Downtown Jacksonville from the St. Johns River

October 1, 2010 21 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a look at Downtown Jacksonville's Northbank from the river's perspective.

The FEC Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge is a double track railroad bridge spanning the St. Johns River near the Northbank's south border.  Completed in 1925, this structure replaced a single-track swing bridge which opened on January 5, 1890.  Joseph Baermann Strauss, the bridge's designer, was the Chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA.

In January, 2005, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of the latest extension of the Northbank Riverwalk. Construction took nearly two years for the 1.5-mile, $8.7 million project. The landscaped brick walkway connects the existing Riverwalk at the CSX building to Riverside Avenue. Its features include historical lighting, water fountains, trash receptacles, bike racks, irrigated landscaping and over 100 benches.

The Acosta Bridge is named for City Councilman St. Elmo W. Acosta, who convinced voters to approve a $950,000 bond issue for the original bridge. It carries SR 13 (six lanes) with the two-track JTA Skyway in the median. Prior to its replacement in 1991, the bridge, originally called St. Johns River Bridge, opened in 1921 and carried three lanes (center one reversible) on a lift bridge of similar design to the Main Street Bridge but was known as the Yellow Monster, largely for its tendency to stick in the upward position. Tolls were charged until 1940, earning more than $4 million for the City of Jacksonville. At some time in 1991, the original bridge was closed to allow construction of the new one (completed in 1994) to proceed.

Despite being a freeway, bicycles are permitted on the main lanes of the bridge.  The Acosta Bridge is also notable because of the blue neon lights that illuminate it at night.

Now the headquarters of CSX Transporation, this landmark tower was originally built for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1960.  Prior to this, the site was the location of Clyde-Mallory Lines.  Clyde-Mallory once provided downtown Jacksonville with passenger and freight services to New York, Miami, Boston, Wilmington, Charleston, Key West, Galveston, Tampa, New Orleans and Mobile.  They claimed to have the newest, largest and most magnificent ships serving the South.

The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Jacksonville, Florida opened in 1997, and was built on the former location of the Civic Auditorium. The Jim and Jan Moran Theater opened on February 8, 1997, and the The Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall opened with an inaugural concert by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra on April 26, 1997. It is named for Jacksonville's major newspaper, The Florida Times-Union, which bought the naming rights in 1994.

The Times-Union Center is home to three performance facilities. The Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall has 1,800 seats and is designed for non-amplified stage events. This is the home of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, which performs the majority of its concerts there. The Jim and Jan Moran Theater has 3,000 seats and is designed for amplified performances. The C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Theater has 600 seats, and is a multi-purpose hall with stage.

The Jacksonville Landing is a 125,000 foot shopping and dining complex in Jacksonville, Florida. It has been compared to New York City's South Street Seaport, Boston's Faneuil Hall or Miami's Bayside. All developed by the Rouse Company.

The City of Jacksonville contributed $20 million to the construction of the structure. In 2003, the Rouse Company announced it would sell the Jacksonville Landing to local developer Toney Sleiman for $5.1 million. The Florida Times-Union revealed that Sleiman, who bought the buildings but not the city-owned land, would not have to pay the $100,000 rent required by the city of Jacksonville for the land until the city provided the 800 parking spaces it had promised the previous owners.

In 2010, the 23-year obligation was finally resolved. The City Council passed a bill to contribute $3.5 million toward Sleiman's purchase of an existing parking lot across from the Landing. That money was in addition to a 20-year parking validation program costing the city $2.5 million. The mayor vetoed the bill, but the council voted unanimously to override the veto.

The Main Street Bridge was the second bridge built across the river.  It opened in July 1941 at a cost of $1.5 million.  Named after Mayor John T. Alsop, Jr., in 1957, the landmark bridge stretches 1,680 feet, with an open clearance of 135 feet.

The 20-story Hyatt Jacksonville dominates the north riverfront's skyline, east of the Main Street Bridge.  Originally known as the Adams Mark at the time of its 2001 opening, 966-room hotel is Jacksonville's largest.

The county courthouse parking lot is the last major surface parking area along the riverwalk in the central Northbank.  With the new Duval County Courthouse scheduled to open in LaVilla in 2012, future plans for this site could include a convention center.

The Plaza Condominiums at Berkman Plaza development includes a 206-unit condominium tower, 20 riverfront townhouses, a marina and a potential riverfront restaurant site at Liberty and --- Streets.  The construction of a twin tower, Berkman II, remains in limbo following litigation stemming from the 2007 collapse of that project's six level parking garage.

Formerly the location of one of city's largest industrial employers, the Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc., this 44-acre site is destined to become a passive riverfront park until local economic conditions improve.  Many local residents would like to see the city move forward with opening and making available one of the existing piers to the general public.

