The Jacksonville Riverwalks are located on the north and south banks of the St. Johns River in Downtown Jacksonville, Florida. The first section of the Riverwalk opened on the Downtown Southbank on November 8, 1985. It was intended as a venue where tourists and local residents alike could view the beauty of the river and the skyline of the city. On a sunny day, the view from the walk includes shimmering water, shiny buildings, sailboats & speedboats. Today, the riverwalks are among the most popular and well-used attractions in the downtown area.
The 1.2-mile (1.9 km) walk was designed by Perkins & Perkins Architects to be a festive waterfront public space linking Friendship Fountain and Harbormasters Restaurant (now River City Brewing Co.) with hotels and office buildings east of the Main Street Bridge. The riverwalk was constructed, but never lived up to the expectations created by the project blueprints.
1985 Southbank Riverwalk Project Feature Description Status St. Johns Wharf Open-air marketplace built over the river adjacent to the Wyndham Hotel A few shops were built along the riverwalk, but the wharf was never constructed Graphic System Banners, kiosks and signage to provide visitors with clear and legible information, as well as reinforce the warm and lively image of the riverwalk Signs exist, one visitor kiosk was built Open Air Pavilions Four were planned and projected to include concessions and restroom facilities Two were constructed. The Grove Raised grass seating area shaded by a grove of palm trees Never built The Pyramid An outdoor structure with terraced seating area for special events Never built. The Navy Memorial is located on the projected site Aquarium Located south of the maritime museum, plans called for an aquarium facing Friendship Fountain, which would showcase local freshwater and saltwater marine life Never built Friendship Park River Fountain A geyser shooting water 500 ft (150 m) into the sky, located in the river Built in 1965 and became one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city Great Lawn Open space for recreation and relaxation Never built Under the Bridge Café A Sidewalk Café that would link both sides of riverwalk Never built Ship Museum An attraction to emphasize the historic relationship between the city and the river; projected to include floating ship exhibits Scaled back to the current Jacksonville Maritime Museum, once housed in a 5,000 sq ft (460 m2) kiosk; moved to the Jacksonville Landing Amphitheater A 3,000-seat open-air facility with bandstand and theatrical lighting, built out into the river that would be used for public concerts, ballets, festivals and school graduations Never built San Marco Blvd Sculpture To be located in the middle of the traffic circle next to MOSH Never built
As of late 2011, the Northbank Riverwalk ran from the Fuller Warren Bridge to the former Shipyards property, owned by the city of Jacksonville. There are plans to extend it west to Riverside's Memorial Park, and east to Metropolitan Park across from the stadium. Free parking exists under the Fuller Warren Bridge. The center of the Northbank Riverwalk is the Landing. In 2002, the Jacksonville Track Club partnered with the city in commissioning The Runner, a statue of a sprinting man on the riverwalk.
In January, 2005, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of the latest extension of the Northbank Riverwalk. Construction took nearly two years for the 1.5-mile (2.4 km), $8.7 million project. The landscaped brick walkway connects the existing Riverwalk at the CSX building to Riverside Avenue. Its features include historical lighting, water fountains, trash receptacles, bike racks, irrigated landscaping and over 100 benches.
The Riverside Arts Market (RAM) was begun in 2008 beneath the Fuller Warren Bridge around the Northbank Riverwalk. It is open on Saturdays, 10-4 from March to December and features an eclectic mix of vendors offering arts and crafts, food and drink, fruits and vegetables and live entertainment in a family-friendly environment. Eight of the market's vendors have subsequently opened brick & mortar stores or restaurants.
The City of Jacksonville and Fidelity National Financial executed a land swap in 2008 that added 1.3 acres (5,300 m2) in exchange for the parcel of land under Riverside Avenue's historic fire station. The city has the option to move the structure before it can be demolished, and funding for that purpose is being discussed.
Nearly 40 feet of Riverwalk was temporarily closed in late 2006 when corrosion caused steel pilings to fail and the supported walkway buckled. The city allocated $1.3 million to inspect the entire Riverwalk and make emergency repairs, and planned a multi-year capital improvement project eventually costing $25 million for upgrades split between both riverwalks. As part of that project, the city began installing 306 pile jackets in and around the area of the 2006 closure at a cost of $1.4 million.
In late June 2009, a 12-foot corner section of concrete walkway on the northbank collapsed due to erosion of the steel bulkhead. Another portion of the riverwalk was closed after bricks became loose when the walkway sank several inches. Repairs to both damaged areas were completed prior to the July 4th celebration and fireworks show.
A meeting was held in January, 2010 between Mayor John Peyton and several city councilmen to discuss progress on three major downtown improvement projects, including Southbank Riverwalk replacement. Legislation was filed to fund these three projects with a price tag of $23 million. $11.9 million was allocated to replace the wooden structure with a more durable material with a 40-year life span, and upgrade lighting, railing and trash receptacles. On February 9, 2010 the city council passed the three bills without debate, providing final approval for all three projects.
At the January 31, 2008 meeting of the Downtown Development Review Board (DDRB) of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission (JEDC), plans were tentatively approved for a 128-slip dockage facility to be named, The South Shore Marina & Riverwalk at the Aetna Building. The project would include a new section of southbank riverwalk on the 13-acre (53,000 m2) Aetna Building property, which has 1,100 feet (340 m) of riverfrontage. Permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Army Corps of Engineers had already been obtained, but financial conditions forced the project to be placed on hold.
- "Jacksonville Riverwalk exposes Florida City's Good Side". Charlotte Observer. February 15, 1987.
- Littlepage, Ron (November 3, 2011). "Great Jacksonville Parks: The Northbank Riverwalk". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
- Virtual Tourist--Exploring Jacksonville's Downtown Riverfront
- City of Jacksonville website: Jan 27, 2005-Mayor Cuts Ribbon to Open Northbank Riverwalk
- Scanlan, Dan (April 5, 2012). "Jacksonville's longest-running art festival comes to Mandarin Easter weekend". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
- Patton, Charlie (March 12, 2012). "Riverside Arts Market back in business for fourth season". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
- Metro Jacksonville: May 21, 2008-Public Access Improvements for Northbank Riverwalk
- Kerr, Jessie-Lynn (June 30, 2009). "Northbank Riverwalk cave-in causes closure". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- "Mayor and City Council Members Discuss Implementation of Key Downtown Projects". January 8, 2010. City of Jacksonville. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- "Mayor Pitches Downtown Parks Overhaul". News4Jax. January 8, 2010. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Mitchell, Tia (February 9, 2010). "Jacksonville council OKs downtown projects". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
- Jax Daily Record: February 4, 2008-Marina brings South Beach look to the Southbank by Max Marbut