J Magazine June 2017

riverside1

THE MAGAZINE OF THE REBIRTH OF JACKSONVILLE’S DOWNTOWN

PREMIERE

I S S U E

DEVELOPMENT

WITH THE

SUCCESSFUL

OPENING OF

DAILY’S PLACE

AMPHITHEATER,

SHAD KHAN

IS DETERMINED

TO IMPROVE

DOWNTOWN.

NEXT UP FOR

THE DYNAMIC

OWNER OF

THE JAGUARS?

THE SHIPYARDS.

P22

RESOURCES

MAKING THE

ST JOHNS RIVER

THE STAR OF

DOWNTOWN

P40

J POLL

WHAT DO PEOPLE

THINK OF OUR

DOWNTOWN?

WE FOUND OUT.

P53

DOWNTOWN:

DISPLAY THROUGH AUGUST 2017

$4.95

IT’S TIME

TO FIX IT!

P16

JUNE 2017


JACKSONVILLE'S PREMIER OUTDOOR

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UPCOMING EVENTS:

JUN

24

RISE AGAINST

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JUL

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JOURNEY

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GOO GOO DOLLS

WITH PHILLIP PHILLIPS

JUN

28

DIANA ROSS

JUL

27

LADY ANTEBELLUM

WITH KELSEA BALLERINI

& BRETT YOUNG

SEP

09

BRYAN ADAMS

JUN

30

DAN TDM ON TOUR

MINECRAFT EXPERT

& YOUTUBE SENSATION

AUG

02

STRAIGHT NO CHASER

& SCOTT BRADLEE'S

POSTMODERN JUKEBOX

SEP

21

ZAC BROWN BAND

JUL

01

CHICAGO &

THE DOOBIE BROTHERS

AUG

03

FOREIGNER WITH CHEAP TRICK

& JASON BONHAM'S

LED ZEPPELIN EXPERIENCE

SEP

22

YOUNG THE GIANT

WITH COLD WAR KIDS & JOYWAVE

JUL

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INCUBUS

WITH JIMMY EAT WORLD

AND JUDAH & THE LION

AUG

05

KIDZ BOP

“BEST TIME EVER” TOUR

OCT

24

SANTANA

JUL

13

DIERKS BENTLEY

WITH COLE SWINDELL

& JON PARDI

AUG

19

MATCHBOX TWENTY

& COUNTING CROWS

OCT

25

KINGS OF LEON

WITH SPECIAL GUEST DAWES

JUL

20

STYX

WITH REO SPEEDWAGON

& DON FELDER

AUG

23

MARY J. BLIGE

NOV

07

JETHRO TULL

BY IAN ANDERSON

JUL

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MEEK MILL & YO GOTTI

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contents

ISSUE 1 // VOLUME 1 // JUNE 2017

16

IT’S TIME TO FIX IT!

BY FRANK DENTON

One look at Downtown Jacksonville, and you’ll see the potential. Sadly, much of it – like with

the Laura Street Trio – is unrealized. Is this the era when our Downtown finally comes alive?

FEATURES

22

ACTIVATING

THE SHIPYARDS

29

ROLE

MODELS

40

A RIVER RUNS

THROUGH US

46

THE SPACE

RACE

53

CHECKING

THE PULSE

BY ROGER BROWN

With the successful

launch of Daily’s Place

amphitheater, Shad Khan

isn’t slowing down.

Next up? The Shipyards.

J MAGAZINE

Four downtowns. Four

success stories. Can

Jacksonville transform

its Downtown into a

world-class destination?

BY RON LITTLEPAGE

The St. Johns River

provides a dramatic

foreground to Downtown

Jacksonville’s skyline. But

what more could it offer?

BY ROGER BROWN

Despite more than

40,000 downtown

parking spots, many think

it is too difficult to find

a place to park.

BY FRANK DENTON

What do northeast

Floridians think of

Downtown Jacksonville?

Our poll reveals the

good, bad and ugly.

JEFF DAVIS (LAURA STREET TRIO)

4

J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


J MAGAZINE

PARTNERS

DEPARTMENTS

9 FROM THE PUBLISHER

11 BRIEFING

12 PROGRESS REPORT

14 GRADING DOWNTOWN

36 EYESORE

56 DOWNTOWN DILEMMA

59 12 HOURS IN DOWNTOWN

63 QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

74 THE FINAL WORD

ON THE COVER

Shad Khan doesn’t make the Forbes list of

the world’s richest people by sitting idle. The

billionaire owner of the Jaguars continues to

invest in Downtown Jacksonville.

PHOTO BY BOB SELF


H

THE MAGAZINE OF

THE REBIRTH OF

JACKSONVILLE’S

DOWNTOWN

H

PUBLISHER

Mark Nusbaum

EDITOR

Frank Denton

VP OF SALES

Lana Champion

DIRECTOR OF SALES

Lyn Sargent

VP OF CIRCULATION

Amy McSwain

WRITERS

Michael P. Clark

Roger Brown

Paula Horvath

Ron Littlepage

MAILING ADDRESS

J Magazine, 1 Riverside Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32202

CONTACT US

EDITORIAL:

(904) 359-4197, frank.denton@jacksonville.com

ADVERTISING:

(904) 359-4471, lana.champion@jacksonville.com

(904) 359-4115, lyn.sargent@jacksonville.com

DISTRIBUTION/REPRINTS:

(904) 359-4459, amy.mcswain@jacksonville.com

WE WELCOME SUGGESTIONS FOR STORIES.

PLEASE SEND IDEAS OR INQUIRIES TO:

frank.denton@jacksonville.com

No part of this publication and/or website may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without prior

written permission of the Publisher. Permission is only deemed valid

if approval is in writing. J Magazine and Times-Union Media buy all

rights to contributions, text and images, unless previously agreed

to in writing. While every effort has been made to ensure that

information is correct at the time of going to print, Times-Union

Media cannot be held responsible for the outcome of any action or

decision based on the information contained in this publication.

T H E M A G A Z I N E

OF THE REBIRTH OF

J A C K S O N V I L L E ’ S

D O W N T O W N

© 2017 Times-Union Media. All rights reserved.

A PRODUCT OF

EDITORIAL BOARD


for success

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PROGRESS!

Exciting changes are in the works. JTA’s vision of a regional multi-modal hub

is coming to a reality with the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center.

This multi-modal hub, located in the heart of the Downtown LaVilla area, will

integrate key local, regional and intercity service in one location.Find out more

at jtafla.com


FROM THE PUBLISHER

Jacksonville’s future

depends on the heart

of our downtown

MARK

NUSBAUM

PHONE

(904) 359-4349

EMAIL

mark.nusbaum@

jacksonville.com

e owe this to future generations

W as well as our own.

Jacksonville is many things to

many people. From our amazing beaches

and eclectic neighborhoods to the Fortune

500 companies and the mom and

pop shops that line our streets, Jacksonville

continues to be a city on the verge of

greatness.

Many have said the very vitality of a city can be

measured by the energy of its downtown. If that’s the

case, it’s time to stop dreaming and start doing. Now

is the time to be part of something remarkable. Now is

the time to look to ourselves instead of future generations.

Now is the time to make this happen.

If Jacksonville, circa 1968, was tagged the Bold

New City of the South, today we should all aim to be

Boldest City in America. A city no one can overlook.

A city no one will ever take for granted. And a city

that’s the envy of every place — big or small — in this

entire country.

With resurgence tied directly to the rebirth,

revitalization, reimagination and renewed spirit in

their downtown cores, cities such as Denver, Atlanta,

Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Greenville, S.C., have

flourished while breathing an infectious spirit into

their communities. Spirit that attracts new business.

Spirit that attracts new people. And, just as important,

the very spirit that makes people swell with pride in

the places they live.

There is no other city in this country as perfectly

poised to be the next “big thing” as Jacksonville. But to

do so, it can no longer be hampered by its struggling

Downtown. It can no longer let time pass. It can no

longer be a city of unrealized potential.

In 2014, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said, “A homeless

guy in Detroit has more mojo than a millionaire

in Jacksonville.” While some bristled at the thought,

consider Khan’s context in that same speech when

he said, “There’s great potential here, and I’m always

befuddled. … Why aren’t we doing better? ... It’s just

not that we have great people here. I mean, they are

young people. And that is absolutely the DNA, I mean

the vital juice, that everybody craves.”

Today, Khan’s view remains a critical lens on both

the opportunities we have, as well as the challenges we

must overcome to take that important next step. That

gigantic leap.

While the optics through which we are seen, and

even how we view ourselves, are critical in making this

Bold City as unique and vibrant as we all imagine, the

single biggest missing piece to the puzzle of this amazing

place we call home is our city’s downtown.

Make no mistake, this is not an indictment of what’s

transpired in the past. This is not a finger-pointing or a

rehashing of the “if we’d only dones.” No, this is about

moving forward. Rolling up our collective sleeves. Pulling

the oars in the same direction. All of us. Together.

