The developer who came up with the idea to use a canal to address the drainage problems on North Beach says the project is moving ahead, and will be ready about the same time as the new Harbor Bridge.
Jeff Blackard is confident the North Beach canal will open on schedule because he has support from city leaders. businesses, and residents. In fact Blackard is so confident, he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is.
“We would put up the money for the canal, as long as they pay me back, pay me interest that I would have to be paying interest on; yeah, we would love to do that,” said Blackard.
If need be, Blackard will put up the $40 million to dig the canal, as long as the city paid him back within five years.
As a member of the North Beach Infrastructure Task Force, Blackard says he’s committed to the canal project, and he’s not the only one.
“The amount of work from people who have volunteered, and the money that we have put in is probably close to a million dollars, maybe more,” said Blackard.
Set up in a pair of “war rooms” provided by the Ed Rachal Foundation, Blackard, his staff, and other volunteers plan their next move. That move won’t happen until after the city’s feasibility study is finished.
“When Urban Engineering’s study comes back we’ll go before the city, around Christmas,” said Blackard. “Soon after that, negotiate a deal with the city and we should be off and running.“
Blackard is also the developer behind the Barisi Village project. He understands some people may be skeptical of him because of that project’s troubled history, and says if his presence becomes an obstacle to the project, he’ll gladly step back, as long as North Beach drainage gets fixed.
“Somebody else can lead the North Beach project,” said Blackard. “It’s not dependent on me.”
To highlight the public support for the plan, Blackard told KRIS 6 News about an Uber ride he recently took where the driver excitedly told him about the project, not knowing who he was.
“When it gets to the Uber driver, we’re doing something positive,” said Blackard.