Producing up to 1 million pounds of coffee a day, Maxwell House Coffee is the last remaining large industrial facility on East Bay Street.  After 100 years of continuous operation, the 400,000-square-foot plant is one of the world's largest coffee plants and one of the city's oldest manufacturers.
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The Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is a 15,000 seat multi-purpose arena completed in 2003 as part of Mayor John Delaney's Better Jacksonville Plan to replace the outdated Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum.

The arena was designed, using state-of-the-art techniques, to have the acoustical characteristics necessary for concerts; the first artist to hold a concert in the Arena was Elton John, in November 2003.

Since that time, dozens of groups, including country, rap, rock and others have performed at the arena, including Prince, The New Power Generation, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Metallica, Godsmack, Queen + Paul Rodgers, Rush, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz, Jessica Simpson, Guns N' Roses, Def Leppard, Journey, Stoll Vaughan, Billy Joel, Hilary Duff, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, Everlife, Taylor Swift, AC/DC and American Idol Live!, among others.

Metropolitan Park is a 23-acre waterfront park that is located on what used to be an urban landfill, supported by a concrete bulkhead. The land was purchased by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for $1, 005,000 in May 1972. The beginning of this park started in 1982, with the first groundbreaking. The cost of this project was $3.1 million dollars. The ground breaking was delivered by than Mayor Jake M. Godbold and than Governor Bob Graham, on December 8, 1982. The project was underwritten by the City of Jacksonville, U.S. Department of the Interior, State of Florida Department of Natural Resources, and the television station WJCT –TV (local public broadcasting system). The entire park project is planned to be completed in different phases. The first phase included an exhibition mall for arts and crafts shows, a family picnic area, playground areas, and the focal point of the park – the Performance Pavilion. This park was plan to be a multi-purpose park for family enjoyment that would include performances, concerts, plays, talent shows, and other group gatherings. On May 10, 1990, there was another ground breaking for the new entrance to Metropolitan Park. Mayor Tommy Hazouri presided over this event. At that time, the park underwent a $1,079,000 construction project that included paved walkways, lighting, landscaping, parking, and playground areas. Metropolitan Park was the winner of the 1986 Governor's Design Award. The Florida National Pavilion, located in Metropolitan Park, is the home for the Jacksonville Music Festival and the Jacksonville jazz Festival.  Metropolitan Park is a 23-acre multi-purpose family orientated urban Waterfront park under the direction of the Park, Recreation, Entertainment and Conservation Department. The park was a joint project between the City of Jacksonville, WJCT - Channel 7 television, The United States Department of the Interior, and the State Of Florida. The land for this park was started with the original purchase in May of 1972. The land area has been increased in size with various acquisitions since that time. The waterfront park is one of the focal points for Downtown Redevlopment. Located in the park is the Florida National Pavilion, home of the Jacksonville Musical Festival, and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. This Pavilion has been host to numerous events that includes many famous entertainers.

Everbank Field the home stadium facility of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise. The stadium sits on 10 acres of land, including portions of the original Gator Bowl Stadium; it had a capacity of 73,000 when re-opened and expansions over the past decade have since increased that to 76,867.

EverBank field is used primarily as a professional football facility but does host other events including monster truck shows and concerts. It also hosts a number of annual college football games, including the Florida vs. Georgia Football Classic each year between The University of Florida and The University of Georgia, and a post-season bowl game, the Gator Bowl, which pits teams, as of 2011[update], from the Big Ten Conference and the Southeastern Conference. The stadium is also a former site of the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game.

Cross State Towing is an Arlington-based barge repair company that leases riverfront property near Everbank Field as a part of their barge operation.

Completed in 1967 and named after Isaiah Hart, the founder of Jacksonville, the Hart Bridge connects downtown with the Southside.  Traditionally, known as "The Green Monster,"the continuous steel through truss bridge stretches 3,844 feet with a clearance of 141 feet.

North Florida Shipyards, Inc. anchors Commodore's Point, between the Hart and Matthews Bridges.  Due to a recent $7.5 million federal stimulus project, the company plans to double its +300-person workforce over the next four years.

North Florida Shipyards, Inc. is a privately owned, small business company that operates ship repair and conversion facilities in Mayport and Jacksonville, Florida.

North Florida Shipyards, Inc. was incorporated in the state of Florida in 1975.  It is an outgrowth of Thermal Engineering Company, incorporated in 1967 and Ind-Mar Diesel, incorporated in 1970.  Thermal Engineering and Ind-Mar Machine remain subsidiary divisions of North Florida Shipyards, Inc.

The main office and facility is located at Commodore’s Point. It has approximately 3600’ of bulkheaded wharf, 210,000 sq. ft. of warehouse and shops, and resides on approximately 25 acres of property. North Florida Shipyards Commodore’s Point facility has been in the ship repair, conversion and modernization business since inception in 1975.

