Several years ago, a project was added to the City Capital Improvement plan to restore Friendship Fountain to its former glory. I believe this may have been added prior to the time I became the Council representative for the Southbank, but it certainly preceded my interest in “Waterfront Activation” Downtown and throughout our City. As my interest in the latter grew, I began to look into the project scope and while I was initially lukewarm on the project, I have become a committed advocate.
Here is a link to a video of what the fountain looked like when the lights, sound, and water jets were performing as designed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYkW8MQcnhs. It is really quite spectacular and a feature that is worthy of a visit from residents and tourist alike. Since we already have the essential elements in place- the fountain, the pumps, the lights, the speakers and the programmable hardware- it is the natural place to start with enhancements to our public spaces along the waterfront.
The assessments regarding required repairs are complete and we are now looking at a couple optional enhancements. Once we have determined the feasibility of those elements, the restoration work should begin later this year.
At the same time, the Downtown Investment Authority, is developing a conceptual master plan for signage, landscaping and a series of themed pocket gardens along the north and south Riverwalk. The concept is that the Riverwalks will have consistent signage and key elements that create a sense of place and continuity notwithstanding the different pavement materials, light fixtures, and benches found in various sections. These are enhancements- not replacements.
Then at regular intervals one would encounter a “themed pocket garden”. Each such space would have its own theme- telling the world and our City part of our story. Themes could range from contemporary such as the extraordinary medical facilities and research located here to historical but would relate clearly to Jacksonville- sharing with residents and visitors our truly extraordinary fabric. The story would form the inspiration for an interpretive garden space-adding both beauty through landscape and elements of the story. The spaces are pockets- smaller and clearly defined almost as if rooms- and distinctive from one another. And in each case, the space would include interactive elements as well as an iconic element. A group of American Institute of Architects volunteers has been helping to shape the concepts. Their vision includes a tower element at each location so that looking down and across the water, one can pinpoint the various locations and they draw you to the next space.
Friendship Fountain would be that first iconic feature, and the surrounding park enhanced to serve as an example for future sites.