By: Mike Mendenhall
The developer that wants to raze the unfinished Berkman Plaza II on the St. Johns Riverfront Downtown says it no longer plans to implode the high-rise.
The city is reviewing an amended permit application filed Jan. 6 to tear down the 18-story building at 500 E. Bay St. using a high-reach excavator.
Developer Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization LLC hired Orlando-based contractor Pece of Mind Environmental Inc. to complete the demolition.
Documents filed with the city show Pece of Mind plans to use a crane and 135-foot boom to demolish the 279,000-square-foot structure from the top floor down. The company will use a debris curtain to keep material contained at the demolition site.
The amended demolition permit application filed with the city Building Inspection Division by Pece of Mind owner Steve Pece projects a $1.09 million job cost.
Pece of Mind expects to complete the demolition about 120 days after the permit is issued.
After the building is leveled, Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization intends to redevelop the property with 300 residential units, retail and public park space.
Park Beeler, co-managing member of the development company, said Jan. 6 that city officials were concerned that an implosion could result in debris falling onto the adjacent Shipyards property and disturb ground contamination that could enter the St. Johns River.
Residents of The Plaza Condominium at Berkman Plaza and Marina to the west expressed concern about damage to their building from an implosion, Beeler said.
“It’s going to take longer, but it will be less disturbing to traffic on Bay Street and we’re going to build a berm to make sure no debris falls on to Berkman I,” Beeler said.
Contractor Arwood Waste & Demolition Inc. filed the initial permit application requesting an implosion in October.
The city returned it for questions, according to city documents.
Jim Bergman, principal Berkman Plaza II owner through 500 East Bay LLC, said Sept. 10 that the shell structure and property is under contract with the Jacksonville-based management company.
In a joint letter sent to the city permitting department and Code Enforcement Division on Jan. 6, Bergman and 500 East Bay creditor Choate Construction Co. approved the latest demolition plan.
Bergman said in that letter that the purchase deal with Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization is contingent on obtaining the demolition permit.
The 500 East Bay owner told the city he expects the developer to close on the property within 30 days of the permit’s approval.
“Due to the modifications to the original permit application that have been required for approval, the closing date on the contract with JRR has been accordingly extended until the approval of the permit under these modifications,” the letter says.
Arwood will remain as a consultant, according to Bergman and Choate’s letter.
Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization is managed by JRR Management Partners led by Brian Wheeler, the owner of GGI Tapestry LLC and a former Genesis Group partner; Beeler, F3 Global Solutions managing member and a former executive at The Charter Co.; and Chris Young, president of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Biotech Restorations Holdings LLC.
The developer has a separate group of unnamed investors that Beeler said will not be announced until the sale closes.
The Berkman Plaza II has been incomplete for nearly 13 years.
Duval County Property Appraiser records show that 500 East Bay bought the Berkman Plaza II for $4.75 million from Atlanta-based Choate in July 2018.
Choate acquired the property in a foreclosure sale in 2014. Beeler said in September 2020 that his management group is completing an agreement to assume responsibility for a promissory note the construction company has on the building.
The city condemned the Berkman Plaza II in August and began taking steps to demolish it, despite Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization’s plans.
A spokesperson in the city Office of Public Affairs said in an Oct. 29 email that officials have not set a date for the city to raze it.
According to Beeler, Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization is working with the city to resolve the issue.
He said 500 East Bay has paused further action on a lawsuit filed Oct. 30 against the city alleging the condemnation violated due process and seeking an injunction from the court.