Councilwoman Boyer Discusses Plans and Progress with Eva Dasher
The American Institute of Architects’ visionary plan for a series of riverfront activity nodes, first brought to light in the 2016 Architecture Issue of Arbus, is fast becoming a reality under the guidance of Councilwoman Lori Boyer. The plan calls for a series of connected destinations along the St. Johns River designed to engage our community and attract tourism. Last year’s City Council president is eager to update readers about what she now refers to as Jacksonville’s “Riverfront Activation Plan.”
Councilwoman Boyer, a year ago, you said that there were “a lot of pieces that could be in place by 2019.” Is that still true?
In terms of completed construction, no. In terms of refinements in design and knowing where we are going, yes. Hopefully we are going to be under construction in at least two of the nodes this year. It is always a challenge with the city procurement process and the time it takes from when you have funded and designed a project to the time you have it built.
I think that we will be sufficiently refined that we will be in a position, and will have funding available, to start building two of the nodes by the end of this fiscal year. Some elements might even be completed by the end of this year. My hope is that
by the end of 2019 there will be major progress on the first two nodes, maybe even by mid-2019.
Which two of the twelve nodes from the original plans are now getting started?
The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts and
Friendship Fountain, but there is some work being done on all of them.
How did the plans for these nodes develop over the past year?
One of the first things that happened as I became immersed in all this is that I learned about a subset of landscape architecture called interpretive design – where you are interpreting a story in the landscape design. Parks use it and lots of different places around the country use it. At the same time, I had a meeting with John Wood, CEO of Sally Corporation, to understand attractions. If we want these nodes to have an attraction, what are some of the components that you build into the experience? Some of this is a little bit of museum curator, some is architecture, and some is landscape. And then I learned there is something called themed entertainment which involves teams of people who create things that are attraction-oriented venues. All of that background has been feeding into the formulation of what these nodes are going to look like.
As you are going down each part of the Riverwalk there will be an integrated fabric, and a
continuity and connectivity so you will know it’s not just any walk – you will know that you’re on the same Riverwalk. So even as you cross a bridge and go to the other side there’s still a sense of place, and you will know you’re still in the same area. Each one of these pocket garden spaces [nodes] will tell a story about Jacksonville.
What will these stories be about?
We had a meeting last August with about forty stakeholders and we asked them, “What are the stories that you want to tell about Jacksonville through these nodes?” We made a list of stories that would be interesting to people. Some are historical and some are contemporary. For example, the story of the Navy or the story of the extraordinary medical facilities and medical research going on here. We tentatively located where each story would be told in a physical place along each Riverwalk.