Skyway + Brooklyn + Fire Station 5 = URBAN DYNAMO

July 5, 2013 36 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville’s Robert Mann has developed a potential solution for the preservation of Brooklyn’s Fire Station 5 and the Skyway’s overall image. Here is a look into what he believes can become an urban dynamo.

This was the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s (JTA) concept for their first Transit Oriented Development (TOD) associated with the Skyway in Brooklyn, near the intersection of Riverside Avenue and Lelia Street.  

A few years ago, JTA released conceptual sketches for a new Skyway station and associated Transit Oriented Development in Brooklyn.  In recent months, now led by new CEO Nat Ford, the agency has dusted off their plans to expand the Skyway into Brooklyn.  With this in mind, allow me, if you will, to roll out another proposal for this corridor.  This one brings historical preservation into the mix.

Fire Station Number 5 originally opened its doors in the Brooklyn section of Jacksonville in 1897. The original structure was replaced by the historic blonde brick building in 1911. In the 116 years since the opening, the companies and crews of Station 5 responded to everything from Yellow Fever and The Great Fire of 1901, to the major hurricanes of 1894, 1896, 1898, 1928, and the killer duo of Donna and Dora in 1960 and 1964 respectively. In 2008, the fire station was moved to its current location at 2433 Forest Street, under a pretentious plan to “save it”.  

As preservation-minded citizens girded for battle, Skot Wilson launched a blog to save Fire Station 5. City councilwoman Glorious Johnson came alongside in support of the Station and started pumping out articles. In the end, Johnson's bill to protect the building was shot down in flames because it ostensibly ruffled Fidelity's feather bed and sent a clueless “boy mayor” running for cover.

This whole sorry saga grabbed my attention and gave me cause to do some imagineering . The land on the southwest corner of Forest and Riverside was given to JTA for the Skyway right-of-way when Riverside was widened nearly a decade ago. Imagine if the building could be moved across the street from its current location and spun around to face Riverside Avenue once again and benefitting the Skyway in the process.

Based on 2009 city estimates, it would cost in the range of $3.5 million to relocate and renovate the former fire station. However, with a little imagination, the building could become a masterpiece on the JTA Skyway System. How?  It's no secret that JTA has wanted to develop a prototype Transit Oriented Development (TOD).  Brooklyn’s endangered fire station may be the opportunity JTA has been searching for.

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