You’re holding the first issue of J Magazine, its

pages filled with a simple mission: to look forward

while chronicling the transformation of Jacksonville’s

downtown. With the dreamers and the doers. With the

policy makers and the developers. With the new voices

and the old. With the obstacles and the solutions.

With vision and hard work, Downtown Jacksonville

will be a place of which we can all be proud. A place

where we’ll be honored to say we helped to create this

remarkable transformation. A place that is the envy of

every city in our country.

In coming issues, you’ll find articles on everything

from the river bisecting our core to the future of Jacksonville’s

mass transit. From Peter Rummell’s unique

living concept to Shad Khan’s desire to breathe life into

the Shipyards. From the influx of housing bringing millennials

to live, work and play in our downtown to the

intersection of art and culture in a thriving urban area.

The country’s Boldest City can only be a reality if we

stop squinting to imagine a vibrant downtown.

Let our legacy be that we didn’t kick the can down

the road. Let our legacy be that we helped make Jacksonville’s

downtown BOLD for generations to come.

MARK NUSBAUM is president and publisher of The Florida

Times-Union and T-U Media. He and his wife live in

Jacksonville’s Avondale neighborhood.

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 9


Discover

your next

great hire

at the University of North Florida

Ryan O’Toole

Associate Component Test Engineer

Mercedes-Benz USA

Class of 2016

University of North Florida

Bachelor of Science in

Mechanical Engineering


BRIEFING

By The Florida Times-Union Editorial Board

DIGITS

HITS & MISSES

$9,800,000

THE AMOUNT

OF MONEY IN

INCENTIVES

THE CITY

PLEDGED

IN MAY FOR

RESTORATION

OF THE

HISTORIC

BARNETT BANK

BUILDING

AND LAURA

STREET TRIO

PENSION REFORM

should free up some city

money for Downtown

improvements, as well as

other civic needs.

DOWNTOWN

INVESTMENT

AUTHORITY and its

CEO, Aundra Wallace,

are methodically

implementing the

Downtown master plan.

The new WINSTON

FAMILY YMCA on

Riverside Avenue is a

showplace of health

and fitness, with access

to the Northbank

Riverwalk.

ONE-WAY STREETS

were designed to

speed people out

of Downtown, but

they also make it less

walkable, a hallmark of a

humanized community.

The DOWNTOWN

JAIL, especially since

the reason for its

location – next to the

courthouse for easy

transport of prisoners –

no longer applies.

SORE THUMB

JACKSONVILLE LANDING, a big

orange symbol of the inability of the

owners and the city to work out their

differences and fix this Downtown icon.

THUMBS UP

The opening of the

DAILY’S PLACE

AMPHITHEATER

to provide a large

new entertainment

venue while enhancing

EverBank Field.

Mayor LENNY

CURRY’s decision to

withdraw from Florida

CFO consideration

and stay here and

lead Downtown

revitalization.

JAXSPORTS landed an

NCAA Division I men’s

basketball regional playoff

game for 2019, the

fourth time in 13 years.

THUMBS DOWN

LONG-TERM

MEMORY, which

traps people in

nostalgia about the old

downtown that doesn’t

recognize the value

and power of the new

Downtown.

SHORT-TERM

MEMORY, which

allows us to forget all

the rich history that

has happened in our

Downtown before and

after the Great Fire.

City Council President

LORI BOYER shows

great initiative with

timelines for Downtown

improvements, especially

access to the river.

CITY COUNCIL

committed up to $9.8

million for the Laura

Street Trio/Barnett Bank

project and $810,000 for

the Northbank Riverwalk.

FLORIDA STATE

COLLEGE IN

JACKSONVILLE is

developing housing for

students Downtown,

with a café run by its

culinary program.

All too visible

MONUMENTS TO

FAILURE and neglect

along Bay Street:

Berkman Plaza II, the

old courthouse and

the City Hall annex.

The beautiful Gothic

Revival SNYDER

MEMORIAL

METHODIST

CHURCH sits alone

and unused, loved only

by the National Register

of Historic Places.

SIDEWAYS THUMB

FRIENDSHIP FOUNTAIN was a

thumbs-down because of no parking and

little access, but now the city has negotiated

public parking under the Acosta.

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 11


BROOKLYN

PARK

J MAGAZINE’S

PROGRESS REPORT

LOFTS AT LAVILLA

This complex will feature studio,

one-, two- and three-bedroom

units and is located directly in

front of Prime Osborn Convention Center.

STATUS: Under construction.

CHELSEA

PRIME OSBORN

CONVENTON

CENTER

W. DUVAL

W. MONROE

MADISON

THE FLORIDA

TIMES-UNION

Morris Publishing Group,

owner of The Florida Times-

Union, is considering offers to buy or

partner in redevelopment of its buildings

on the river next to the Acosta Bridge.

STATUS: Proposals being considered.

JEFFERSON

LAVILLA

FLORIDA

TIMES-UNION

N. BROAD

W. HOUSTON

W. FORSYTH

W. BEAVER

MONROE LOFTS

This 108–unit project, has been

approved by the Downtown

Development Review Board.

STATUS: Construction in early 2018.

W. ADAMS W. ADAMS

W. BAY

W. WATER

LAURA STREET

TRIO & THE

BARNETT

BUILDING

These historic buildings are expected

to be renovated into residences,

offices, a hotel and commercial/retail

uses. Mayor Lenny Curry and the

Downtown Investment Authority

approved the $79 million project,

with up to $9.8 million from the city

STATUS: Waiting for City

Council approval.

W. MONROE

N. PEARL

N. JULIA

FSCJ

STUDENT

HOUSING

This project

is expected to have 20

apartments for 58 students

which will include a café and

part of the school’s culinary

program.

STATUS: The café, currently

named 20 West, is to open

in the Fall and the student

housing by Jan. 1.

HOGAN

N. LAURA

JACKSONVILLE

LANDING

N. MAIN

N. OCEAN

MAIN STREET BRIDGE

ACOSTA BRIDGE

JACKSON

MAY

BROOKLYN

MAGNOLIA

UNITY

PLAZA

RIVERSIDE AVENUE

VISTA BROOKLYN

A 10-story apartment tower

with about 300 units is

planned as the next addition

to the growing Brooklyn neighborhood on

Riverside Avenue.

STATUS: Construction is slated to begin

in early 2018.

MAIN

RIVERPLA

MARY

OAK

MAY

RIVERSIDE

BURLOCK

& BARREL

This whiskey

distillery and

tasting room near Unity

Plaza already has its state and

federal licenses.

STATUS: Awaiting

Downtown Development

Review Board approval.

SAN MARCO

APARTMENTS

A four-story apartment building with

courtyards and a three-story parking

garage, this development will have 143 units with

a few studios and the rest one- and two-bedroom

apartments.

STATUS: Awaiting approval from the Downtown

Investment Authority, then back to the Downtown

Development Review Board this summer.

SAN MARCO

PRUDENTIAL DRIVE

N

RIVERSIDE

ARTS MARKET

FULLER WARREN BRIDGE


SPRINGFIELD

COWFORD

CHOP HOUSE

With $10 million of

restoration going into

the former Bostwick Building, when

complete this upscale restaurant

will include a rooftop lounge.

STATUS: No set opening but

hopefully this summer.

ARLINGTON EXPRESSWAY

PALMETTO

THE SHIPYARDS

Selected by the Downtown

Investment Authority in April

to be the master developer

for the 70-acre project, Shad Khan’s plan

includes mixed-use redevelopment of the

old Shipyards and Metropolitan Park.

STATUS: Currently negotiating a

detailed term sheet for a development

agreement that will go to City Council.

N. NEWMAN

N. MARKET

N. LIBERTY

N. WASHINGTON

N. CATHERINE

E. BAY

A. PHILIP RANDOLPH

E. ADAMS

EVERBANK

FIELD

DAILY’S

PLACE

SPORTS COMPLEX

CE

NORTHBANK

THE DORO

DISTRICT

Plans for The Doro include

a bar, restaurant, boutique

bowling alley and possibly a hotel or a

multifamily residential complex.

STATUS: Awaiting final approval from

the Downtown Investment Authority.

S T . J O H N S R I V E R

SOUTHBANK

PARKING

The Downtown

Investment Authority

has a new lease agreement to

manage five new Southbank

parking lots under bridges. Three

under the Acosta will open soon,

and two more under the I-95

overland bridge (near the Skyway

station) will open after the I-95

construction is complete.

KIPP

SOUTHBANK

MONTANA

BROADCAST

THE DISTRICT –

LIFE WELL LIVED

Peter Rummell’s community

concept will have up to

1,170 residences, 200 hotel rooms,

285,500 square feet of office space and

a marina.

STATUS: Now negotiating terms and

conditions with the DIA. Property close

will be late summer, with construction

beginning shortly thereafter.

BROADSTONE RIVER HOUSE

Next door to the Duval County Public Schools

headquarters, this five- to-six-story structure

will have 260 to 300 apartments and a

parking structure.

