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.

7. The Downtown People Mover

Since the Skyway actually exists, it being on this list might confuse a few people. However, the Skyway system we have today is not what was initially proposed for Jacksonville's urban core four decades ago. The concept of a downtown people mover was originated in the early 1970's as part of a comprehensive mobility plan. In those days, it was proposed to be a 4.6 mile people mover that would serve as the first phase of a 42-mile, $800 million regional rapid transit system carrying 57,000 riders each day.

The Downtown People Mover itself would have had two distinct lines. One connecting UF Health Jacksonville with EverBank Field and another tying the Southbank with the old Jacksonville Terminal (Prime Osborn Convention Center). By the time funding materialized, Jacksonville's ambitious plans for mass transit had already been castrated. By this time, in an effort to concentrate only on downtown, the system's total length had been reduced to 2.5-miles. By the time the system was completed in 2000, transit planners had found a way to spend $184 million to miss the stadium, the medical center and Springfield's residents. The city had also successfully killed off much of the vibrant downtown environment that led to the Skyway being proposed in the first place. Needless to say, the much maligned train is no where close to meeting its initial projections or delivering transit riders to where they live or want to go. Sometimes its best to not deviate from your initial plans.

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8. River Watch Tower

Jacksonville is a city that loves her sugar daddies, so when Orlando businessman Cameron Kuhn flew into our world, he entered with great fanfare. Known for being in the forefront of downtown Orlando's late 1990s/early 2000s revitalization, Kuhn was expected to quickly become downtown Jacksonville's savior. Early on, Kuhn Companies of Orlando lived up the hype snapping up several high profile downtown buildings and properties. However, it was his River Watch Tower proposal in 2006 that had the potential to immediately reshape the look of the city.

River Watch was envision to have a prominent place in the Northbank skyline when it was originally proposed in 2006. River Watch replaced a plan by Capital Partners to develop a 12-story, 197-unit Westin Hotel at the intersection of Hogan Street and Independent Drive. Proposed by the Kuhn Companies of Orlando, the 33-story building would have included a four star hotel, 187 residential condominium units and street level retail adjacent to the Jacksonville Landing. With the residential condominium market softening, Kuhn eliminated the residential component in mid-2007. The hotel plan would die before coming reality as well when Kuhn went belly up in 2008, declaring bankruptcy. Determined to see development on this site, Jacksonville settled for a parking garage, which was recently completed in 2015.

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