Jacksonville, FL -
Renovations at the Southbank Riverwalk are getting a budget boost- and it may not be the last one.
$15 million for the renovations were approved in 2010, but construction was held up for various reasons until last year. When the City unveiled the new plans for the renovations and construction began, however, funding for the entire project was no longer secure.
“The last thing I want to see is a ‘dead end’ sign at a point in the Riverwalk where it stops,” says Councilman John Crescimbeni.
The contractor determined $2.3 million more would be needed . About $300,000 will come from savings in the first portion of the project, but $2 million over the budget was also requested to complete renovations on the entire span of the Riverwalk.
Because the contractor and subcontractors agreed to hold their pricing in place through May 1st, Council was compelled to vote Tuesday night or face an almost guaranteed increase from that $2 million price point. They unanimously voted to allocate that money.
“I think there’s relief to the citizens of Jacksonville that we’re not going to have a project that got started in September that’s going to only be 75% finished,” Crescimbeni says.
During the debate, however, a question was raised on whether even more money could be needed down the road.
One portion of the Riverwalk by the Crowne Plaza will not be renovated to the current plan- as things stand now. Because of a legal agreement in the 1980s, according to the Office of the General Counsel, the Riverfront properties have to sign on to any improvements- the city can only maintain and replace with “in kind” materials. That means as things stand now, the portion of the Riverwalk in front of the hotel will replaced with wood like what’s there now, rather than the concrete which will be on the rest of the span.
“It will eventually deteriorate and cost the city more money to keep it up,” says Councilman Don Redman.
Because the wood would get replaced with wood, Redman is concerned that the Crowne Plaza portion of the Riverwalk will not just deteriorate faster, but pose a safety risk. Redman himself broke hisd leg during a slip and fall on the Riverwalk when it was wet.
Even if the Crowne Plaza agrees to go along with the concrete, however, there would still be a potential funding boost needed. The contractor, Haskell, tallied six months ago that it would not cost any more money if the Crowne Plaza were to sign on to the concrete upgrades, but during Tuesday night’s meeting, the project manager said he would have to run the calculations again before ensuring no further funding would be needed. Public Works Director Jim Robinson told Council he had been given every indication the price would hold steady, but several councilmen remain skeptical because of the difference in the cost of the materials.
Redman continues to push the Crowne Plaza, although he realizes it’s likely a losing battle.
The City has until May 9th to tell Haskell whether to proceed with wood or concrete in that portion of the project without facing a delay in the project timeline or additional funding concerens.