Crews work to keep surrounding area safe ahead of implosion in downtown Jacksonville

On Sunday, the old Jacksonville City Hall Annex will become a pile of rubble.

The implosion on Bay Street is scheduled for 8 a.m.

This 15-story building will take minutes to implode, but the falling debris is expected to create a dust cloud that could last hours.

On Thursday, crews were working to keep the surrounding area safe.

Directly across the street from the old City Hall Annex, Blackstone Building general manager Larry Brake is no stranger to explosives.

“I was a weapons officer for over 30 years in the military and I dealt with every type of explosive and explosive device that they had to offer,” said Brake.

Brake said he’s been in contact with the contractor about what crews are doing to minimize damage to the surrounding area.

“They put up a wall of used brick, and dirt, and one thing or another, to actually to deflect the concussion from the explosion on the lower portion,” said Brake.

On Thursday, crews were scoping out his building for safety concerns and hanging plastic tarps to protect the parking garage levels from dust.

Brake said he also plans to seal the building’s exhaust fans to prevent dust from getting inside the office spaces.

From 7-11 a.m. on Sunday, the city is restricting access to what it calls the Exclusion Zone, bordered by Main, Adams and Liberty streets, and the St. Johns River.

The city is directing anyone who has to be in that zone to stay inside.

“I’ll be in here Saturday with my full staff and we’re going to go through the building and make sure that I don’t have anybody hiding in the corners anywhere,” said Brake.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit and Florida Fish and Wildlife will restrict and monitor a section of the river.

Denny Dawson, who lives downtown, and said he’s hopeful about what the implosion could mean for the area.

“We need refurbishing. We need to build more apartments and condos. Get more people down here,” said Dawson.

A city spokesperson told Action News Jax plans for the property are still uncertain, but we found out how some of the rubble will be put to use.

A Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department spokesperson said some of the debris will be hauled over to the Florida State College at Jacksonville Fire Academy.

First responders use that busted-up concrete to train for disasters.

“I think that’s a smart, wise way to use the debris. I think it’s very intelligent for them to do that. That way nothing goes to waste,” said Patrice Simmons, who works downtown.

At D&G Deli and Grill on the first floor of the Blackstone Building, cook Alex Carswell is looking forward to a different view.

“A very nice view, you know, hopefully,” said Carswell. “It’s kind of exciting to see a building fall, you know? It’s something you don’t see all the time.”

It’s not just the old City Hall Annex that’s coming down.

Right across the street, the old county courthouse is being demolished too, but it won’t be imploded.

Crews are already taking the building down piece by piece.