STATUS: Under construction.

METROPOLITAN

PARK

HENDRICKS

KINGS

ONYX

LOUISA

SAN MARCO

DOWNTOWN

JACKSONVILLE

BY FRANK DENTON // J MAGAZINE

MAP BY LINDSAY MEYER FOR J MAGAZINE

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 13


GRADING DOWNTOWN

By The Florida Times-Union Editorial Board

Ugly, useless structures add to

complex challenges Downtown

4

8

3

3

PUBLIC SAFETY

Actual crime Downtown

is low, and those pesky

panhandlers are more irritating

than dangerous. But public

perception is much worse and

must be addressed. Will it take

a cop on every corner?

LEADERSHIP

Trending up with visionary

leaders Lenny Curry, Shad

Khan and Lori Boyer. They need

ongoing support from the

C-suites: the City Council, the

Civic Council and the chamber

of commerce. Now is the time!

HOUSING

Greater Downtown officially

has 8,500 residents, but most

are on the fringe, not in the

heart. And we don’t see them

because they don’t have enough

public places or experiences to

be seen! They play elsewhere.

INVESTMENT

Jacksonville has spent a lot of

money Downtown but not in

a focused way. The city needs

to invest many millions more

in the Shipyards, the Landing,

a convention center and

infrastructure.

4

4

3

2

DEVELOPMENT

Trending up with new

projects. Still, Downtown is

pockmarked by ugly, useless

structures that need to be

upgraded or gone: The

Landing, Berkman Plaza II, old

City Hall and Courthouse.

EVENTS & CULTURE

Instead of just annual (Jazz

Festival), monthly (Art Walk)

and siloed events (Florida

Theatre), we need more

ongoing, complementary,

connected and concentrated

things to do.

TRANSPORTATION

Bus service is improving

countywide, but Downtown

needs better service, an

expanded Skyway – from

EverBank to Five Points –

and two-way streets to be

pedestrian-friendly.

CONVENTION CENTER

The Prime Osborn

works well for trade shows

and special events, but

Jacksonville desperately needs

a convention center near the

hotels Downtown.

Where’s the plan?

OVERALL SCORE

We’re starting from a good base of potential.

Implementation of the projects being actively planned

or underway – plus a new convention center and a

revitalized Landing – will defibrillate the heart of the

city. We must have urgent and powerful action.

4

14 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


Together,

We Are Your

Join Us Today: (904) 366-6653 | myjaxchamber.com


D O W N T O

WHY ‘NOW’ IS THE RIGHT TIME TO TRANSFORM

IT’S TIME

BY FRANK DENTON // J MAGAZINE


W N J A X

DOWNTOWN INTO A WORLD-CLASS DESTINATION

TO FIX IT

PHOTOS BY KEVIN BLANE PHOTOGRAPHY


Looking northwest from high above the St. Johns River, Downtown Jacksonville could be on the verge of a transformation years in the making.

R

EMEMBER THE FIRST TIME you sped

across the Fuller Warren Bridge, and suddenly and

unexpectedly, you did a double take at Jacksonville’s

Downtown riverscape? Wow, what a panorama! This

must be some city, with a downtown like that.

It is some city. You know people who came here

incidentally or on temporary work assignment and fell

in love, or at least powerful like, with Jacksonville and

never left, voluntarily. I’m one of them, and you may

be too. It’s the climate, the beauty, the Southern sensibility,

the friendliness, the beach, the diversity, the

texture of a real city ... But it’s not because of the downtown.

The reality of life and times in the heart of the city belies that striking skyline.

It’s not a Potemkin downtown; some of our civic treasures — museums,

theaters, sports venues — are there. It’s just that our downtown is the center of the

city only in geography and government.

KEVIN BLANE PHOTOGRAPHY // WWW.KEVINBLANE.COM

18 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2017


We may go there to work, but we leave

at 5 o’clock. We may go to a concert but

arrive just in time and go straight to our cars

immediately afterward. If we go to MOCA or

the library, we park as close as possible then

skedaddle. A lot of people go to church there

but bolt after the benediction. Going to the

Jazz Festival, Art Walk or One Spark is a rare

adventure.

We don’t hang out Downtown, or socialize

or explore or experience it. Somehow, Downtown

just doesn’t work.

It’s time to fix it.

And that’s likely closer than you think.

There is good reason to believe 2017 is the

landmark year of the turnaround.

At worst, it should be inevitable, sometime,

because a city without a vibrant

Downtown is just a collection of neighborhoods

and suburbs — in Jacksonville’s case,

a huge sprawl of suburbs connected only by

highways and shopping malls.

The sprawl and the decline of Downtown

were born after World War II, when the

American dream became owning a house

with a lawn and a white picket fence in the

new suburbs, where people could live among

other people like them. Racial integration in

the 1960s and ’70s intensified the flight.

Meanwhile, merchants followed and fled

Downtowns, lured by lower rents for bigger

and more modern stores with easy and

abundant parking in the new shopping malls,

notably Regency Square and The Avenues.

They, in turn, were depleted beginning in

2005 by the advent of St. Johns Town Center

and neighboring malls. Nordstrom has added

new allure out there, and Ikea is to open this

fall.

Downtown became merely the “central

business district” with a lot of offices.

And it withered. In 1992, a Chamber of

Commerce committee warned that the heart

of the city was “spiraling toward disaster,”

as “much of Downtown is deserted in the

evenings and on weekends.”

In a 2009 series, a Times-Union reporting

team provided an “unvarnished” look at the

dull and depleted Downtown, finally left with

a loose collection of office and government

buildings, arts and entertainment venues,

churches and sports stadiums. “Most days,”

the reporters wrote, “Downtown is a ghost

town after dark.”

The series documented a long series of

study-committee and consultant reports

that did lead to some improvements over the

years: Jacksonville Landing, the Skyway, some

street beautification, Metropolitan Park, the

renovated Florida Theatre, the Riverwalks.

Civic and political leadership have been

there, off and on, in varying degrees, sometimes

effective and sometimes conflicting.

Every mayor has had his own ideas and

priorities, but they often fell short of term

limits. “A master plan,” said urban planner

Ennis Davis, “can’t be implemented in four to

eight years.” Jim Bailey, chair of the Downtown

Investment Authority, added: “By the

time you get in there, you don’t have time to

get anything done. You have to spend the last

year and a half campaigning.”

Don’t blame the taxpayers. They did their

part, guided by some strong political leadership.

In the 1990s, the $230 million River

City Renaissance added infrastructure and

renovated major buildings, like City Hall and

the Times-Union Center for the Performing

Arts. In 2000, voters approved the $2.2 billion

Better Jacksonville Plan, which included the

Downtown Main Library, Veterans Memorial

Arena, the baseball park and the courthouse.

Public money subsidized the Hyatt Regency

and other projects.

But there also were notable, and profoundly

demoralizing, fits and starts, retreats

and failures. In 1980, the old Downtown

FIVE REASONS WHY OUR DOWNTOWN IS DOWN

BY THE FLORIDA TIMES-UNION EDITORIAL BOARD

LEADERSHIP

PRIORITIES

A lack of shared

leadership vision

and community

understanding about

what a successful

downtown is and

what it means to

a city. We’ve been

lulled into inaction by

the comfort of the

beach and our other

amenities.

POLITICAL

TURNOVER

Mayors are limited to

two four-year terms,

and that is shortened

by an early learning

curve, re-election

campaigning then

lame-duck status.

Some successful

downtowns were

inspired by long-term

mayors or successive

mayors with a shared

vision.

ABSENCE OF

A CRISIS

While cities like

Oklahoma City and

Chattanooga boosted

their downtowns in

response to economic

crises, Jacksonville has

grown through sprawl,

shopped at suburban

malls and just casually

complained about

downtown through

nostalgia.

MONEY FOR THE

URBAN CORE

While we’ve spent a

fortune on specific,

isolated projects

downtown, we haven’t

invested strategically

for a revitalized

downtown. And we’ve

had those publicemployee

pensions to

support, while private

developers were

content to invest in

suburban sprawl.

MANY CITIZENS

JUST DON’T CARE

They have their

suburbs, their

shopping malls, the

beach and little

patience with what

they perceive as

downtown hassles

of parking and

panhandling. After all,

downtowns aren’t

that important to

Houston and Los

Angeles.


WHAT IS NEEDED TO FIX DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE?

“More people –

in order: living here,

working here and

visiting here.”

JAKE GORDON

CEO OF DOWNTOWN VISION INC.

“We’ve created an

organization. We’ve

got to give it the

power to do it.

Got to give them

the horsepower

to do it and keep

politics out of it.”

JIM BAILEY

CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF DIA

“This isn’t about fixing

things. This is about

a vision to build to.

It’s irrelevant what

we need to fix. What

we have to fix will

emerge naturally.”

PAUL ASTLEFORD

CEO OF VISIT JACKSONVILLE

“Strategically create

a place people want

to be, not just pass

through. Whether

you’re living there,

or dining there,

the waterfront

experience.”

