The fifty-year-old former city hall annex building at 220 E. Bay Street in downtown Jacksonville was imploded this past Sunday, and work continues to clear the land of any remnants of the structure.
The building was brought down after months of interior demolition work, much of it aimed at making the implosion’s debris cloud less dangerous.
In the coming months, the former Duval County Courthouse building next door will be torn down, creating two vacant blocks along Bay Street.
Originally, the plan was for these two buildings to be demolished to make room for a new convention center that would replace the aging Prime Osborn Center. The city’s Downtown Investment Authority solicited bids for the project, receiving three.
It then received a second bid from Rimrock Devlin DeBartolo Jacksonville that would involve building a hotel, luxury apartments, a parking garage, and a food hall on the land rather than a convention center. The development team would then build a convention center as part of Shad Khan’s grand Shipyards project.
The decision was made to go ahead with the demolition without a firm decision on what would come next. And after interior demolition had begun within the city hall annex building, DIA decided that they would table any efforts to build a convention center for the near future, citing the desire to not rush such a project.
This means Rimrock Devlin DeBartolo’s alternative bid may end up winning, as it would allow the city to wait until the Shipyards project begins to make a commitment to a new convention center.
That being said, the city could also decide to solicit a new set of bids for the property now that a new convention center is on hold.
Before any kind of development could really get started, the work to demolish and replace Liberty Street and Coastline Drive along the riverfront would need to be completed. This would allow the Northbank Riverwalk to extend into – and beyond – the project’s land.
No matter what, it’s too late to turn back now. The city hall annex building is gone, and the old courthouse will soon meet the same fate. Hopefully the demolitions will clear the way for something new and exciting.
If not, the city may regret not having a firm plan in place beforehand.