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.

3. The Timuquana Bridge

Tired of sitting in rush hour traffic on the Fuller Warren and Buckman Bridges? Today's congestion isn't the result of an oversight made by those in the road building industry. 51 years ago, Governor Claude Kirk, Jr. planned to resolve the city's river crossing problems with his 16-year road building program. One of the most expensive items in the program was the proposed Timuquana Bridge and Tunnel project.

Estimated to cost $75.7 million, the river crossing would have directly connected Venetia, Westconnett, ans San Jose with a two mile tunnel and one-mile low-level bridge. The tunnel segment would have started in the vicinity of the CSX "A" Line railroad tracks paralleling Roosevelt Boulevard, pushed under Venetia and a portion of the St. Johns River, before surfacing to a low-level bridge. Its construction would have made a drive from Jacksonville Beach (via Butler Boulevard), to Cecil Field (via 103rd Street/Timuquana Road), a straight shot.

While the project had merit from a regional connectivity standpoint, its construction of the would require the destruction of many houses in exclusive neighborhoods on both sides of the river. Accordingly, there was little to no political support for the idea from the start. This decision will forever leave us struggling to get the upper hand on our river crossing traffic congestion situation.

The $39.4 million 8th Street bridge plan would have possibly ripped apart Springfield and East Jacksonville to connect Arlington with the Westside. It was included in Governor Claude Kirk, Jr's 16-year road building program.

4. Freedom Commerce Centre Mall

In the late 90’s, during a booming real estate market, plans began to develop for two mega retail centers: the familiar St. Johns Town Center and the Freedom Commerce Centre by West Palm Beach-based Goodman Company. Goodman's $200 million lifestyle center would have been located off I-95 between Baymeadows Road and Philips Highway. The project was to include 1.2 million square feet of retail space and 2.5 million square feet of office space. Goodman's plans for Freedom Commerce Center also included extending Sunbeam Road from Philips Highway to Southside Boulevard by building an overpass spanning Interstate 95.

Plans called for the initial phases of the project to open in early 2002, a few years before the then proposed St. Johns Town Center. According to Goodman's senior vice president of development John Dowd, " it never hurts to be able to be the first in the market."

It was a race against time and money. Both entered development in the early 2000’s. At the time, the economy was teetering on the edge of a steep cliff, threatened by the premise of war and a declining stock market. Co-existence was a gamble that could destroy the side with the losing hand. One would snag the high-end retailers and the other would be left with the scraps. St. Johns Town Center eventually became reality while controversy over filling in hundreds of acres of wetlands doomed Goodman's Freedom Commerce project.

In 2006, an agreement was reached that resulted in Goodman being given 357 acres in northern St. Johns County in exchange for turning over 665 acres at the commerce center to the St. Johns River Water Management District.

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