LORI BOYER

PRESIDENT OF THE CITY COUNCIL

Development Authority proposed a new hotel

and convention center across from what is

now the Times-Union Center, but instead the

venerable Union Terminal was converted into

the Prime Osborn Convention Center, isolated

on Downtown’s western fringe without a

handy hotel or restaurants. Today, it mostly

offers trade shows and special events, and the

city doesn’t have a real convention center.

In 1999, a developer got $40 million in city

incentives to develop the riverfront Shipyards

site into mixed use of residences, retail, offices,

a hotel, a marina and park. Five years later,

the developer stopped the project in a dispute

with the city over how the money was spent. A

succeeding developer wanted to build luxury

condos but, in a bad economy, went bankrupt

and lost the property to the city in foreclosure.

The Shipyards has been called “a place of

dead urban development dreams.”

Despite brave and marginally successful

initiatives like Art Walk, the Friends of Hemming

Park, One Spark and the Jazz Festival,

Downtown still has not gained traction as a

destination or a community. It always, and

only, has great “potential,” which can be a

blessing or a curse.

Meanwhile, other cities, larger and smaller,

re-energized their Downtowns into much

more than just the central business district.

Nashville, Austin, Raleigh, Kansas City, San

Diego, Asheville and many others have found

ways to turn their old Downtowns and natural

assets into centers of life and activity. Davis

estimates that Jacksonville is about 15 years

behind peer communities.

While we haven’t been able to capitalize

on the majestic St. Johns River, cities like

San Antonio and Greenville, S.C., created

excitement and activity around ordinary

streams. The St. Johns always has been “too”

something — too industrial or too polluted

and, more recently, too swift or too big to

allow use on a personal scale. Want to have a

drink or dinner on the riverfront? There’s one

venue.

“We have a river that’s great to look at,”

Davis said, “but how do we play with it?”

Downtown redevelopment has long been

a routine buzzword in mayoral and City

Council campaigns, but the race between Alvin

Brown and Mike Hogan for mayor in 2011

seemed to call the question. While Brown

advocated for Downtown renewal, Hogan

treated it as just another neighborhood.

Brown won, but just barely.

Aside from civic pride, why does Downtown

matter? Jacksonvilleans have survived

the past half century without a vibrant Downtown.

Maybe we ought to give up the ghost

and be satisfied with our own individual

neighborhoods and malls and more localized

gathering places.

No, we shouldn’t. There are reasons we

chose to live in a city.

In her influential 1961 book, “The Death

and Life of Great American Cities,” Jane Jacobs

wrote that a city depends on its Downtown

heart: “When a city heart stagnates or disintegrates,

a city as a social neighborhood of the

CONTINUED ON PAGE 69

20 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


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22 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2017


E SHIPYARDS

JAGUARS OWNER SHAD KHAN CONTINUES PARTNERING

WITH THE CITY TO INVEST IN DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE

AS HIS AMBITIOUS SHIPYARDS PLAN GETS THE GREEN LIGHT

BY ROGER BROWN // J MAGAZINE

ILLUSTRATION BY IGUANA INVESTMENTS

SPRING 2017 | J MAGAZINE 23


Jaguars owner Shad Khan visits with Steve Bisciotti, owner of the Baltimore Ravens, before a game between the two teams last season at EverBank Field.

OSHAD KHAN: DOUBLING DOWN ON THE

FUTURE OF DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE

ver the last five years, Dan Gilbert,

the owner of the NBA Cleveland

Cavaliers and founder

of Quicken Loans, the

nation’s largest online

mortgage lending

company, has been

a visionary one-man

force in revitalizing

downtown Cleveland.

He’s turned a

massive, long-empty

downtown building —

abandoned for years after a

department store chain went

defunct — and turned it into the

swanky and popular Jack Cleveland

Casino.

He’s purchased and totally

renovated the city’s Ritz-Carlton

Hotel, restoring glamour to

a top-tier spot that had lost its

luster if not its name.

He’s acquired Tower City

Center, an ailing shopping

mall that had been squandering

its prime location near the

Cuyahoga River, and put it back

on solid footing.

So go ahead, ask Gilbert — a

Fortune 400 billionaire who could

have easily limited his involvement

in Cleveland to running his

title-winning basketball team —

what has motivated him to invest

PHELAN M. EBENHACK/AP (KHAN); STEVE NELSON (MAP)

24 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


IGUANA INVESTMENTS SHIPYARDS PROJECT

Coverted to

pedestrian

bikeway

Residential

Marina

Bay Street

RESIDENTIAL

Restaurants/entertainment

Parking

Hogans Creek

Kayak/

canoe

launch

Multi-use

field

Kids zone

Veterans

Memorial

Arena

Coverted to

two-way

local road

U.S.S. Adams

Floating dock/

Riverwalk

Park

Park

A. Philip Randolph Blvd.

Relocated

Veterans

Memorial

VETERANS PARK

(Relocated Metropolitan Park Lands)

Baseball

Grounds

Mixed-use

Marina

Georgia Street

Parking

garage

Mixed-use

Mixed-use

St. Johns River

Park

MIXED-USE ENTERTAINMENT

Gator Bowl Blvd.

Mixed-use

Mixed-use

Marina

EverBank

Field

Daily’s Place

Amphitheater

Exhibition

space

Hotel

and Spa/

residences

HOTEL

AND SPA/

RESIDENCES

Parking

garage

Exhibition

space/multi-use

EXHIBITION

SPACE/

MIXED USE

Gator Bowl Blvd.

vast sums and energy into bringing downtown

Cleveland back to life.

He will give you a pretty powerful

answer.

“A professional sports franchise is an incredible

platform to launch a commitment

to an urban core and its community unlike

any other,” Gilbert said in an email response

to the Times-Union. “(It can serve)

noble purposes,” Gilbert added. “Everyone

benefits.”

So thank our lucky stars, Jacksonville,

that Jaguars owner Shad Khan clearly

shares that noble mindset.

And that he energetically embraces it.

Because, yes, we are all benefiting from

it.

Khan’s recent winning bid to develop

the Downtown Shipyards property opens

a new and exciting chapter in the bond

between the city and the NFL team owner,

one that continues to add vibrancy to Jacksonville

and raise its game as a community

on the move.

Khan has clearly proved that he’s a

big-picture thinker with an innovative spirit.

He’s clearly proved his love for Jacksonville.

He’s clearly proved his willingness to

commit considerable resources to making

“Shad Khan has

made a commitment

to Jacksonville that

is beyond immense.”

TOMMY HAZOURI

JACKSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL

Jacksonville a better place.

And that has led to a magnificent partnership

between Khan and the city — one

that’s seen the Jags owner invest millions

on projects, with the city also chipping in a

substantial share.

The formula has produced a wonderful

body of work:

• The state-of-the-art video scoreboards

at EverBank Field, which have helped Jacksonville

host premier events like last fall’s

Navy-Notre Dame game.

• Other wide-ranging stadium improvements

that have made EverBank Field one

of the NFL’s top facilities and secured the

Jaguars’ long-term future in Jacksonville.

• The completion of Daily’s Place amphitheater

— a 5,500-seat, futuristic venue

— and an indoor practice facility (with both

facilities adjacent to EverBank Field).

The Shipyards project along the river is

poised to prove yet again that when Khan

and the city get together on something,

things get done.

And they’re done well.

“Shad Khan has made a commitment

to Jacksonville that is beyond immense,”

says Councilman Tommy Hazouri, the city’s

mayor from 1987 to 1991. “And I truly feel

that the benefits of the relationship between

Mr. Khan and our city won’t just endure for

years, but for generations.

“He’s been that much of a force for good

for Jacksonville.”

VISION IS PROMISING

And it’s beyond doubt that the latest

collaboration between Khan and the city

to breathe life into the Shipyards has all the

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 25


JEFF DAVIS

KHAN’S

VISION

FOR THE

SHIPYARDS

INCLUDES:

300-500

CONDOMINIUMS

300-500

APARTMENTS

300,000-

500,000

SQ. FT.

OFFICE SPACE

200-500

HOTEL ROOMS

150,000-

250,000

SQ. FT. STORES/

RESTAURANTS

250-525

BOAT SLIPS

AT A MARINA

marks of being a game-changing moment

for Jacksonville.

It holds the promise of enabling the

Shipyards to truly fulfill its true destiny as an

iconic Downtown landmark.

One reason is because Khan’s impressive

proposal — chosen by the Downtown

Investment Authority over two other

submitted plans — isn’t merely bold in

concept.

It is breathtakingly broad in scope:

• It would span 70 acres and entail more

than $500 million in private investment.

• It would include 300 to 500 condominiums

— and an equal number of apartments

— built on our majestic riverfront.

• It would bring significant numbers of

stores, restaurants and hotel rooms to the

previously underutilized Shipyards — as

well as a massive marina to take full advantage

of the St. Johns River.

• It would lead to the revival of the Shipyards

and Metropolitan Park (which would

also be developed).

