- 2014 - February - 3rd -
Work is set to resume today on the Southbank Riverwalk, the lengthy wooden pedestrian walkway on the St. Johns River. Built in 1985, the replacements will feature new brick pavers, guardrails and lighting.

After delay, Southbank Riverwalk project resumes

By David Chapman, Staff Writer

Mayor Alvin Brown and city officials at a September news conference along the Southbank Riverwalk unveiled a new look and concept for the aging pedestrian walk.

At almost 30 years old, the decaying wooden walkway has seen better times.

The new Riverwalk will have new colored pavers, light poles, guardrails, benches and pet stations. Yet, in the time since that announcement, little work has been done on the $15 million project that had a September completion date.

Starting today, passersby should notice a change.

“We are happy to report that effective Monday, we will be seeing some action out there,” said Jim Robinson, the city’s public works director.

The lack of physical work over the past few months was by design, Robinson said Friday.

After the announcement, the city still had to come to an agreement with many of the property owners that would be affected by the construction. They include the Duval County School Board, Riverplace Tower, Crowne Plaza, The Peninsula, The Strand and a Miami-based attorney who owns parts around the Wyndham Hotel.

About a three-month window, ending with the conclusion of the Gator Bowl, was arranged to hammer out submerged land lease agreements required by the state Department of Environmental Protection, because the construction is along the river.

But, it took an extra month to reach a conclusion with all the land owners, Robinson said.

He said a couple of the property owners had no concerns, but others had questions — some about how the construction would affect business, others how it would affect their structures.

He used an example of The Peninsula and The Strand as two that required additional work.

Owners of the high-rise condominium and apartment towers had concerns with how original plans by The Haskell Co. would impact their buildings and foundations.

Haskell is the lead design-build firm for the project.

Robinson said some design modifications were made to essentially keep the Riverwalk where it currently is — instead of changing the bulkhead location — and the two property owners signed off.

“It was always contemplated … that we would have to start and stop again,” Robinson said. “It just turned out it needed a little longer.”

The one-month delay does not change the scope or price of the project, Robinson said. But, it will cause a delay in the completion date.

Instead of September, a contract amendment will be filed to push back that time to the November-December timeframe.

With no physical work done in the past several months, The Haskell Co. still has been paid for ongoing design.

According to the project documents, the firm has been paid $2.5 million to date. Robinson said the initial budget will still be met.

“The project and total was continuous,” Robinson said. “We are still within the $15 million.”

The work beginning today will be finishing the demolition around the Friendship Fountain Park, then working eastward to demolish the Jacksonville History Center building.

From there, it will continue in phases, with sections being closed off as needed.



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