Friendship Fountain: The Truth Beneath the LiesSeptember 11, 2006 34 comments Print Article
If the city has its way, Friendship Fountain, one of Jacksonville’s most recognizable landmarks, is well on its way to being destroyed and replaced by a new interactive kiddie pool along with a downtown resembling Sesame Street.
Friendship Fountain was originally called the “Fountain of Friendship in Dallas Thomas Park" when it opened in 1965. Its original name coming from the city's parks and finance commissioner. The park was renamed in 1968 after Thomas became involved in a civic scandal. During its heyday, the 200-foot-wide fountain was billed as the world’s largest and tallest, shooting as high as 120 feet, through 63 nozzles, at a rate of 17,000 gallons of water per minute while 252 multi-colored lights created different patterns into the streams.
For over a year, the Mayor’s group has been planning to move Kids Kampus to Friendship Fountain, turning the Southbank into a Kids Zone, next door to MOSH. Doing this would free up the current Kids Kampus site to be converted into “Flex Space”, a term they use to describe land set aside to remain vacant so temporary events, like the Super Bowl festivities, can be hosted on them.
Why the Fountain must go
For the mayor’s flex space plan to be implemented, Kids Kampus, which is currently located next to Metropolitan Park, will be moved to the current location of Friendship Fountain on the Southbank. However, Kids Kampus takes up 10 acres, while the entire Southbank site is only seven. It is impossible to create a competitive Kids Kampus on a smaller site, without eliminating or incorporating the biggest obstacle at the new location...the fountain itself.
Why Mayor’s plan makes little sense
Keep in mind, this is the same group who wanted to put hot dog carts on the Main Street Bridge and replace the Landing with a merry-go-round. The Peyton administration claims the $856,000 estimate to return Friendship Fountain to its former glory is too expensive for the city. However, their plan to “refurbish” the area is estimated to cost $4 million. This insane number also does not include the $500,000 set aside to pay a consultant, or the $4.7 million the city spent constructing Kids Kampus only five years ago.
So to sum it up; $856,000 is too much of a financial burden on the city to restore a local cultural landmark, but $9.2 million should be invested carrying out the Mayor’s dream? Here is some advice (for free), fire the consultant and take our $500,000 and apply it to the restoration of the fountain and keep Kids Kampus in its place, because despite it not being centrally located in the downtown, it is a well used attraction that was just constructed, with taxpayer dollars, only five years ago.
As for finding “flex space”, the massive city owned surface parking lots surrounding Alltel will provide the city with all the “flex space” it can handle, without destroying a five-year-old, $4.7 million investment.
An Affordable Alternative Plan
The "Big Idea’s" plan to convert the Friendship Fountain area into a kids zone ignores previous downtown master plans, which were created with many hours of public input and that call for a mix of cultural uses in that area, such as a larger maritime museum or aquarium. By inviting existing establishments such as the Maritime Museum - which wants to expand into a first class operation at the site; River City Brewing - instead of buying them out of a 99 year lease; and MOSH, a redevelopment plan for the park can be put together much faster and with less taxpayer dollars. There is also plenty of land in the park to incorporate a tot lot or two, as well as an interactive children’s fountain, without destroying a local landmark.
The best thing of all; by following older plans created with input from the public, the Southbank could be converted into a local cultural center, with a restored fountain serving as the centerpiece. This would create a vibrant recreational space that appeals to all residents of all ages and complements the rest of downtown’s offerings.
Timeline of Significant Events
$4.7 million Kids Kampus opens
City discusses buying out River City Brewing’s lease and making Friendship Park interactive like Kids Kampus
A Ron Littlepage editorial suggest moving Kids Kampus to Friendship Park
Spokeswoman hints of possibly replacing the fountain
Big Ideas Plan announced (includes a new kids zone at Friendship Park
Littlepage praises Peyton for his downtown vision, which includes moving Kids Kampus to Friendship Park
City wants to move Kids Kampus to Friendship Fountain to create “flex space” for staging “big events”. If executed as proposed, the Big Idea’s Kids Zone site would replace Friendship Fountain with an interactive kids fountain. City has already begun talks with fountain experts.
John Culbreth states the fountain will not be demolished
City mentions replacing fountain with interactive children’s waterpark. Estimates cost to be in the $3 million range
Bob Johnson of Jaxfountain.com revels a city project note, regarding the city’s intentions for Frienship Fountain
City receives 7 proposals for redesigning the fountain and surrounding park. At this time officials state they don’t plan to touch the fountain itself. Peyton sends emails to concerned residents mentioning that the fountain will be “refurbished”, not demolished.
Wiles states the fountain can’t be repaired at a reasonable cost. HNTB mentions the city wants to relocate Kids Kampus to Friendship Park. The rough cost estimate is $4 million.
HNTB hired by the city for $500,000 to study fountain redesign. Wiles states there’s no cost estimate on a new fountain