This is beyond being an ambitious plan.

It is a transformational one.

It holds the power to make Jacksonville a

better and richer city.

“He understands Jacksonville,” Hazouri

says of Khan. “That’s why he’s able to do

such an amazing job of aligning his ideas,

his vision, in a way that perfectly matches

what we want to do as a city.”

And Khan has the track record to bring

this latest idea, this latest vision, to life.

As in previous joint efforts, the city will

be an active and engaged colleague with

Khan in revitalizing the Shipyards, largely

by taking care of the major infrastructure

work necessary to drive the project

forward.

Our city, no doubt, will live up to its end

of the deal.

And let’s be clear, this is a great deal for

Jacksonville.

Over the past few years, our town

has reaped the great benefits of having a

forward-looking figure in Khan, someone

who, like Gilbert in Cleveland, combines

resources and energy with honorable intentions

and a genuine desire to use a vehicle

that traditionally unites a community — a

sports franchise — to make a difference

that goes way beyond numbers on scoreboards.

“He has become far more than just a

partner,” Hazouri says regarding Khan’s

stature in Jacksonville.

“He has become family.”

ROGER BROWN has been a Times-Union editorial

writer since 2013. He lives in Downtown Jacksonville.

26 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


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CLEVELAND OKLAHOMA CITY PITTSBURGH CINCINNATI

R O L E

MODELS

HOW FOUR CITIES STOPPED WAITING & STARTED DOING

fter its half-century, passionate love affair with suburban growth, America

is rediscovering its cities. From Baltimore to San Diego and from Seattle

to St. Petersburg, cities are refocusing on their

A

hearts, building intense, creative and fun

urban community around venerable

buildings and neighborhoods and,

especially, downtowns.

Urban planner Ennis Davis estimates that

Jacksonville is about 15 years behind the times.

J magazine took a look at four successful cities

to discover the source of their sparks.

READ ON »

SEAN PAVONE

Long considered one of the

best skyline views in the

world, a 400-foot observation

deck offers a perfect vantage

point to take in downtown

Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle.

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 29


CLEVELAND

Owner of Cavaliers

pushes revitalization

OKLAHOMA CITY

Oklahoma City rises

from economic slide

BY ROGER BROWN // J MAGAZINE

Once, downtown Cleveland was an uninspiring patchwork of

abandoned retail buildings and poorly utilized space.

Now, it’s an eye-catching area that includes a popular casino,

entertainment districts that stretch for several downtown blocks, a

glittering new convention center,

CLEVELAND

MSA population:

2,060,810 (Rank: 31st)

Median age:

35.9 years

Median household income

in 2015: $26,150

Median house or condo

value in 2015: $69,600

Median rent in 2015: $654

a health innovation complex and

restaurants operated by celebrity

chiefs like Michael Symon.

Once, companies and organizations

scoffed at the mere

thought of considering downtown

Cleveland as a site for its

major gatherings, conferences

and events.

Now Cleveland sits among

America’s first-tier cities as an

attractive site for large-scale

events — so much so that it won

raves for how it hosted the 2016 Republican National Convention

and even attracted the producers of “The Fate of the Furious” to film

huge chunks of the blockbuster movie in the city.

Clearly, many have played a role in Cleveland’s transformation —

including its local government.

But one person has undeniably been the major inspiration, the

lead visionary behind Cleveland’s phoenix-like rise to its current

glory.

He is Cleveland Cavaliers team owner Dan Gilbert, who has used

BY FRANK DENTON // J MAGAZINE

The revitalization of Oklahoma City’s downtown was inspired

by economic failure and wounded civic pride, but sustained over

time by leadership — political and civic.

In the late 1980s, a swoon in the oil and gas industry delivered

a body blow to the city, so to

OKLAHOMA CITY

MSA population:

1,358,452 (Rank: 41st)

Median age:

32.5 years

Median household income

in 2015: $47,779

Median house or condo

value in 2015: $138,600

Median rent in 2015: $778

create more jobs and boost the

economy, Mayor Ron Norick in

1991 decided to compete with

other cities to attract a United

Airlines maintenance center.

He even got voters to approve a

1-cent sales tax to support a rich

incentive package. But United

picked Indianapolis.

“The mayor asked them

why,” said Cathy O’Connor,

president of The Alliance for

Economic Development of

Oklahoma City. “They told him a group of United executives and

their spouses came to Oklahoma City, and there wasn’t anything

to do, nothing going on. A dead community.”

Norick quietly visited Indianapolis to see for himself: “I drove

around downtown, and I said, shoot, I know why they got that

United plant. It was obvious to me ... I mean, this is a live city. I

mean, there’s people on the streets, and there were restaurants

and hotels and a convention facility and all this stuff. It got to

be a quality of life issue if you were the CEO of United Airlines

CONTINUED ON PAGE 32 CONTINUED ON PAGE 32

THINKSTOCK (4); GRAPHIC DATA: AMERICAN FACTFINDER – U.S. CENSUS BUREAU

30 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


PITTSBURGH

Strong mayor pushes

Pittsburgh to rebirth

BY MIKE CLARK // J MAGAZINE

The Pittsburgh renaissance is the gold standard of revitalization.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Tom Murphy, who took over as Pittsburgh’s mayor in 1994,

describes a city that was “economically depressed.”

About 500,000 people

PITTSBURGH

MSA population:

2,353,045 (Rank: 26th)

Median age:

33.2 years

Median household income

in 2015: $40,715

Median house or condo

value in 2015: $94,700

Median rent in 2015: $810

had left the region between

1970 and 1990. In the mid-

1980s, the jobless rate was 20

percent. The Pittsburgh city

pension fund was 12 percent

funded, much worse than

even Jacksonville’s situation.

There were 300,000 people

living in the city and 400,000

commuters who didn’t

contribute anything in taxes.

About 40 percent of the city’s

tax base was made up of nonprofits,

and the Pennsylvania legislature had exempted many

of the large corporations from taxes.

The voters turned down a sales tax proposal.

So Murphy got pushy and creative. He found more than 25

ways to collect taxes. He played hardball with the state Legislature

to gain more financial freedom.

He built partnerships with an active cultural sector that was

cleaning up the city’s red light district. Business had to be enlisted

to build or return downtown.

CINCINNATI

Business groups lead

growth in Cincinnati

BY MIKE CLARK // J MAGAZINE

CINCINNATI

MSA Population:

2,157,719 (Rank: 28th)

Median age:

32.5 years

Median household income

in 2015: $33,604

Median house or condo

value in 2015: $119,700

Median rent in 2015: $649

Downtown revitalization needs a conductor.

The strong-mayor approach is one way. Or the leader can be a

private businessman like a pro sports franchise owner.

In Cincinnati, the conductor is a strong nonprofit titled 3CDC.

Founded in 2004, the nonprofit

hired as its CEO, Steve

Leeper, who earned his urban

revival chops in Pittsburgh, one

of the models of urban reconstruction.

Leeper declined an interview

request, but someone who

knows the story is Mark Wert,

topics team strategist for The

Cincinnati Enquirer. Wert basically

operates as a supervising

editor in the newsroom.

Managing an investment

of $1.1 billion, 3CDC represents an unusual combination of

developer, financier and entertainment promoter. Its projects

range from developing condos, office buildings, restaurants and

historic buildings as well as park revitalization, entertainment

programming and more.

It also provides the sort of services that the Friends of Hemming

Park and Ability Housing provide in Jacksonville.

A nonprofit does have certain advantages over government,

the ability to get moving without all the red tape. And so far the

CONTINUED ON PAGE 35 CONTINUED ON PAGE 35

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 31


CLEVELAND

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 30

both his position of local prominence owning

the city’s basketball team and his impressive

track record as a bold, innovative businessman

— Gilbert is the founder of Quicken

Loans, the nation’s largest online mortgage

lender — to bring Clevelanders together to

revive its once-slumbering downtown area.

Gilbert took a dusty, empty building —

once the downtown home of Higbee’s, a local

department store beloved by Clevelanders

— and invested $350 million to turn it into the

Horseshoe Casino.

When it debuted in May 2012, the

multi-level site — now known as the Jack

Cleveland Casino — was the first casino to

open in Ohio.

It quickly became a popular spot for residents

and tourists alike.

But equally important, the fact that Gilbert

took a vision and brought it to completion in

such spectacular fashion served to spark a

belief among those inside and outside the city

that it WAS possible:

Downtown Cleveland could not only be

revived, it could thrive.

OKLAHOMA CITY

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 30

and you wanted to have your people work

in Oklahoma City or Indianapolis, it was a

hands-down decision.”

Presumably a little humiliated but

inspired, the mayor pulled together the City

Council and Chamber of Commerce to develop

a set of projects designed to transform

Oklahoma City and build that quality of life

— an indoor sports arena, a baseball park,

a new downtown library and a renovated

music hall and convention center.

