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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Aug. 31, 202112:20 PM EST

Contractor targets Oct. 17 implosion for Berkman II Downtown

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Pece of Mind Environmental filed an amended demolition permit application Aug. 27 for approval by the city.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

The unfinished Berkman Plaza II high-rise in Downtown Jacksonville has a tentative date with demolition — 7:30 a.m. Oct. 17. 

That’s when project contractor Pece of Mind Environmental Inc. wants to implode the 18-story riverfront shell structure, according to documents sent Aug. 27 to city officials.

Pece of Mind President Steve Pece said it filed an amended demolition permit application with the city the same day. 

Structural concerns found Aug. 19 halted demolition on the 14-year-old building at 500 E. Bay St. The contractor was using a high-reach excavator to take down the building.

After an independent inspection, Pece said Aug. 23 implosion is “the safest way” to complete the demolition.

An email chain shows Pece sent a preliminary protection plan to city Building Inspection Division Manager Charles Gibson on Aug. 27.

A project description on the building inspector’s public online permit portal was changed Aug. 25 to say the “method of demo is tentatively changed from high-reach excavator to implosion.” 

A map of the protection plan for The Plaza Condominium at Berkman Plaza and Marina. It was previously called the Berkman I.

Pece of Mind plans to subcontract Phoenix, Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc. to design and install explosive charges for the implosion, according to a plan summary in the email. Controlled Demolition also imploded the old City Hall Annex in 2019.

How long surrounding roads will be closed because of the implosion is under review by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and will be completed this week, the summary says.

Building owner Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization LLC’s initial plan in October 2020 was to implode the building but shifted to conventional demolition after city officials and residents of the neighboring The Plaza Condominium at Berkman Plaza and Marina raised safety and environmental concerns.

The estimated $1.09 million job cost shown on the permit portal remains unchanged.

Pece of Mind’s preliminary safety plan shows the contractor would install reinforced polyethylene sheeting on the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office building and over the pool and fountains at The Plaza as blast protection. 

Geotextile fabric and plastic would cover air intake units at the JSO headquarters and The Plaza, according to the plan.

Protective sheeting is planned for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Pece of Mind and Controlled Demolition would use water mist “dust destroyers” to control implosion debris clouds.

Seismic Surveys Inc. of Frederick, Maryland will set up vibration and air overpressure monitoring in 10 locations and conduct pre-and post-implosion surveys, the plan says.

Pece said crews will need three to four weeks to prepare the Berkman II for implosion after the city approves the amended permit. 

It will take about two weeks to remove rubble from the site, he said.

The contractor plans to complete the job by the end of the year.

Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization paid $5.503 million for the property April 21 through PB Riverfront Revitalization of Jacksonville LLC from former owner 500 East Bay LLC and intends to redevelop the site. 

Change in plans

The Berkman II was planned as a riverfront condominium at 500 E. Bay St. 

Work stopped on the structure in December 2007 when a parking garage under construction next door collapsed, killing one worker and injuring several others. It then fell into foreclosure for years.

Demolition plans include protective sheeting and covering air intake vents.

The city condemned the Berkman property in August 2020 while its sale was in negotiations.

That led the city Municipal Code Compliance Division to issue its own demolition order for the building despite Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization’s demolition plans.

In an email Aug. 11, a city spokesperson said the demolition order and condemnation of the building and property still are active and will not be lifted “until the structure has been completely removed.”

Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization is working with KBJ Architects on plans for a 26-story tower and mid-rise building with 293 residential units and a 537-space parking garage for the property. The project, temporarily named 500 East Bay, would have 249 apartments, 40 town houses and four penthouses.

During an April 28 news conference, development company co-manager Park Beeler said the proposal includes 50,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space that will wrap around the building and a 20,000-square-foot grocery store and pharmacy facing Bay Street.

Riverfront Revitalization estimates the project will cost $130 million to $150 million.

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