Jacksonville, FL — A Downtown Jacksonville eyesore could soon be a riverfront entertainment destination.
The City of Jacksonville confirms Berkman Plaza II has been sold. The new developer is planning on building a hotel, riverfront entertainment area, and parking garage, according to a statement from Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes.
“Following months of collaborative discussions between the mayor, Choate Construction, and a new developer, we are one step closer to our commitment of ensuring that Jacksonville’s waterfront is put to its highest use,” the statement says.
Curry says he has been working for several years with the seller-Choate Construction- and the new developer- who is not being publicly named right now- to get the deal done. Hughes says the City’s understanding of the project is that the existing Berkman structure will be integrated in to the plans, because the structure is sound.
“The administration is incredibly excited about this agreement, and looks forward to continued discussions with the developer to identify next steps and efforts that will enable them to reach their goals,” Hughes says.
The statement further says work on the project is expected to begin this week, and more details about the plans will be released in the coming days. Curry says the developer is new to Jacksonville, but he declined to give any additional identifying information. He believes the sale is a win for the City and Downtown.
“We will very soon be to the point where people will not be driving through our Downtown going ‘what is that eyesore, what is that trainwreck, what is that terrible building’,” Curry says.
Berkman II has been dormant for years, after a parking garage collapsed while under construction in 2007, killing one person and injuring others. Choate took control in 2014, and has now sold the property. The sale was a private deal that did not involve any City dollars, although it remains to be seen whether the new developer will ask for City funding for the project.
The sale comes at a time when many Downtown redevelopment projects are moving forward. The City plans to take down the Hart Bridge ramps, and the Laura Street Trio is undergoing work. Negotiations are still ongoing for redeveloping the Shipyards, and the Jaguars have also put forward a proposal for a massive redevelopment effort in the Sports Complex. Meanwhile, the City is exploring what to put up at the site where the old courthouse will be taken down- which could include a convention center. The Southbank is growing as well, with plans for "The District" moving forward.