With the endorsement of the local

newspaper, voters again approved the

penny sales tax, for five years, to pay for the

improvements. And when that tax expired,

they extended the tax for seven more years

to build or remodel every school in the city,

then again to renovate the basketball arena

for the NBA Thunder.

In 2009, Oklahoma City voters, apparently

liking their re-energizing city, again extended

the tax to build a park to connect downtown

to the Oklahoma River, a streetcar system, a

convention center and other improvements.

Since then, investors have flocked to

Cleveland.

And the construction cranes have, too.

Neither shows signs of stopping anytime

soon.

And Gilbert hasn’t stopped tackling

ambitious downtown projects — including

the purchase and total renovation of the

Ritz-Carlton Hotel and acquisition of the

once-dormant Tower City Center mall.

In each case, Gilbert has not been afraid to

think big, set high goals that focus on improving

downtown Cleveland in transformative

ways and work in a collaborative fashion to

get things done.

Oh, and along the way, Gilbert’s Cavaliers

have won an NBA title — and will probably

win more in years to come.

In an email to the Times-Union, Gilbert

offered these observations on what has driven

his desire to become involved in bringing

downtown Cleveland to life:

“Engagement and investment in our

communities is a central part of our operating

culture and who we are as an organization.

“Not just for the impact on the urban

core, but the impact that extends into the

In late 2015, Jax Chamber took its leadership

trip to Oklahoma City, and Jerry Mallot,

president of JAXUSA Partnership, said he

was stunned at the turnaround since his last

visit 25 years before. “I was amazed as we

toured the tremendous man-made changes

to the river, downtown infrastructure and

development around the city that created an

environment I couldn’t have imagined.

“Damming up the river to make it beautiful

and create a national rowing center,

putting a canal in downtown with tour boats

around which condos, restaurants and businesses

developed, building beautiful parks

in the center of the city, constructing a new

arena for basketball that attracted an NBA

team, and so many other things had turned

this very dull town into a very interesting

place to visit.

“They followed the plan and gained the

trust and confidence of their citizens, which

allowed them to get reauthorization of the

sales tax every seven years to do more great

things in their community.

“You can’t make this up because no one

would believe it.”

neighborhoods as well.

“Investing in projects that stimulate development

and growth outside the walls of the

arena are a reflection of that commitment, but

it also benefits the entire franchise and all of

our employees.

“‘Doing well’ and ‘doing good’ do not

conflict. In fact, they fit like two pieces from the

same puzzle.

“Connectivity is a huge part of our philosophy

as well. Business, community, jobs,

and economic growth are all threads that tie

together.

“Making downtown a place where

generations of people want to live, work and

play has a multiplying effect for retaining and

attracting more business, more residents, more

young talent and growing the job base and

economy.

“A professional sports franchise is an

incredible platform to launch a commitment

to an urban core and its community unlike

any other. The levers you can pull to affect real

positive change are endless.

“I encourage all team owners to leverage

their platforms for these noble purposes.

Everyone benefits.”

National Geographic christened Oklahoma

City as one of 20 “must-see places” in the

world, going from “the beer-gut metropolis

spilling across the Great Plains” to a changed

city. “The central Oklahoma River has a

community boathouse and a new West River

Trail. An 11-acre white-water rafting center ...

Local architect firms and coffee roasters that

wouldn’t be out of place in Portlandia now

line once dormant Automobile Alley. And

then there’s MidTown. Not long ago a den of

crackhouses and abandoned lots just north

of downtown’s 1995 bombing site, MidTown

has sprouted condos, a boutique hotel, and

Dust Bowl Lanes.

“This is Oklahoma?”

O’Connor credited vision and leadership

— starting with Norick, who was mayor

1987-99 and his non-term-limited successors,

now Mick Cornett, in office since 2004

— but including the committed chamber of

commerce and supportive taxpayers.

“Don’t underplay the value of political

and civic leadership that is aligned in what

they want to accomplish,” O’Connor said.

“You can’t underestimate the power of that.”

32 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


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PITTSBURGH

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 31

The result was a city on the move.

Pittsburgh constructed a new baseball

park, a football stadium and a convention

center through a $1.2 billion bond issue.

And while the city is famed for its “Eds

and Meds” economic base, the university

and health industry sectors were not

being capitalized on. Murphy’s job was to

make the city attractive for recruiting and

retaining outstanding people to the education

and health sectors in part by finding

venture capital opportunities.

The result has not been perfect. Pittsburgh

still has issues, but its rebirth has

been remarkable.

It shows the power of a mayor to lead a

city’s revival.

Murphy now travels the world for the

Urban Land Institute to spread his message.

His four keys to urban revival, described

in an interview:

1. MONEY

“When I go to cities and they say they

don’t have money to do this stuff, I tell

them they’re lying. If we can figure out

how to do it, anybody can figure out how

to do it.” The Jacksonville assessment:

Money’s available, but there is little will to

spend it downtown.

2. LAND CONTROL

One reason Jacksonville was able to

build the Southbank Riverwalk in the

1980s is that Southbank property owners

were willing to partner with the city. The

Jacksonville assessment: It’s not an issue

because other factors are not in play.

3. SOPHISTICATED DEAL-MAKING

CAPACITY

The city can’t “get its pocket picked”

in partnerships. The Jacksonville assessment:

Confidence in Mayor Lenny Curry’s

finance team is high at the moment.

4. VISION

The money must be invested wisely.

The Jacksonville assessment: Piecemeal

projects, not vision, have characterized

downtown development. City Council

President Lori Boyer has been working on

a plan for revitalizing the river that could

serve as a template for downtown as well.

Bottom line: When Jacksonville found

the will, the city lured a pro football team

here against high odds. That same will has

been lacking downtown.

“I’ve been to Jacksonville a fair number

of times, and it is a city that has not been

willing to make the difficult decisions to

make their downtown work really well,”

Murphy said.

Tim Johnson, the head of the Police

and Fire Pension Fund in Jacksonville,

is a Pittsburgh native who spent most of

his life in that city. Like Jacksonville, it is

connected by bridges.

Johnson, who lives in the Strand high

rise on the Southbank, looks across to the

Northbank and said he is “perplexed” at

the lack of progress. He can see the old

city hall, the vacant old courthouse, the

relics of the Berkman II and the abandoned

Shipyards property. It’s not a pretty

sight.

But Jacksonville has many of the same

opportunities as Pittsburgh did before its

renaissance. All it needs is that conductor.

In the past, that person was the head

of the Chamber, Claude Yates, who led the

consolidation movement.

During Murphy’s tenure in Pittsburgh,

Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney was

leading a $2.2 billion investment in Jacksonville,

much of it downtown.

Downtown needs a leader. It can be the

mayor. It can be the business community.

It can even be a nonprofit. But it has to be

someone.

CINCINNATI

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 31

operation has avoided scandal, though

not controversy.

Wert said that 3CDC has focused its efforts

on downtown and a near-downtown

district, called Over the Rhine or OTR.

Over the Rhine has historically been

the landing place of newcomers: Irish,

Germans, Appalachians, African-Americans

and now millennials.

Over the Rhine is an urban neighborhood

that has been used in films like

“Traffic” that need scenes of urban grit.

Many of the tenements were so rundown

that they qualified for a term called

“demolition by neglect,” Wert said.

Many of its buildings need renovation,

something that 3CDC has been leading.

“3CDC was an attempt by the city to

partially get out of economic development,

not entirely, and to leverage corporate

money, which it has done,” Wert said.

The nonprofit often uses various tax

credit programs in which private developers

can benefit from tax credits in return

for developing housing in low-income

areas.

Wert said 3CDC has its own agenda.

Sometimes the nonprofit is asked to take

over a project, such as renovations of historical

entertainment venues: Music Hall

and Memorial Hall. In addition, it is renovating

an historic hotel. Those renovations

often involve asbestos removal and specialty

construction, which 3CDC manages.

Probably the most iconic development

project led by 3CDC involves Fountain

Square downtown, Cincinnati’s central

gathering place. This early project was

completed in 2006.

Gone are a “Soviet-style stage,” in

Wert’s words, skywalks and a generally

cold-hearted design.

The new design has been paired with

frequent activities such as nightly broom

ball leagues, ice skating in the winter, light

shows, musical performances and even

Santa rappelling down over the holidays.

3CDC handles the programming.

“They do have some entertainment

chops, which is a little unusual for a nonprofit

developer,” Wert said

The bottom line is that Fountain Square

is a lively place at night. The proof is that

people are lining up for Graeter’s Ice

Cream at night.

“That’s the ice cream test,” Wert said,

“If people are willing to stand in line for

ice cream at 9 o’clock at night, then you’re

probably doing something right.”

The lessons for Jacksonville are clear.

Nonprofits have unique advantages in

redevelopment.

Invariably, urban revival needs the

collaboration of government, business and

nonprofits. In every city, someone needs

to lead.

In Cincinnati, it has been 3CDC.

