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Jax Daily Record Friday, May. 16, 201412:00 PM EST

Discussions underway to make entire Southbank Riverwalk concrete

by: David Chapman

The Southbank Riverwalk might yet be replaced entirely with concrete.

City Council last month approved spending an additional $2 million toward replacing the wooden boardwalk with a concrete structure, with the exception of one area.

Riverfront property owners had to agree with the city about the project. All but one signed off.

The city and the Crowne Plaza Hotel couldn’t come to an agreement and instead its section would be replaced with wood.

Council member Don Redman, whose district includes the Southbank, met with the hotel chain’s CEO Thursday and came away optimistic a deal could be reached.

“I am happy … I think it is going to get done,” Redman said.

He said the issue boiled down to a lack of communication between the city and hotel about the issues surrounding the construction of pilings.

Redman said the hotel wanted the city to be held liable for lost business, should the construction take longer than two weeks. Those two weeks the hotel wouldn’t book conventions, a key portion of its business, he said.

And, with the city unwilling to take that risk, talks ended.

One possible solution could be for Haskell Co., the contractor for the project, to move in an extra barge to speed up that portion of construction to fit the timeline.

He said costs haven’t been determined for the changes, but the money was appropriated for concrete and wood.

“We may have to come up with more,” Redman said. “I can’t imagine it being a major difference … it would be a minimal amount.”

That possibility came up during the April discussion when the legislation was passed, with Council member Bill Bishop calling such a change likely to mean “another seven-figure change order.”

But, it would mean less maintenance long term, Council member Warren Jones said at the time.

Representatives from Haskell will look over changes and another meeting has been scheduled for Monday.

“We’re pushing ahead,” Redman said. “It should have been done a year ago.”

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