Southbank Riverwalk Improvements, Photo by Fran Ruchalski
Southbank Riverwalk Improvements, Photo by Fran Ruchalski

A New Look for the Southbank Riverwalk

Southbank Riverwalk Soldier, photo by Fran Ruchalski
Naval Memorial Statue, Photo by Fran Ruchalski

If you haven’t been to the Southbank Riverwalk in a while, it’s time to go back. The bright blue bricks in shades of aqua, teal, and baby blue may be your first indication that something has changed. That’s because the City of Jacksonville has just completed an 18-month, $17 million renovation project to make the area more pedestrian, bike, and family-friendly for the people of Jacksonville. In addition to the bricks, the walkway is wider and lined with benches for lounging, shady canopies for sunny days, and improved lighting to make nighttime strolling more safe and comfortable. At its center, the Naval Memorial Statue has been updated with a starburst brick design and fountain with colored lights. There’s also a new mural, but more on that later.

This past February, Mayor Alvin Brown presided over the grand opening of the new Riverwalk in an event at Friendship Fountain. He calls 2015 the “Year of the River,” saying “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.” With two floating docks, permanent slips for dinner cruise boats, and ample event space, expect the Riverwalk to be a hub of activity in the years to come.

Southbank Riverwalk Opening Ceremony, Flagpoles, Soldier

11021089_1540475389547177_2313154225439769319_nAnother addition to the area is The Barge, a floating barge that will provide party and event space with the Jacksonville skyline in the background. At press time, the team behind The Barge was working toward a limited launch in the fall of 2015 and a full launch in the spring of 2016 with a Beer, Bourbon, and Bacon event. Al Emerick, one of the founders, calls it “a canvas for individuals, organizations, companies, and the city to actualize their ideas against a magical backdrop of the city and the fountain.”

Roux Art, Mirrored River, by Fran Ruchalski, Southbank Riverwalk, Jacksonville, FL
Roux Art’s Mirrored River on the Southbank Riverwalk, photo by Fran Ruchalski


 Southbank Riverwalk, Jacksonville, FL
Photo by Fran Ruchalski

One of the most noteworthy updates to the Riverwalk is also an addition to the public art scene in Jacksonville. Follow the walkway and you’ll spot it on the wall under the Main Street Bridge – a glittering mosaic depicting the St. John’s River in cut mirror, tile, and stones. Titled Mirrored River: Where do you see yourself?, this 60-foot mural is in the final stages of installation and was designed by local artist Kate Garcia Rouh of RouxArt Inc. The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville selected this design because it focuses on the river and also because of its community element: the piece is being installed with the help of local volunteers. Daniel Austin, Communications Manager for the Council, says that it “adds incredible value to the Southbank and excites people to want to visit and bring their friends.”

Southbank RIverwalk

The Southbank Riverwalk stretches from Friendship Fountain to the Duval County School Board Building. Parking is available in open lots near the Radisson hotel, and at boat ramps near Friendship Fountain and near River City Brewing Company.

About Michelle Fares