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 35


EYESORE

BERKMAN PLAZA II

This riverfront 23-story building on Bay

Street has been sitting as a skeleton

unfinished since 2007, when a section of

the parking garage collapsed and killed a

construction worker. Through a series of

lawsuits, Choate Construction of Atlanta

took possession after receiving a $10.2

judgment against the developer.

If you’re sick of looking at it, imagine how

Choate feels – a construction company

with a piece of crumbling real estate on its

books.

Mike Hampton, COO of Choate, said

there’s no news yet: “We had a very

solid purchaser/prospect under contract.

We got it rezoned for hotel use. But we

couldn’t secure a franchise for a hotel. We

are back looking for suitable purchasers.”

Three months ago, City Councilman

Reggie Gaffney, who represents the Northbank,

told a Times-Union editorial writer

the issue will be resolved – with the City

helping find a developer, buying the site

itself or condemning the building and

razing it. “One way or another, I’m pretty

confident that a year from now we won’t

be having this same discussion,” he said.

“Jacksonville is a city on the move,” the

T-U editorialized. “But Berkman Plaza II

puts our city in a poor light – and needlessly

so. That is why it’s imperative to

finally address this monstrosity in a definitive

manner. Rebuild it. Or raze it. But let’s

do something about it.”

Think about how Berkman II’s value will

rise as the neighborhood blossoms, with

the Shipyards next door to the east, the

Elbow across Bay Street and the looming

possibility of a new convention center just

to the west. Those hotel companies may

have a second thought.

BY FRANK DENTON // J MAGAZINE

Spot a downtown eyesore and want

to know why it’s there or when it will

be improved? Submit suggestions to

frank.denton@jacksonville.com.

36

J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


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JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 37


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a

river

runs

through

us

40 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


ONE OF DOWNTOWN

JACKSONVILLE’S BEST

ASSETS HAS BEEN

SELDOM LEVERAGED

AS THE CITY’S ICONIC

FOCAL POINT.

WILL THE MAJESTIC

ST. JOHNS RIVER

FINALLY BECOME A STAR?

BY RON LITTLEPAGE

J MAGAZINE

PHOTOGRAPH BY STOCKTREK

A satellite view

of Downtown

Jacksonville shows

the St. Johns River

bisecting the heart

of the city.

he eye-catching expanse of the St.

Johns River as it flows through Downtown

on its journey to the Atlantic

Ocean is a natural wonder of magnificent

beauty.

So where are the people pausing

along its banks to soak up that beauty?

We’ve spent millions of dollars to

build top-flight Riverwalks Downtown,

yet they are often void of people on

weekends.

Where are the hikers, the bikers,

the joggers, the picnickers, the bench

sitters?

Downtown’s skyline is stunning

when viewed from the river. Where are

the boaters? Why are docks often unused

and a lonely marina empty?

TJUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 41

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE


CONNECTIVITY KEY FOR RIVER

BY LORI BOYER // JACKSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT

THERE ARE A FEW critical elements

that are intertwined.

We must turn the Riverwalks into well

maintained, aesthetically engaging

experiences that are connected

to key downtown elements, such

as the sports complex or the

performing arts center or the

medical district, by unique and

distinguishable node features along

the water; and enhance opportunities for

people to cross the river whether by water

vehicles or pedestrian walkways to connect

the two sides of our downtown waterfront

and Riverwalks.

An increase in marina slips and docking

VOICES

OF THE

RIVER

Sure, we often describe the St. Johns

River as the city’s greatest asset. Other

cities, we say, would dearly love to have

such a spectacular river gracing their

downtowns.

That prideful feeling, however, is frequently

followed by a lament about unrealized

plans. The reasons for that failure are

many: a lack of consistent leadership, bad

decisions, no money.

Another reason can be found in history.

While we look at the Downtown riverfront

today and dream of what it can be,

for much of Jacksonville’s history, the St.

Johns wasn’t celebrated for its beauty and

facilities that enhance opportunities for

boaters to visit and patronize downtown

facilities is certainly a desirable element as

well.

This connectivity across and

along the banks, and between the

waterfront and interior attractions

and businesses, and enhancement

of experience along the existing

facilities is top priority.

The nodes, whether parklets, plazas,

pieces of art or structures serve as

place-makers along the waterfront that

tell the story of downtown and create the

tapestry that weaves together the river, our

history, our attractions and our future.

potential. It was a working, industrial river,

and the Downtown riverfront reflected

that. With docks, piers and warehouses, the

riverfront was about commerce — shipbuilding

and repair, lumber, naval stores,

merchandise.

When the Great Fire of 1901 destroyed

many of the docks, they were rebuilt.

But the methods of commerce change,

and by the 1950s, the Downtown riverfront

was a rotting, smelly mess.

And in that can be found the answer to

questions newcomers to Jacksonville often

ask:

Why was so much of the Downtown

riverfront occupied by parking lots?

Why were so many government offices

built on the riverfront instead of prime,

property-tax producing private developments?

The St. Johns wasn’t a thing of magnificent

beauty then. The city was dumping 15

million gallons of raw sewage a day into the

river and its tributaries. On the other side

of the river from Downtown, the Southside

Generating Station belched plumes of

black smoke into the air.

A story written for the Jacksonville

Historical Society described the pollution

Downtown in 1949:

“Along Jacksonville’s downtown streets,

ladies were stunned to see their nylon

stockings rot away from their legs.

“The women would become flush with

heat and suffer a devilish tickling on their

legs and ankles. Their hose would then

shrivel and peel away in spots.

“The problem panicked so many

residents that Life magazine sent a team to

cover the story.”

Enter Haydon Burns, who became

mayor of Jacksonville in 1949 and served

until 1965. He cleaned up the Downtown

waterfront by having the rotting docks and

warehouses torn down and a bulkhead

built in the 1950s.

The parking lots were placed where

the docks had been to serve a new county

courthouse in 1958 and a new city hall in

1960, buildings that helped attract private

development.

A lot has happened since the days of

Haydon Burns the Builder.

In 1977, the last of the 77 raw sewage

outfalls were capped, and Mayor Hans

Tanzler famously skied in the St. Johns

River Downtown, showing the world that a

state official’s description of Jacksonville in

1969 as “the cesspool of Florida” no longer

applied.

The Jacksonville Landing replaced one

of those parking decks. The Northbank and

Southbank Riverwalks were completed.

And in 2000, the City Council approved

a master plan for Downtown called “Celebrating

the River: A Plan for Downtown

Jacksonville.”

An introduction to the plan read:

“Downtown Jacksonville is the heart of the

city. It can and should reflect the beauty,

diversity and vitality of our entire region,

and this master plan provides the guidance

needed to make that vision a reality.”

Among other things, the plan emphasized

open space and pedestrian connectivity

to the river and Downtown.

BRUCE LIPSKY (BOYER): DEDE SMITH (PAPPAS)

42 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


‘RIVER CITY’ FAR FROM REALITY

BY TED PAPPAS // JACKSONVILLE ARCHITECT

NEXT YEAR, consolidated government

will celebrate 50 years. The JCCI Study, “River

Dance,” was presented in 2005 – 12 years

ago while consolidated government

was 37 years old.

This JCCI study focused on

environmental concerns relating to

the health of the river and the many

potential and exciting uses of the

river. “Putting the River in the River

City” was our theme along with “Celebrating

the River.”

What an easy theme “Celebrating the

River.” We have a natural wonder that gives

us our unique city identity: A river that runs

right through the middle of our great city

of 847 square miles of land area. A river

crossed by seven significant bridges and a

river with fast moving tides.

In some ways, we can say that we have

celebrated the river with two significant river

walks on the Northbank and Southbank, both

VOICES

OF THE

RIVER

wonderful assets for pedestrians and cyclists.

The river serves as a large urban living

room with our most impressive buildings

placed front and center.

And yet the river lacks the

potential and important quality of

hustle bustle. The two riverbanks

north and south are divided by this

wide living room with little connection

between, except for the fast

moving traffic crossing the bridges.

We lack large-scale urban core yacht

basins with heavy boat traffic. We lack

riverside terraced restaurants and tree-lined

Riverwalks. And we lack a pedestrian bridge

connecting both banks of the river.

As chair of the river study 12 years ago,

my expectations were much bolder than

what reality has presented.

We have not calculated the equation of

political will combined with public funding for

major riverfront public works projects.

It called for the creation of an “Emerald

Necklace” – a ring of parks and open space

connecting Downtown neighborhoods to

the river.

“The Emerald Necklace will function as

the seam binding individual neighborhoods

together. To emphasize the connectivity to

the river, Hogans Creek will form the first

part of the necklace and McCoys Creek the

second.”

Four years later, Jacksonville Community

Council Inc. completed a study called “River

Dance: Putting the River in River City.”

One of the study’s main recommendations

was to “implement and fund the

Downtown master plan ‘Celebrating the

River.’”

Now 17 years after the City Council approved

that plan, it’s still but a dream.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress.

In 2005 when the Super Bowl came to

town, the Downtown riverfront was alive.

