By Max Marbut
When the conceptual design for the improvements at Friendship Park on the Southbank was presented to and approved by the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission’s Downtown Development Review Board in February 2010, a project design element was placed on the “wish list.”
Just two weeks earlier, City Council had approved $3.1 million for the project to restore the fountain in the park to its original function and to remove most of the concrete surface and replace it with grass and landscaping.
JBC Planning & Engineering project manager Nicholas Mousa said the eventual addition of the design element, a pergola to provide shade in the new children’s play area east of the fountain, would depend on the actual cost of the renovations.
With construction 80 percent complete and on track for a June 18 ribbon-cutting, Mousa ap-peared before the board again Thursday to say there’s enough money in the project’s budget to include the pergola and to present the conceptual design.
Mousa said three materials had been considered for the installation. Fiberglass, he said, is too expensive. Making the arbor and lattice supported by columns out of wood would mean recurring maintenance costs and would be easy to vandalize.
Powder coated aluminum on a concrete foundation is the best choice, said Mousa.
The pergola as designed would wrap around the southeast third of the fountain. Benches already in the budget for the park are to be installed under the pergola to provide a front-row seat for the new fountain.
Mousa estimated the probable cost of the pergola at $192,000 and said JBC is still considering whether to pour concrete under the pergola or install pavers that would allow water to pass through, reducing stormwater runoff in the park, one of the original design parameters.
The board approved the design.
Also presented Thursday was the conceptual design for the replacement of the Southbank Riverwalk. The concept and design renderings were reported April 21 in the Daily Record.
The $15 million project will demolish the entire 4,500-foot existing wooden structure and replace it with a precast concrete superstructure and pilings that won’t be supported by the riverfront bulkhead.
The City awarded the project to Haskell. Project manager Charlie Rocheleau said demolition is scheduled to begin in June with a completion date of October 2012.
He described the winding design with several interactive areas as “giving the Southbank a new look” and “something you’d see on a snapshot from the chamber of commerce.”
The design also incorporates floating docks for use by river taxis and for public use.
Rocheleau presented what he called an “out-of-the-box” de-sign, including an amphitheater near the Main Street Bridge, a kids’ park and an observation tower.
He then presented a design that would replace the entire length of the structure to be demolished that would be feasible under the $15 million budget. It would not include the amphitheater, kids’ park or tower.
The board questioned whether the City is required to replace the entire length of the existing Southbank Riverwalk.
Board member Jim Bailey, publisher of the Daily Record, said the “out-of-the-box design” was “what we wanted this City to look like for Super Bowl.” He suggested shortening the project to just east of the Peninsula building.
Board member John Fischer, director of business development for Danis Construction, concurred and said there’s “nothing to walk to east of the Chart House and the Peninsula.”
JEDC Deputy Director Paul Crawford said he’d like to confer with the property owners along the area of the Southbank that would not have a Riverwalk if the project was modified as suggested.
Assistant General Counsel Jason Teal advised the board the conceptual review could be deferred until the board’s meeting next month.
Rocheleau said that would put the project on hold, which would seriously affect the project’s timetable based on the process required to secure permits and submerged land leases.
The board voted to grant conceptual approval of the design for replacing the entire length of the Southbank Riverwalk but directed Rocheleau to provide cost figures for a shorter project including “top drawer amenities” with the understanding he might return to the board at its meeting scheduled May 26 with a new conceptual proposal.
DDRB meets at 2 p.m. the last Thursday of each month in the JEDC board room at 1 W. Adams St.