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Jax Daily Record Friday, May 24, 201902:00 AM EST

Lack of Jacksonville Landing asbestos survey surprises demolition contractors

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Demolition contractors learn about the expectations for tearing down the shopping center during a prebid meeting, tour.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Contractors considering a bid to demolish The Jacksonville Landing were surprised to learn Thursday that the city has not conducted a certified asbestos survey on the Downtown shopping mall.

In a mandatory prebid meeting at 10 a.m. in the Ed Ball Building, Landing project engineer Nikita Reed told contractors the selected bidder would be responsible for providing the survey from a licensed, accredited asbestos professional.

Reed said an environmental site assessment was conducted on the Landing property prior to the release of the Landing demolition specifications last week.

“You should assume that you will have to determine if any asbestos or any other hazardous material — any lead paint, anything like that” is at the site, Reed said.

“We did not do a full environmental survey for the hazardous materials.”

One contractor in the packed boardroom said it’s atypical for contractors to perform their own asbestos surveys before demolition and is usually is the role of the building owner.

“It’s collusion,” another contractor said. “I could pay someone I know to say, ‘Hey, give me a clean report,’ versus an independent third party that’s neutral.”

Reed and other city officials said they would take the contractors’ concerns under advisement and issue an addendum to the demolition specifications.

Bill Miller, a mechanical engineer with the city, explains to the demolition contractors that the palm trees on the Riverwalk are to remain.

The riverfront building was developed in 1987 at 2 Independent Drive W.

Reed also provided an overview of plans for a phased demolition of the Landing.

The city took control of the property May 1 from Sleiman Enterprises Inc. subsidiary Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC.

Short-term leaseholders were soon told they are required to vacate the Landing by June 1.

Demolition will begin with the buildings along the riverfront, followed by the pavement and sidewalks and finally the main building on the northeast end of the site.

The phased demolition is meant to accommodate BBVA Compass bank, one of two remaining long-term leaseholders remaining at the property.

The other, Hooters restaurant, settled with the city April 29 for $303,333.31 and has promised to vacate by Oct. 29.

“Right now, we’re talking about the bank. When you’re making your plans, you’ll have to make sure (BBVA Compass employees) still have their water, their electricity, access to bathrooms anything like that,” Reed said.

According to Craig Feiser, assistant general counsel for the city’s Office of the General Counsel, BBVA Compass and city negotiators have yet to reach a deal on the buyout.

City engineers also want to avoid damage to a 54-inch gravity sewer pipe underneath the Landing property, and contractors have been asked to keep the irrigation and exterior lighting systems in the landscaping planters around the property operational.

Representatives from 33 contractors attended the prebid meeting.

At a voluntary site visit at 1 p.m. Thursday guided by city and JEA officials, some interested contractors a first look at the Landing site.

Bill Miller, a mechanical engineer with the city, said a 15-foot easement would be left during and after the demolition for the Jacksonville Riverwalk.

The city expects the pedestrian and bike path will see temporary closures during demolition, but contractors have been instructed to leave the trees and planters along the Riverwalk intact.

Lighting along the Riverwalk also will be untouched, and reconnecting electrical to the perimeter public lights is required in the demolition specifications.

Miller said with the main electrical hub in the northeast quadrant of the Landing, isolating utilities to maintain the regular operations of BBVA Compass should not be an issue.

Final sealed bids for the demolition are due by 2 p.m. June 14 in the Ed Ball Building at 214 N. Hogan St. in Suite 105. Bids will be publicly opened in Room 825 on the eighth floor.

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