Jacksonville, FL - In a big switch, the Crowne Plaza is ready to agree to the concrete upgrades coming to Jacksonville’s Southbank Riverwalk, according to Councilman Don Redman.
“He [the Crowne Plaza CEO] really was ready to negotiate,” Redman says.
Construction has already started on portions of the Southbank Riverwalk to upgrade the degrading wood to more durable concrete. There are also new lighting and shading features and other amenities that will be added on. The initial $15 million budget settled several years ago for the project fell short, and just a few weeks ago Jacksonville’s City Council allocated another $2 million to fully complete the project.
When that allocation was made, the Crowne Plaza had not agreed to the upgrades. City law allows the riverfront properties to have discretion on any construction dealing with the Riverwalk. Because of that, the City could only replace that portion of the Riverwalk with “in kind” materials- meaning more wood.
Redman, who represents the Southbank, has continued to speak with the hotel, and met with the CEO on Thursday.
“There’s only a couple of things that have to be ironed out,” he says.
They will meet again on Monday, and Redman believes at that time there will be an agreement to go with the full upgrades, as long as construction can be squeezed to just two weeks.
The hotel was concerned that their business would be disrupted by the construction coming with the full overhaul, but Redman says they’ve reached a compromise.
“They just won’t book any conventions for that two week time period,” he says.
In order to accommodate the two week timeline, a barge would likely have to be pulled from a different portion of the Riverwalk to increase the manpower on the Crowne Plaza portion.
If, in fact, a deal is finalized a big question turns to cost. When the City Council approved the new allocation for the Riverwalk construction, most were not happy the project construction had started without the entire funding in place. The contractor made clear that any additional changes- specifically altering the plans at the Crowne Plaza portion- could lead to even more funding needs or a delay in the construction timeline overall.
Redman says the contractor is assessing that as part of these talks.
WOKV reached out to Public Works to ask whether the City could be on the hook for even more money now. I’m told that until the negotiations are complete, it’s unclear what any decision would have on the final cost or timeline.