Courthouse Asphalt or Green Space: The Choice Is Yours?

January 12, 2011 187 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A debate of what to do with the remaining new Duval County Courthouse property in LaVilla is brewing. One camp would like to see six lanes of asphalt and another believes a public park is the right answer. So what will it be Jacksonville?


The 1996 image from the Public Library's Special Collections Department shows residents being forced out of their homes to make way for transforming Monroe for autocentric use.

Originally constructed as a quiet residential street, Monroe was transformed into major downtown gateway for drivers coming from I-95, at the expense of LaVilla, Florida's oldest urban minority neighborhood (formerly an incorporated municipality).  

Original courthouse designs called for the permanent closure of Monroe, which caused great concern for those who didn't want to lose the convenience of driving down this street.  With this in mind, Mayor Peyton's decision to toss out old designs for the structure being built today presented an opportunity to keep Monroe Street open for motorist.

However, as courthouse construction has moved along and plans to convert one-way streets to two-way traffic have been announced, rebuilding Monroe for automobiles may not make much sense in a pedestrian oriented environment.

Option 1: Rebuild Monroe Street

This image highlights a plan led by Councilman Michael Corrigan and Architect Ted Pappas to reconstruct Monroe Street in front of the new Duval County Courthouse. Overlayed by Metro Jacksonville, the Google Earth aerial is intended to visually illustrate how this plan will fit into the surrounding urban landscape. Combined with Adams Street, this option would place six lanes of vehicular traffic between the entrance of the courthouse and the garage/retail structure designed and built by taxpayers to serve it.

Option 2: Courthouse Plaza

This JEDC power point presentation highlights why it makes more sense to spend less constructing a public plaza in front of the courthouse, instead of another road.

Metro Jacksonville's Assessment

Its pretty clear that it makes no sense to reconstruct Monroe Street in the weird configuration proposed by Ted Pappas above. Long highlighted as a major courthouse issue being ignored, Metro Jacksonville is in favor of a courthouse plaza being constructed between the courthouse entrance and Adams Street.  However, this plaza should embrace the 10 Principles for Creating Successful Public Squares by Project for Public Spaces.  This plaza should be more than just open lawns and an entry plaza.  Like Nashville's award winning Courthouse Public Square, it should be a vibrant interactive activity center for the urban community.

Like Nashville's Courthouse Public Square, thought should be put into creating an interactive space that generates public use on an around the clock basis.

Article by Ennis Davis