New Public Art and BARGE Event Series Will Help Activate Downtown
Adding to the exciting wave of Downtown renewal, the new, improved Southbank Riverwalk opened today with an event at Friendship Fountain. Mayor Alvin Brown, Council President Clay Yarborough, Councilmembers Warren Jones, John Crescimbeni and Don Redman, and other city leaders announced new features and opportunities in celebration of the opening of this renovated Downtown centerpiece.
“This newly redesigned Southbank Riverwalk will add even more momentum to our Downtown riverfront and serve as a destination for our residents and visitors,” said Mayor Brown. “This new 4,000-foot Riverwalk provides a unique experience for the public to enjoy our treasured St. Johns River, and represents a great investment in the quality of life and future of our community.”
Originally constructed in 1985, the Southbank Riverwalk was reconstructed during an 18-month design-build project led by the Haskell Company, in partnership with CH2MHill and Flagg Design. The $17 million project replaced the aging wood structure with a concrete path on the river, featuring colorful paver bricks.
“The Riverwalk is a great asset,” said Council President Clay Yarborough. “I’m thankful the project is finished so that our residents and visitors can enjoy the river and Downtown from this venue once again.”
Measuring 4,000 feet, the Riverwalk will serve as a hub for activity and entertainment along the water. Featuring two floating docks, two permanent slips for dinner cruise boats, ample event space and a Navy memorial with interactive fountain, the Riverwalk is set to host a range of events and activities Downtown that will activate the Southbank.
“Having served as a member of the Council that funded the first Riverwalk, I’m very proud to join Mayor Brown in the reopening of one of the jewels of the city, the beautiful and scenic Southbank Riverwalk,” said Councilman Warren Jones. “This is an amenity that will be enjoyed by residents, workers and visitors to our beautiful and ever improving Downtown, starting today and for generations to come.”
“The new Southbank Riverwalk will provide a place for families to enjoy our beautiful St. Johns River,” said Councilman Don Redman. “It will be a great gathering place for public events such as fireworks and future boat races. The floating docks will be an asset for our large boating population. I am truly grateful for the hard work of so many who made this new waterfront scenic trail a reality.”
Today’s announcement included two related enhancements to be enjoyed by residents and visitors in 2015, which Mayor Brown has designated the Year of the River, in partnership with the local nonprofit Cultural Fusion.
The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville announced that new public art will be displayed on the Southbank Riverwalk. After a call to artists in the five-county area, the Art Advisory Committee for Art in Public Places selected a mosaic design by Kate Garcia Rouh of RouxArt, Inc. as the winning concept to adorn the distinct space directly under the Main Street Bridge. “Mirrored River: Where do you see yourself?” will reflect figuratively and literally on the St. Johns as the newest addition to Jacksonville’s public art collection. With a generous donation of materials from sponsors Lee & Cates Glass and Interline Brands, the project is expected to be completed at the beginning of April.
“Creating the piece will be interactive in nature, as RouxArt has called upon the community to help with the installation of the mosaic, which will be open to those interested in training to assist,” said Cultural Council Executive Director Tony Allegretti. “We’re proud to add this piece to the Jacksonville public art collection as a tribute to great art, collaboration, and the St. Johns during this 2015 Year of the River.”
To add more opportunities to enjoy St. Johns and the Riverwalk, a new floating barge event series was unveiled to the public. Retrofitted and designed to activate the Southbank as a social destination, THE BARGE will connect the Northbank and Southbank, and unify Jacksonville with its greatest asset, the St. Johns River.
“We chose to debut THE BARGE on the Southbank to ignite cultural development and celebrate the vitality interwoven between the new Riverwalk, iconic Friendship Fountain, the area’s surrounding assets, and of course, the St. Johns River,” said Dawn and Al Emerick, founders of THE BARGE. “Our future plans call for statewide, regional and national expansion of our event- themed series as well as the hosting of special events programmed on THE BARGE right on the beautiful St. Johns River and other waterways.”
The new Southbank Riverwalk can also host water taxi stops, making it even easier to get out and enjoy Downtown. Other highlights include nighttime colored lighting for accents and pedestrian safety, multiple large gathering areas for events and celebrations, several areas for future outdoor artwork, and accent lighting along the riverside wall under the Main Street Bridge.
“The distinctive new look of our Southbank Riverwalk will quickly make it an iconic Jacksonville landmark,” said At-Large Councilman John Crescimbeni. “And the more durable surface, which should require considerably less maintenance, will result in a tremendous savings to taxpayers!”
“It is especially gratifying to participate in such a landmark project for the city. The unique nautical nature of the over-water experience is unlike any other walk in Jacksonville,” said Will Inman, Haskell Project Manager. “The Southbank is now the inviting, safe place for upland pedestrians and the boating public to enjoy the mighty St. Johns,” Inman said. “On behalf of 900 colleagues at Haskell and the many design and contracting professionals that made this happen, we appreciate the opportunity to work in partnership with the both the city and the stakeholders along the Southbank to create this place where families can stroll, workers can unwind and the river can be truly appreciated.”The Peninsula will be undergoing repairs to the exterior of its building in early March. This is not a city project or related to the construction of the Southbank Riverwalk. In an abundance of caution, the Peninsula will be erecting protective scaffolding around a section of Riverwalk in the vicinity of the Peninsula repairs to allow uninterrupted access to the Riverwalk while these repairs take place.