Great Ideas; No Action: 10 Projects That Never Happened

April 6, 2016 12 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Over the past 100 years, Jacksonville has been an epicenter of economic opportunity. It's also been a place where dreams have come to die. Here's 10 proposals with some merit that, for a variety of reasons, ultimately failed to materialize into reality.

2. The Park That Got Away

Shortly after being elected, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1933. The WPA was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads during the Great Depression.

In 1934, to put Jacksonville residents back to work, the WPA offered to develop a 14-mile, 3,500-acre metropolitan park system for the City.  The urban green space would have begun at the mouth of the Ribault River, moving west until reaching Cedar Creek.  From that point, the park would have followed Cedar Creek and the Ortega River, ending where the Ortega meets the St. Johns, forming a greenbelt around urban Jacksonville.  A major part of this plan would have been to connect the Ribault and Ortega Rivers at their headwaters, thus virtually converting urban Jacksonville into an island.  In addition to this, miles of driveways, walks, bridle paths and picnic shelters were to be constructed. In total, the continuous green space circling the city's core would have been over four times larger than New York's Central Park.

The WPA saw this urban park system as something that would stimulate economic development throughout Jacksonville. Jacksonville financier Ed Ball went as far as to claim it would generate $30 million annually in economic impact. To entice the city to move forward with the park plan, the WPA offered to provide $735,000 to purchase the property needed to construct the urban greenway.

However, what could have been Jacksonville’s version of San Diego’s Balboa Park would not happen.  City leaders did not see the value of spending their money on a park this size when residents could already visit the woods anytime on their own.

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