A Public Square for San Marco

November 9, 2012 36 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville shares renderings of a project that will anchor the heart of San Marco Square: The expansion of Balis Park.

As community partners, the San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) and the San Marco Merchants Association are pleased to announce the expansion of Balis Park.  

The opportunity to expand Balis Park is a result of a solution which removes the traffic signal at Atlantic Boulevard to relieve a traffic bottleneck related to the San Marco Boulevard Streetscape project, which is currently underway.

The removal of the traffic signal is in response to a conflict created by the location of the new roundabout at Naldo.  A traffic study (by Atkins) confirmed that the existing traffic signal at the Lions would back up into the Naldo roundabout.  The solution is to route northbound San Marco Blvd traffic, and eastbound Atlantic Blvd traffic through a one-way route on Balis Place (between the gazebo and Bank of America).

The resulting green space will be used to extend Balis Park to the Lions.  SMPS and the San Marco Merchants Association are raising the money for the park improvements and taking the maintenance responsibility for the newly created park areas.  As a result, no city money will be used to construct or maintain the space.

Survey work within the Square is already underway.  Design is anticipated to be completed this month and construction scheduled to start in January.  The northbound lane of San Marco Blvd from Naldo to Landon will be complete and open for traffic next week.  Construction will cease through the holidays and resume in January for the construction of the Naldo roundabout.  This is scheduled to take two months, and during this time, the new traffic pattern will be established in the Square associated with this concept.  The work in the park is expected to be finished in either April or May 2013.  Because all of the work associated with the new Square traffic pattern will be done while the Naldo roundabout is constructed, there will be no additional temporary disruption to the Square.

Refining The Concept

The graphics below illustrate how the redesign of the San Marco/Atlantic Boulevard intersection results in better multimodal traffic flow and the expansion of Balis Park in the heart of San Marco Square.

The current configuration of the intersection isolates Balis Park and divides the retail district with a wide swath of asphalt pavement.

By utilizing the existing roadway network surrounding Balis Park as a traffic circle, a large central public space and additional on-street parking for surrounding businesses is created.  Furthermore, by reducing the amount of pavement in the vicinity, pedestrian safety and connectivity is enhanced.

The intersection redesign results in Balis Park becoming an interactive centralized space featuring a mix of amenities, including the San Marco Square fountain lions.

How You Can Help

As mentioned above, no public money will be used to construct or maintain this new urban green space.  Instead, SMPS and the merchants association are funding improvements through private donations.  Here are a few ways you can assist them in making this project a success.

Update by Ennis Davis