The project is expected to be completed by fall 2022.
The city announced design plans Oct. 1 for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in the historic Downtown LaVilla neighborhood.
The park at 120 Lee St. is the birthplace of brothers James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson. They wrote and composed “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” in LaVilla between 1900 and 1905.
Renderings show a shotgun-style building covered with song lyrics. There is a garden and a sloped grass area facing a stage.
“The legacy of the Johnson brothers and of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing is an important part of our city’s history, and one that we are deeply committed to honoring,” Mayor Lenny Curry said in a news release.
Curry unveiled the designs Oct. 1 at a news conference at the Jessie Ball duPont Center with city Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department Director Daryl Joseph and District 7 Council member Reggie Gaffney.
Landscape architect Walter Hood of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, designed the park. The city said he made several trips to Jacksonville and researched LaVilla’s history.
Preliminary design and engineering plans for the park are underway and are expected to be completed by summer 2021.
Contractor selection is expected by fall 2021 and the park could open by fall 2022.
Preliminary costs for design and construction are estimated at $2 million to $3 million, funded by the city and private donations.
LaVilla was a bustling neighborhood referred to as the “Harlem of the South.”
“This park will serve as a reminder of how critical LaVilla was for the economic and cultural expansion of Jacksonville,” Gaffney said in a news release.
“This project is possible because of the hard work and collaboration of many individuals and organizations who believe that to make Jacksonville better tomorrow, we must always remember what happened yesterday. By blending the past, present and future we celebrate our city’s unique African American heritage,” he said.
The park is adjacent to a planned 88-unit for-sale town house project by The Vestcor Companies. Vestcor has delayed construction of the project twice this summer and the company said it is hesitant to begin it in a Downtown market impacted by COVID-19.
As part of its deal with the city, Vestcor will donate $100,000 each for the development of the LaVilla Heritage Trail and Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park.
Completed development in LaVilla includes the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center and the Lofts at LaVilla and Lofts at Monroe apartments built by Vestcor.
A virtual community town hall meeting about design plans for the park is noon Oct. 13. The event is facilitated by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. To register, visit jbd.fund/park.
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