The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will take designs for an operations and maintenance facility for its automated vehicle replacement for the Downtown Skyway monorail system, the Ultimate Urban Circulator, to the city for conceptual review.
The Downtown Development Review Board is scheduled to discuss and take its first vote Aug. 10 on the 40-foot-tall building proposed to replace a surface parking lot at Jefferson and Water streets in LaVilla.
The facility will have repair bays for the automated people movers expected to start operation in 2025 on the 3.2-mile Bay Street Innovation Corridor loop from JTA’s Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center to the Jacksonville Jaguars football stadium.
The review board’s staff recommended preliminary design approval of the facility in its staff report released Aug. 3, but it appears JTA will have to make some site plan changes to gain the final OK.
The review board staff wants JTA to relocate an equipment yard proposed at Jefferson and Water streets to an internal spot on the site and provide urban open space to “soften” that corner.
The site plan shows the building on the periphery of the property and the equipment yard would take most of the land between the property line and the building.
The plan also shows space for a future pocket park on the south side of the property that the board staff wants to be more fleshed out by final review.
“Staff is recommending that creative design solutions be explored to bring the building and the site into closer alignment with the Downtown Overlay,” the report says. “Solutions may include softening this edge of Downtown through increased landscaping, shade trees, and/or Urban Open Space.”
The report acknowledges site constraints. Portions of the 1.11-acre site owned by JTA are adjacent to and underneath the elevated Skyway track, the Acosta Bridge and the Riverside Avenue overpass.
The report also logs traffic patterns like three one-way northbound lanes entering Downtown from the Acosta Bridge and two, northbound lanes entering the area from Riverside Avenue as considerations when developing the site.
The review board is having similar conversations about pedestrian street-front access and site plan concerns with First Coast Energy for its proposed mixed-use, three-story Daily’s gas station, convenience store, restaurant and brewery across the street from the proposed JTA facility.
In both instances, the review board is requesting the developers meet with the LaVilla Heritage Trail Committee — a group of business owners, property owners and neighborhood advocates — working to reinvigorate and preserve what’s left of the historic Black neighborhood’s character.
An application included in the board material lists Balfour Beatty LLC as the design-build principal of the project.
In January 2022, JTA awarded a $49 million contract with Balfour Beatty LLC — Vision 2 Reality Team to complete the Bay Street Innovation Corridor phase of the U2C for 12 to 15 automated vehicles.
The Balfour Beatty group is a consortium comprising Superior Construction Co. Southeast; Beep Inc.; WGI Inc.; Stantec Consulting Services Inc.; Miller Electric; Urban SDK; and Balfour Beatty.
The application says JTA intends to start construction Dec. 1, 2023, and complete the project by Feb. 28, 2025. The federal grant funding for the Bay Street project requires the U2C phase one to be in commercial operation in 2025.
Eventually, JTA plans to connect the innovation corridor to a 10-mile automated vehicle loop linking Downtown to Riverside, San Marco, Brooklyn and UF Health Jacksonville in Springfield.
The full project is estimated at $379 million to $400 million. In May 2021, City Council dedicated $247 million from the local option gas tax extension and increase to partially pay for the U2C’s development.
The designs will go to DDRB less than two weeks after the JTA executive who led the U2C program since January 2019, former Vice President of Automation and Innovation Bernard Schmidt, left the authority.
The program is now headed by JTA Senior Vice President and Chief Infrastructure & Development Officer Greer Johnson Gillis.