Berkman II implosion delayed until November

The developer says supply chain problems and structural building issues are to blame.

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Developer Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization LLC says the implosion of the unfinished Berkman Plaza II high-rise Downtown will be delayed until November. 

Company co-manager Park Beeler said supply chain issues with components to execute the blast and structural instabilities that halted the building’s conventional demolition in the summer will keep contractors from meeting the initial Oct. 17 target.

PB Riverfront Revitalization of Jacksonville LLC,  a company controlled by the developer, bought the land and 14-year-old building shell at 500 E. Bay St. on April 21 for $5.503 million and plans to redevelop the site.

Beeler said any further delays would be “out of an abundance of caution.” 

“We’re not going to take any chances or rush into any of the prep work until it meets all the specifications that are required,” Beeler said.

“If that takes more time, then that’s what we’ll have to do.”

Beeler said demolition contractors Pece of Mind Environmental Inc. and Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc., which will handle the implosion, are considering three or four dates that will “undoubtedly be in November.”

Contractors hope to agree on the implosion date by next week, Beeler said.

Controlled Demolition also imploded the old City Hall Annex in 2019.

Beeler said the building will be dropped straight down. 

He said city officials were concerned that the company’s first proposal to drop building debris east of the city-owned Shipyards land could release soil contamination and block the Northbank Riverwalk right of way.

Beeler said the implosion and cleanup must be planned around Jacksonville Jaguars home games, the Oct. 30 Florida-Georgia college football game and other events.

According to Beeler, the city approved its amended demolition permit to change the method from high-reach excavator to implosion.

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

The city Office of Public Affairs did not immediately respond Oct. 7 to an email about the status of the demolition permit. 

Beeler said the implosion will increase the cost of the demolition to about $2 million, up from the $1.09 million job cost shown on the permit portal.

He said Pece of Mind and Controlled Demolition also will need approval from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, headquartered across the street, before the implosion can proceed. 

Emails show Pece of Mind sent city officials its preliminary safety plan Aug. 27 that outlines controls for debris and dust and protections for surrounding buildings and infrastructure. 

On Aug. 9, the city sent PB Riverfront Revitalization a “supersede notice of condemnation.” According to the city Office of General Counsel, this nullified the city’s demolition order on the Berkman II, which was in place since late 2020.

The notice gives the developer time to complete its demolition before the city would step in to complete it.

Structural concerns found Aug. 19 halted demolition using a high-reach excavator. After an independent inspection, Pece of Mind President Steve Pece said Aug. 23 implosion is “the safest way” to complete the job.

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 homes and four penthouses.

In April, 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.