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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Sep. 12, 2017 6 days ago

Downtown businesses assess damage in Irma's wake

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Some suffer no damage, while others aren't so lucky.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

Business owners returned to their Downtown offices, restaurants and retail shops Tuesday morning to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

The results were mixed after historic flooding engulfed much of the Northbank on Sunday night and Monday.

Bold City Brewery’s Downtown taproom on East Bay Street received minimal flood damage in the front half of the East Bay Street building.

“We’re very lucky it wasn’t worse,” said owner Susan Miller.

She plans to reopen this week.

“I just need a few extra hands in here to help mop up,” she said.

At the Cowford Chophouse next door, crews spent much of the morning mopping up and getting back to normal construction.

The Downtown steakhouse is scheduled to open this fall.

Peterbrooke was open on Tuesday after suffering no damage. (Photo by David Cawton)

Peterbrooke Chocolatier’s Laura Street shop also was relatively untouched.

“Not a drop,” said Manager Linda Crout, who said the shop never lost power.

“I thought I was going to come in and find soggy chocolate, but we’re fine,” she said.

Like few other businesses Downtown, Peterbrooke was open Tuesday, including at least one restaurant at the Jacksonville Landing.

Hooters Regional Manager Cindy Ingram said the restaurant had some minor roof damage to its outdoor patio and little flooding inside.

“We’re cleaned up, ready for lunch,” Ingram sad.

Many other businesses in the Downtown area remained closed Tuesday.

Mud and debris lined Water Street near the Jacksonville Landing Tuesday in the wake of historic flooding caused by Hurricane Irma pushing the St. Johns River over the bulkhead. (Photo by David Cawton)

Janice Lowe with the Landing said other tenants would reopen Wednesday, and a country concert scheduled for Friday was still on.

“We were lucky we only lost power for about three hours Monday morning,” Lowe said. “It looked a little worse on TV.”

The mall was surrounded by a thick sludge of sediment left as the floodwaters receded into the St. Johns River on Tuesday, a safety hazard Lowe said was being addressed.

“We’ll clean that up, and it’ll be business as usual by tomorrow,” she said.

Pieces of the Landing’s roof were scattered along the Water Street side of the mall, but Lowe said that was the extent of the exterior damage.

Along the Northbank Riverwalk, docks were cracked and blistered by the high tide and accompanying current. A few downed light poles and some minor debris also remained.

While many saw little damage, at least one building along East Bay Street was not so fortunate. 

Attorney’s George Ridge and Bill Cooper stand in front of their East Bay Street office. Inside the attorneys found at least two feet of flood water and scattered office furniture. (Photo by David Cawton)

First Coast Mediation and Arbitration, a law office at East Bay and North Newnan streets, remained flooded Tuesday.

Attorneys Bill Cooper and George Ridge saw the damage Monday watching the news, and first-hand Tuesday morning.

“This is kind of unprecedented,” said Cooper, who plans to work remotely for now. “We’ll work it out, but I don’t think we’ll be back in this building.”

The water line on the first floor sits about two feet above the soggy carpet. Office furniture carried by floodwaters were found in different parts of the first floor.

“I’m sure the smell will be too much to stand by the end of the week,” Ridge said.

Other offices on the first floor also were flooded.

First Coast Mediation and Arbitration’s East Bay Street office received at least two feet of flooding during Hurricane Irma. Floors were soaked Tuesday. (Photo by David Cawton)

Outside, large pieces of the building’s third floor deck landed on the sidewalk in front of the businesses’ glass door.

As was the case in other parts of the Northbank, Downtown Ambassadors from Downtown Vision Inc. were clearing sidewalks and helping business owners and property managers move wreckage like that found in front of the attorneys’ office.

DVI CEO Jake Gordon said ambassadors began Tuesday morning and will be there to help the urban core businesses clean up for the rest of the week and beyond if needed.

Cooper, who said he’s been in the building for more than two decades, was thankful no one was hurt.

“When I thought about how I would eventually retire and move out of this building one day, this wasn’t the way I envisioned it would be,” he quipped.

“But I think we’ll be OK.”

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