Berkman Plaza II demolition delayed again, ownership group cites ‘complexity’ of the job

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Action News Jax’s Ben Becker obtained a memo from the ownership group, citing latest scheduled implosion date of January 8 was “too optimistic” because of “complexity” of the job and “financial risks” as ownership group seeks to expand insurance coverage.

“This demolition is far more complex than would normally have been the case. No mistakes can be tolerated. There is too much at stake to take even the slightest chances,” wrote Park Beeler, managing member of Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization LLC.

Beeler said concern for safety, with the building being close to other buildings such as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Bay Street, led the group to increase its insurance coverage.

The “hundreds of lawsuits” stemming from the Surfside condo collapse in South Florida were a factor in the group’s decision to get increased insurance coverage — “many of which have been justifiable, but many also frivolous,” Beeler wrote.

The Berkman Plaza II has been sitting vacant since 2007, when a construction worker died after a parking garage collapsed. Beeler referenced this incident in the letter:

“The previous accident at Berkman Plaza II fourteen years ago, bankrupted the Berkman family’s visionary project and cost dozens of companies to lose many millions of dollars. We do not intend to allow a repeat,” Beeler wrote.

The original demolition approach was to level the building floor by floor, but crews deemed that unsafe after discovering corrosion at the top of the building.

In April, plans were announced to bring the building down within 60 to 90 days. In July, demolition preparations were underway.

In October, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted that the demolition of the building was postponed “due to supply chain issues that have delayed delivery of safety equipment.”

Another demolition date was set for Nov. 14, but that date was then delayed.

The new scheduled date for the demolition is yet to be determined.

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