Photo of the Berkman Plaza II building with Problem Projects: Florida graphic on left side

A building locallyknown as “Jacksonville’s biggest eyesore” was finally demolished on March 6, 2022 — but it was only the first step in a bigger process, as the demolition of the Berkman Plaza II building is making way for a proposed $170 million property that, if completed, would be Jacksonville’s second-tallest building.

The process of getting to the demolition wasn’t easy, and new property owners PB Riverfront Revitalization of Jacksonville, LLC still have to settle a significant city lien on the property to pay for the demolition.

The company is currently disputing a lien filed on January 10, 2022, by Pece of Mind Environmental Inc., which claims that the company owes $1,574,650.22. The Jacksonville City Council approved an emergency appropriation to pay Pece of Mind Environmental and subcontractor Controlled Demolition, Inc. on January 12, 2022, so that the demolition could move forward.

The city reached a settlement with PB Riverfront on March 3, 2022, that allows the company 90 days to settle the final lien cost with the city after the site is clear of debris. However, City Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes noted that the threat of foreclosure is unlikely, as the city is prioritizing the completion of construction.

Regardless of how the process is resolved and what the project ends up being, city residents and leaders alike are ecstatic, as the Berkman Plaza II project remained unfinished for 15 years after a myriad of setbacks beginning in 2007 — including a parking garage collapse that killed one construction worker and the subsequent legal actions that stopped construction on the project.

“I think everybody is glad to see [the Berkman Plaza building] go,” said Jacksonville resident Debra Fraser.

“I’ve been working on this since my first year in office and it’s been hurdle after hurdle after hurdle,” added Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. “But it’s done now and we can move on.”

Even with the difficulty of the project, Pece of Mind Environmental owner Steve Pece had to say that the project could be notable for the city, especially considering the funding that could be involved.

“In 25 years, I can probably count five projects on my hand that I’ll always remember and this will definitely be one of them,” Pece said. “Like anything else, certain projects kind of bleed into the family…because of all the issues we’ve had on the project.”

New project waiting on material cost estimates to move forward

What the city may move on to is the most interesting part for Jacksonville residents — and the contractors who could get involved in the plans.

On the same day that the Berkman Plaza building was imploded, PB Riverfront released its renderings for a 40-story condominium featuring apartments and around 25,000 square feet of retail space.

Nothing is final with the project at this point. PB Riverfront managing member Park Beeler said that the company was currently “getting some new cost estimates from concrete and steel people and all the other elements of cost.”

Of course, like every construction project at the moment, all of these details are subject to the heavy volatility of the current supply chain. “[Materials prices are] changing hourly almost,” Beeler noted — but despite this, the companies involved in planning and development are being especially ambitious.

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Though the design from KBJ Architects Inc. would create the second-tallest building in the city as currently proposed, KBJ President Tom Rensing noted that “it could be taller.”

Beeler is planning to take the design to Jacksonville’s Downtown Development Review Board in April. After that, PB Riverfront plans to announce contractors and engineers for the project within a month.

As Beeler put it, the sky’s the limit — “at least the building is down.”