Jacksonville, FL - Hoping there’s some wiggle room in a big Southbank Riverwalk deadline.
“We’ve given then every opportunity to be a part of our city, and I think this will be it,” says Councilman Don Redman.
On Friday, the contractor working on the Riverwalk has to order materials for the portion of the project at the Crowne Plaza hotel. City law requires riverfront properties to sign off on any upgrades to the Riverwalk and, to this point, the Crowne Plaza has not supported the plan to replace the current wooden structure with concrete and add amenities including lighting, seating, and shade. That means the City could only replace that portion of the Riverwalk with “in kind” material- or new wood.
“I feel like I’ve been beating my head against a brick wall for as long as I want to,” Redman says.
Redman has continued to talk with the Crowne Plaza about the upgrades. He says the CEO will fly in from Virginia for a meeting on Thursday, which Redman considers the last chance they have to sell the project.
The Crowne Plaza has been mainly concerned about noise from the construction and impact it would have on their business. Redman says at Thursday’s meeting the contractor plans to show how other businesses near where the upgrades are now taking place haven’t been affected.
“I’m hoping that they can see what’s going on and want to be a part of it,” he says.
There are even more questions if the Crowne Plaza does agree to sign on, however. On Friday, the contractor will order the supplies needed to replace the Riverwalk at the hotel with wood. During a recent council meeting to approve additional funding for the project, the contractor told Council that changing the plan past that time could result in even more funding needed or a delay in the project timeline.
Redman says he believes there is a little leeway if this Thursday meeting is successful, but sees it as the last opportunity.
$15 million for the project was approved several years ago, but various problems held up construction until the middle of last year. When the City re-launched the program, they admitted there was no longer enough funding to complete the project. City Council has since approved an additional $2 million to complete the entire span of the Riverwalk.