Downtown waterfront master plan from Late Bloomers Garden Club gets City Hall support

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The city needs to develop a comprehensive master development plan for the Downtown waterfront.

That was the essence of a presentation Wednesday from the Late Bloomers Garden Club to the Jacksonville Waterways Commission.

The commission voted unanimously in support of the proposal — and it wasn’t the first time the idea has gotten the green light at City Hall.

Kerri Stewart, Mayor Lenny Curry’s chief of staff, said the Late Bloomers approached the administration several months ago with the proposal.

“We love the idea,” she said. “And the property owners along both sides of the river would like to see a plan.”

Stewart said the administration recommended the Downtown Investment Authority include the proposed master plan in its 2016-17 professional services budget. She estimated the plan could be developed for $50,000-$100,000.

Barbara Ketchum, co-chair of the Late Bloomers’ Civic Committee, told the commission a master plan would create a vision for Downtown’s waterfront that would be a “green, multiuse open space” and it would provide a “framework of guiding principles” for future development.

She said the committee studied successful urban waterfront developments in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and St. Petersburg and determined the common factor for all three cities was having a master plan.

“We need a comprehensive vision of what we want our waterfront to be,” Ketchum said.

That will be particularly important, she said, when the owner of the property along the Northbank likely to be revitalized at some point receives proposals from developers.

The city owns the former City Hall and county courthouse sites, the Shipyards property and Metropolitan Park.

With the exception of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront and the Plaza Condominiums at Berkman Plaza and Marina, that’s the Northbank waterfront east of the Main Street Bridge.

The Late Bloomers also propose creating a task force to assist with development of the master plan and to ensure the proposal is followed when the city begins working with private-sector real estate developers.

Ketchum said that would give the city control over the design of proposed project as well as “veto power.”

City Council member and waterways commissioner Al Ferraro spoke in favor of the master plan.

“It sounds great,” he said. “I look forward to our riverfront looking better than it does.”

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