A Downtown Jacksonville shipyard will use federal stimulus package funds to bankroll an expansion that will create up to 300 new jobs, nearly doubling its work force.

North Florida Shipyards Inc.’s $7.5 million project involves buying a travel lift to bring ships out of the water for repair without using a dry dock, allowing the company to work on more than one ship at a time. The shipyard has weathered the recession well because ship repairs are required under various maritime rules and for insurance coverage, said Robert Wilson, the company’s vice president and chief financial officer.

“We virtually had to line up the boats to get into the dry dock,” he said. The travel lift and expanded basin is “going to allow us to work on 10 vessels at a time instead of just one.”
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The Matthews Bridge connects Downtown and Arlington.  The 7,736 foot long steel through truss bridge, with a clearance of 152 feet, opened in 19-- and is named after John E. Matthews.  John E. Matthews was the Florida state legislator and Chief Justice of the 1955 Florida Supreme Court who helped gather funding for the bridge's construction.

The 165,000-sqaure foot Ford Motor Company assembly plant, located at 1901 Hill Street and designed by internationally recognized industrial architect Albert Kahn, open its doors in 1924.  It's known for having a pair of 800' skylight panels that provide natural light into the industrial plant below.  At one point, Ford employed over 800 workers who spent their time manufacturing 200 Model-T and Model A cars and trucks a day.  Ford shut down this operation in the late 1960's.  Today, the factory has made the "Jacksonville's Most Endangered Historic Buildings" list.

Today, the old Ford Motor Company assembly plant is home to Pallet Express.

Welcome to Pallet Express.  We are a prominent manufacturer of custom pallets and provide pallet services throughout the Southeast Region. We maintain professional services in three major bases of operations: Atlanta, Georgia, Plant City, Florida,  and Jacksonville, Florida affording us the logistic capability of just-in-time inventories.

We have been providing professional pallet solutions for business since our opening in Atlanta, GA in 1993. Our Plant City, FL branch was formed in March, 2003 and our Jacksonville, FL branch was created in June, 2006.  To compliment the on-going demands of our valued customers, we launched a lumber division in March, 2008.

Crowley Maritime Corporation provides diversified transportation services in domestic and international markets by means of six operating lines of business: Puerto Rico/Caribbean Liner Services, Latin America Liner Services, Logistics, Marine Services, Petroleum Services and Technical Services.

The company supports all five of its business segments by providing corporate services (such as Purchasing, Human Resources, Information Technology, Public Relations and Advertising), and by providing Vessel Construction/Architecture Technical Services,  which involves supervising construction of new vessels and maintaining ownership of vessels that are chartered for use in Crowleys operating lines of business.

The company employs approximately 4,300 people and provides its services using a fleet of more than 210 vessels, consisting of RO/RO (roll on roll off) vessels, LO/LO (lift on lift off) vessels, tankers, tugs and barges. Crowleys land-based facilities and equipment include terminals, warehouses, tank farms, office buildings, trucks, trailers, containers, chassis, cranes and other specialized vehicles.

The company's history began in 1892 when founder Thomas Crowley, the grandfather of current Chairman, President and CEO Thomas B. Crowley, Jr., purchased an 18-foot Whitehall boat to provide transportation of personnel and supplies to ships anchored on San Francisco Bay. The present structure, in which Crowley Maritime Corporation is a holding company for the business lines, was put in place in 1992.

The company is wholly and privately owned by the Crowley family and Crowley employees.

JAXPORT's Talleyrand Marine Terminal lies just north of Crowley Maritime Corporation's terminal.

The Talleyrand Marine Terminal is located 21 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.  This 173-acre terminal has 4,800 linear feet of berthing space on 38 feet of deepwater with a dredging project underway that will increase depth to 41 feet.

The terminal handles containerized and breakbulk cargoes, imported automobiles and liquid bulk commodities such as turpentine and molasses.  Breakbulk cargoes include steel, lumber and paper, and a variety of frozen and chilled goods.  Talleyrand is equipped with four container cranes, on-dock rail and 160,000 square feet of transit shed space capable of handling cargo in refrigerated, freezer or ambient conditions.  Additionally, a new 553,000-square foot warehouse stores a variety of cargoes, including metal products, rolls of fine and specialty papers, magazine papers and newsprint.

The Talleyrand terminal also offers two 50-LT capacity rubber tired gantry cranes, both of which straddle four rail spurs totaling 4,800 linear feet.  Talleyrand is served by CSX, FEC and NS railroads, with on-dock rail operated by Talleyrand Terminal Railroad, Inc.

Article and photographs by Ennis Davis