Jones exploring Cassat Avenue improvements
City Council member Warren Jones recalls parking along Cassat Avenue in West Jacksonville and opening the car door with great care.
He saw no need to risk the door being taken off by traffic on the five-lane state road, Florida 111.
Jones discussed street parking, along with other issues, at a meeting Tuesday about the "Cassat Avenue Improvement Project."
Jones, who represents District 9, called the meeting to take the pulse among city, transportation, safety and other representatives about the concerns and options to improve the 3.5-mile stretch of the Westside thoroughfare from the Bi-Lo Winn-Dixie headquarters at Edgewood Avenue south to Blanding Boulevard.
His next stop is to call a meeting of Cassat Avenue area businesses and property owners, possibly before the end of the year.
Tuesday's meeting was sparked by a conversation with Alex Graham, vice chairman of the Scott-McRae Group, whose nine automotive dealerships include Duval Honda and Duval Ford.
Those dealerships are among several others that line Cassat Avenue, the city's Westside center of car and truck sales. One of the Cassat Avenue mainstays is Ernie Palmer Toyota, an almost 40-year-old dealership that recently confirmed it is planning a $7 million redevelopment there.
Graham, the fourth generation at the helm of Scott-McRae, said in pondering the dealerships, his group considered the Westside locations and began "trying to find out what makes Cassat Avenue tick."
Graham and Jones want it to work better, and outlined the basics:
• The five-lane roadway — two lanes in each direction and a center turn lane — along with space for street parking divides the business and residential neighborhoods. A state Department of Transportation official said no roads are designed like that now.
• Those five lanes of Cassat can create issues with drivers and pedestrians darting to the center lane to cross or turn in the opposite direction. As Jones experienced, street parking can present challenges too.
• Crime statistics need to be gathered and crime prevention can be assisted through lighting and other environmental design factors. Jones said the Eureka Garden public housing community off Cassat experienced seven homicides in 2007. "It's gotten better, but it still creates a problem for the businesses that locate there," he said.
• Landscaping is needed for aesthetics, although there is little property along Cassat available for planting. Also, the landscaping would need to be designed appropriately to not become a traffic hazard.
• The Interstate 10 and Cassat Avenue interchange could be landscaped, but the design and maintenance plan would need to be determined.
• Economic incentives might be available for job creation as well as for property improvements.
• Medians on Cassat were a common suggestion for safety and landscaping, but Jones and others emphasized those are a hot-button issue and would need crash data, public meetings and much study before being proposed.
James Bennett, Florida Department of Transportation Urban Transportation Development manager, summarized Cassat Avenue's status and offered the department's assistance where possible.
Jones wants Bi-Lo Winn-Dixie and other businesses and property owners involved in the next round of discussions.
Graham said there's a lot of business support for improvements in the area.
"It's a main street of the Westside," he said.
Ernie Palmer Toyota applies for permit
Ernie Palmer Toyota is moving ahead with its redevelopment plans along Cassat Avenue.
The dealership has applied for permits for the site work, demolition, renovations and construction to redevelop at 1290 Cassat Ave.
The renovation and construction permits total $4.2 million and the total project has been estimated at $7 million.
No contractor is listed on the applications. Robert Reid Wedding Architects of Tampa is the architect.
As reported, the Ernie Palmer Toyota property is at 1290 and 1310 Cassat Ave.
The used-car operation at 1290 Cassat Ave. will be demolished and the site rebuilt as an almost 48,000-square-foot new-car dealership with a showroom, service area and parking.
The existing new-car dealership at 1310 Cassat Ave. will be demolished and the site will become a parking lot to store vehicle inventory.
Marathon emerging in North Jacksonville
Eight months after buying the BP Products North America Inc. petroleum bulk storage terminal in North Jacksonville, Marathon Petroleum Co. is putting its name on the property.
The city approved sign permits Wednesday for Harbinger to put four ground signs on the property at 2101 Zoo Parkway for the Marathon Jacksonville Terminal.
The Daily Record reported in February that BP Products North America Inc. sold the property to Blanchard Terminal, part of Marathon Petroleum, for $12.72 million.
Property records show the Jacksonville terminal occupies more than 50 acres.
JBI continues to refer to RockTenn agreement
JBI Inc., which developed the Plastic2Oil technology to convert plastics into energy, says in its quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has an agreement to place two processors for the technology with RockTenn at its Jacksonville location.
RockTenn, which operates a containerboard mill at 9469 Eastport Road, off Heckscher Drive, continues to have no comment.
JBI, based in Niagara Falls, N.Y., developed a system to recycle waste plastic into liquid fuels. More information is available at the plastic2oil.com website.
JBI said in a Feb. 11 news release that it continues to work toward a Plastic2Oil plant on RockTenn Corp. property in North Jacksonville.
The Daily Record reported in August 2012 that plans were under review for a Plastic2Oil production plant in Jacksonville.
It is shown as a 5-acre project on part of the 241-acre site of the RockTenn Seminole containerboard mill, formerly known as Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.
As reported, preliminary site plans show a 9,360-square-foot module production pad with adjacent space for truck unloading; a 1,170-square-foot storage tank concrete area; a 900-square-foot fuel truck loading area; a cooling tower; and a 720-square-foot quality control testing laboratory trailer.
The plans show conveyors, three "premelts," three reactors and towers and condensers.
JBI has not commented.
Xfinity to open in River City Marketplace
Xfinity is working on opening a retail store at River City Marketplace, the second in the area. Xfinity is Comcast's digital platform for TV, Internet and voice services.
The city approved a permit for Metro Property Services Inc. to renovate almost 5,000 square feet of space at 13141 City Station Drive, No. 155, at a project cost of almost $111,000. The contractor is Metro Property Services Inc.
The interior demolition in preparation for the store build-out was approved in September.
As the Daily Record reported in July, Xfinity also plans to open a retail store at southeast Beach and Hodges boulevards in South Jacksonville, which appears to be the first of the cable company's area locations where customers can pay bills, interact with Comcast employees and explore the company's products and services.
Xfinity is building out a store at 13740 Beach Blvd., in Suite 413, near Petland. The center, Pablo Creek Plaza East, is anchored by a Super Target store.