Downtown Vision: Metro Jacksonville's Submission

October 27, 2006 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Although possibly outside of the scope of the Florida Times-Union's requirements, Metro Jacksonville's vision centers around realistic solutions concerning the coordinating of major public projects that have slowed the pace of downtown redevelopment.



The Metro Jacksonville vision for this area is really a call to renovate the fountain as originally constructed and implement additional ideas for the park that have been wanted by residents and added in various planning studies over the years.

This graphic (above) gives an impression of what the Friendship Park area could be, if older master plans were used, as opposed to spending millions more to forcefully demolish the fountain against the general public's will and relocate the recently built $4.9 million dollar Kids Kampus, in its place. 

Suggested ideas shown include restoring Friendship Fountain into its original state, leaving MOSH and River City Brewing in their present locations and adding additional cultural attractions, like an expanded Maritime Museum or an aquarium, to surround the revitalized park, making this location the cultural epicenter of the city.





This plan involves building the new courthouse complex in a vertical layout, making two full blocks available to be sold back to the private sector at market rate prices, reducing the overall cost of the courthouse facility. Once the courthouse is removed, the existing waterfront site would become the home of a new four level urban convention center with space set aside for private sector development.  This would include entertainment-oriented projects, facing Bay Street and hotel/office towers and upscale restaurants lining the riverwalk.  As seen with the courthouse solution, incorporating an urban layout, instead of a suburban one will allow the city to reduce the overall project costs by millions because the city would profit by selling valuable land back to the private sector for privately financed development.  With these two projects underway, stimulating growth to the areas around them, the Prime Osborn could then be converted back into its original use as a multi-modal transportation center.


The new courthouse complex would be constructed as a high to mid-rise complex, with the purpose of making two full blocks available to be sold back to the private sector to help reduce the overall cost of the project.  The roads surrounding the courthouse facility would be converted into a traffic circle (square).






The new courthouse would be built on two full blocks surrounded by Duval (north), Adams (South), Pearl (east) and Clay (west). The two blocks fronting Broad would be sold to the private sector for dense mixed use infill projects. The block, shown as a park, would be set aside for future courthouse expansion needs.  






This graphic shows potential urban convention center layout for the existing courthouse and city hall annex sites.



The actual convention center would be located in the middle of the existing courthouse site.  Ground level fine dining resturant space would face the waterfront, while "air rights" would be sold to the private sector for future hotel and office tower development.  City Hall Annex would be demolished for a mega parking structure and private entertainment based development lining Bay Street.  The convention center's main entrance would become Market Street.


A conceptual perspective of the convention center complex


A conceptual aerial of the convention center complex.



The planning behind the convention center idea was taken from a suggestion by Mike Weinstein, who met with Metro Jacksonville members a few months ago.  To help visualize the urban convention center concept look no further than the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, WA.  This complex, offering over 200,000sf of exhibit space, opened in 1988 and expanded in 2001, takes up four blocks in the heart of downtown Seattle.

The Washington State Convention and Trade Center complex is highlighted in blue.


The original two block center (right) was completed in 1988.  The 2001 expansion (left), doubled the amount of square footage, as well as sold "air rights" to the private sector, which resulted in a 30 story Hyatt Hotel and 16 story office tower.


Central to the expansion’s funding strategy was the sale of adjacent property not needed, to private co-developers. These areas included the surplus development rights above and the significant space beneath the convention center expansion.  

The term “co-development” is used to describe the condition where multiple project components are separately funded, synergistically related and physically attached. In fact, true co-development refers to a condition where neither project can proceed alone, and their development must proceed concurrently.

This illustration shows the main street level plan, which features several restaurants and retail shops.  Also shown is the most controversial element of the expansion, which was a 90ft wide/ 4-story high, arching glass canopy over Pike Street, which connects the older center with the new expansion. 


The WSCTC expansion serves as a benchmark for the integration of co-development into a convention center project by including a hotel, an office building, parking, street-front retail, and a new museum, all located above and below the expansion of the WSCTC.

If anything is taken from Metro Jacksonville’s submission, it should be the concept of “co-development”, in regards to the three major public developments being presently discussed, the county courthouse, convention center and JTA transportation center.