years. Today, interesting little 'import' shops, food vendors and perhaps our local crab boat industry could call them home. But in a downtown where fishing in OUR river is illegal, and roller skates are a capital crime, I wouldn't hold out much hope.
Ock, you raise great points about the state of the industry had we kept the industry downtown.
But what would have happened if we had kept the passenger industry connection between rail and sea downtown?
What would you extrapolate would have happened?
How can we create the same kind of economic connetion and vibrancy using waterfront to rail connection today?
Keeping the old waterfront is a major theme of many of our articles, and while it would indeed be cool to have a 'working waterfront' today, it's just not possible, at least not in any historic sense.
Ock, I believe a working waterfront is possible but you can't get caught up on the ground level details of what the specific uses should be at this point. I base that belief upon the successful transformation of similar districts in American cities all across the country (San Francisco, San Diego, etc. are good examples).
While the waterfront of the past was port related and the area may not be suitable for container terminals, there's no reason a waterfront of the future can't offer more pleasure craft opportunities (think St. Petersburg or Miracle Mile) and be an environment that offers the possibility of small scale fishing, crabbing, charters, river cruises, etc.
As for Commodore's Point, perhaps we should be trying to grow the remaining heavy maritime industries there instead of dreaming of ways to relocate them? Perhaps some of the surface tailgate lots west of the Talleyrand should be repurposed for addition maritime related industry? The river, rail, and expressway are already in place. On the railroad front, while railyards won't be coming back, the terminal becoming an intermodal transportation hub would be a huge economic benefit.
BINGO! I believe both Stephendare and Lakelander have hit on the crux of the situation as it might have/could have/should develop.
Today a working waterfront is the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, the cruise terminal in Norfolk, or the reinvented 'Pike' in Long Beach (though I'll always miss the old seedy one there too!)
Had we preserved just a few of those buildings for the sake of future water related recreation, and small retail, fishing, charter business, it would be a magnet throughout the south today. The fact remains however that it couldn't be done for myriad reasons. One of the prime reasons was the 'new' Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Building in the late 1950's cut off the rail lines to anything east of that point (current CSX tower). Nobody could afford to sit on those sites until we moved from a production/industrial society, to a barren information age city. Having seen the waterfront in both era's the old one would never had made it to 1970 without massive infusions of cash and little hope for a ROI.
The 'Bold New City' concept was flawed in that it removed human space for automobile space. Tearing down the waterfront as bad as it was and replacing the most valuable land in Florida (at that time) with a massive parking lot speaks volumes to a lack of vision. Sure we snagged a few big dog banks and insurance companies, and perhaps hung on to some retail for a bit longer, but the age of the consolidation of industry blew right past us. Meanwhile we jealously guarded our riverfront parking lots!
Godbold's Jacksonville Landing concept I believe was largely based on recovering some of what we once had, but the scale of the place, lack of a fixed transit connection, broken parking replacement promises, horrible maintenance, and very limited river or street interaction have given us another 'tumbling wharf on the waterfront'. Albeit one that COULD be fixed.
I think Stephen is on to a cutting edge idea that we could explore further and push toward reality. There would be some major obstacles to overcome and timing of each element as it came on line would be critical.
Getting Amtrak and the intercity bus companies back into a single downtown station building would help.
A streetcar connection between that historic station, punching all the way through the historic downtown core, to the Hyatt, Newnan, Beaver, Stadium, Gateway, would also kick start the movement of people through the core again.
Lakelander's concept of turning the landing and Wells Fargo building's retail inside-out to face the street would work. The addition of a historic element missing from most such remakes is the broad awnings which once protected downtown's citizens from the blazing summer heat or rain.
A vigorous recruitment of small cruise lines:http://blountsmallshipadventures.com/where-we-go/2012-atlantic-coastal-waterways?view=itineraryhttp://www.americancruiselines.com/Search?r=Southeast%20US&d=By%20Departure%20Date&s=By%20Shiphttp://www.pearlseascruises.com/
(Under Development to our area)http://www.smallshipcruises.com/cruisereport/cruisereportradissonsevenseas.shtml
(Currently serving Tampa-Gulf area)
Roundtable discussions between Jaxport Cruise Executives - Disney - Amtrak - Port of Sanford - Greyhound Charters - JIA and the small ship operators could create a thriving market with a connectivity unlike any in the country. It could also revive the St. Johns River as a regular cruise route.
Development of a multipurpose Florida Marine Welcome Center - Visit Jacksonville - Small Cruise Terminal - with more retail along the waterfront could be the dynamo that gives it the needed attractiveness to the various private carriers and theme parks.
Using Stephens premise, there is no reason why Amtrak couldn't run into downtown with regularly scheduled trains carrying cruise passengers. No reason why we can't market the southeast, Disney and all the rest, right from our waterfront.
We need more interaction between the water and the city, even at the landing it is very restricted. We also need to lighten up on our social laws that prevent an executive from seeing a fisherman or skater while enjoying a lunch on the bulkhead. How many muggers wear skates?
What affect did the attempt to transform Jacksonville into "The Bold New City of the South" impact the destruction of this area? By that I mean the desire to transition the city from a blue collar industrial (rail and shipping) economy to a white collar financial center type economy... of the Atlanta model for example.
I think the sell out that this city started in 1932-36 to the automobile industry and completed by replacing entire districts of human activity with more space for automobiles is at the heart if not THE heart of the matter. A little wisdom from south of the border, quoting the mayor of Bogota, "roads move automobiles - fixed transit moves people."