The Main Street bridge was closed to

automobiles and became a pedestrian walkway

linking the Northbank and Southbank

Riverwalks. The weather was spectacular,

and the river sparkled.

The game ended, the visitor went away

and the excitement Downtown died. The

Downtown master plan faded with the

Great Recession.

In recent years, however, recognition of

5 FACTS

ABOUT

THE ST.

JOHNS

RIVER

YOU

MIGHT

NOT

KNOW

BRIDGED

The first automobile

bridge over the St.

Johns River in Jacksonville

was built in

1921. Originally called

the St. Johns River

Bridge, it later became

known as the Acosta

Bridge.

MASSIVE

Flowing through 12

counties, the St. Johns

River stretches a

whopping 310 miles,

making it the longest

river in Florida.

SLOW RIDE

With a drop of less

than 30 feet from its

origination point in

the swamps south

of Melbourne to the

Atlantic Ocean, it is

known as one of the

world’s laziest rivers.

GATORS

According to the

Florida Fish and

Wildlife Conservation

Commission, nearly

100,000 alligators

make their homes on

the St. Johns River.

MONKEYS

Where the St. Johns

River meets the

Wekiva River near

Sanford, troops of

Rhesus monkeys

can be found. How

they ended up in

that region remains

unknown.

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 43


the importance of integrating the riverfront

into a revitalized Downtown and capitalizing

on this gift of nature has sputtered back

to life.

One reason is the St. Johns is cleaner and

more inviting than it once was. Dolphins

are frequent visitors to Downtown now, a

welcome and enthusiastically received sight

that would not have been seen when the

city’s reputation was that of a “cesspool.”

In 2015, the annual JAX Chamber

Leadership Trip traveled to Oklahoma City.

Participants came back amazed at what that

city had accomplished Downtown by investing

in, no disrespect intended, its rather

puny river.

In 2016, the Leadership Trip went to

Pittsburgh. Again participants were inspired

by what that city had done with its riverfront.

Enthusiasm spread for finally doing

something with the St. Johns River and

Jacksonville’s Downtown.

At the end of last year, City Council

President Lori Boyer picked up the ball and

found there was already a lot happening.

A group of architects had been meeting for

months to find ways to draw people to the

riverfront and to connect the Northbank

and Southbank.

Another group was meeting regularly to

come up with an identity that would tell the

nation what Jacksonville is known for, much

as New Orleans is associated with partying

and Nashville with country music.

Not surprisingly for a city that has the St.

Johns River, its tributaries, the beaches and

the marshes and tidal creeks along the Intracoastal

Waterway, that identity, the group

determined, revolves around water.

Other progress is coming, as can be seen

with the plans and projects described elsewhere

in “J.” All are balls that are up in the

air and being juggled. Hopefully they won’t

fall to the ground and once again roll off into

oblivion.

But one thing having a hard time going

anywhere is perhaps the most critical part of

connecting the St. Johns riverfront to a thriving

Downtown — the Emerald Necklace.

Hogans Creek is still polluted, and the

solid bones of a magnificent greenway envisioned

by architect Henry Klutho wait to be

brought back to life.

McCoys Creek, too, remains but an idea.

It’s along those narrower waterways that

development can include shops, restaurants

and residences — the things that helped

Downtowns thrive in other cities.

It’s not difficult to imagine watercraft

plying those creeks as they do along San

Antonio’s River Walk.

Conversations in Jacksonville about

Downtown’s riverfront usually begin with

San Antonio, the destination of a JAX

Chamber Leadership Trip decades ago.

That city turned a river that’s not much

more than a ditch into a highly successful

tourism and entertainment venue for its

downtown.

Success didn’t happen overnight. For decades,

civic groups and government leaders

worked to turn the flood-prone river into an

asset. They had the commitment to stick to

it and spent the money to do that, and the

city’s River Walk took off in 1968 when San

Antonio hosted HemisFair ’68.

Since then, hotels, shops and restaurants

have multiplied along the River Walk.

It draws several million tourists a year

and is one of the top travel destinations in

Texas.

San Antonio was ready and took advantage

of its opportunity that came with the

world fair.

Jacksonville’s opportunity — the Super

Bowl — just faded away, and the Emerald

Necklace remains locked away in a drawer

waiting for the commitment and the investment

to polish it into reality.

A revitalized Downtown celebrating the

St. Johns won’t happen unless Mayor Lenny

Curry makes it a priority.

And it won’t happen without the same

commitment from future mayors.

And it won’t happen unless business

and civic leaders and groups like the Civic

Council and JAX Chamber do more than

issue reports and flowery statements.

And it won’t happen unless the age-old

excuse of no money is overcome.

Only then will the river become the jewel

of Downtown.

So where will the people — the hikers,

the bikers, the joggers, the boaters, the picnickers,

the bench sitters — be then?

Enjoying Downtown and the magnificent

St. Johns.

RON LITTLEPAGE has been with the Times-

Union since 1978. He started writing an opinion

column in 1989. He and his wife live in Avondale.

DOWNTOWN’S NATURAL ASSET

BY LISA RINAMAN // THE ST. JOHNS RIVERKEEPER

JACKSONVILLE IS BLESSED to have

the mighty St. Johns River flowing through

the heart of our city.

Envision a mosaic of riverfront

parks, diverse open spaces and

amenities serving as a catalyst for

future downtown projects.

An interconnected network of

trails, parks and blueways would

connect our river to Downtown

and the surrounding neighborhoods while

providing green infrastructure that would

filter runoff, create habitat and provide a

buffer for our waterways.

VOICES

OF THE

RIVER

Imagine kayaking, biking or strolling

from Springfield along the banks of Hogans

Creek to a vibrant Downtown and activated

riverfront.

Connecting the S-line Trail and

McCoys creek to an extended

Riverwalk would create unique

access to the vibrant restaurant

and entertainment districts in

Brooklyn, Five Points, the Southbank

and Downtown.

The St. Johns River is Jacksonville’s competitive

advantage. Let’s fully embrace our

greatest natural asset.

WILL DICKEY

44 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


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WHEN IT COMES TO PARKING IN JACKSONVILLE’S

DOWNTOWN, PERCEPTION MAY BE REALITY. DESPITE

ROUGHLY 43,000 PUBLIC PARKING SPACES ON

THE STREETS AND IN GARAGES, SOME PEOPLE SAY

FINDING A SPOT CAN BE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE.

the

space

race

46 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


BY MIKE CLARK

ILLUSTRATION BY JEFF DAVIS

J MAGAZINE

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 47


PARKING.

It’s a bad memory mentioned by Times-

Union readers when it comes to Downtown.

People clearly remember when parking means getting a $25 ticket or a long

search for a space or a big fee at a parking garage.

So I sat down with Jack Shad, formerly head of the city parking

division, and his Downtown business partner, Mike Field, an urban-development

advocate, to talk about parking. A few solutions

were offered along with some surprising comments.

It’s clear that the city’s parking system has failed. It needs to be

totally redesigned and upgraded. This would be a good job for a

special ad hoc committee of City Council. If parking doesn’t work,

then Downtown won’t work, either.

We have a letter from a member of our Email Group, Jack

Knee from Nocatee. He writes, “You cannot solve Downtown

unless parking is free or cheap. I don’t want to return to my car

and find a boot on the wheel and a $75 ticket.”

SHAD: I dealt with this for four years. There is so much parking

Downtown. We have the cheapest parking of any city that bothers

to charge for parking. Paid parking makes Downtown work. People

don’t understand how expensive it is to build and maintain parking

facilities. Somebody’s got to pay for it. Either it’s got to be the city or

private operators. Parking at Publix costs them to build that parking

lot. They roll it into the stuff you buy there. In Downtown, you have

the opportunity to separate that out, which is kind of a cool thing.

You also have the opportunity to pay less if you feel like walking

more. Donald Shoup, who is kind of the economist of parking, said

“The ideal parking spot is the one that balances your greed vs. your

sloth.”

That’s a great line.

SHAD: So our metered parking is so cheap that it’s actually

cost-effective for people who work Downtown to surf the meters

all day. So there is no parking for folks who come into Downtown.

Another side effect is that you have Downtown workers running

downstairs every two hours to feed the meter. It’s a little bit

counter-intuitive, but if you raised the price of the meters, when

you went Downtown, you would find a spot open instead of driving

around for 20 minutes. I ask everybody, “Would you rather

JEFF DAVIS (6)

48 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


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“The average cost of parking Downtown is about $80 a month, and

for a lot of folks who work Downtown, $1,000 a year is a big deal.”

JACK SHAD

FORMER HEAD OF THE CITY’S PARKING DIVISION

save a dollar or 20 minutes?”

And what do they say?

SHAD: They always say they would rather save 20

minutes, and yet we haven’t set up our Downtown

this way. Somebody’s got to pay for that parking. The

city’s not in the position to do it, so the customers

have to do it.

FIELD: If you’re in a suburban location, you’ve got

all this land, so you have a lot of wasted land. Who

pays for that land? Downtown is one of the few places

where market forces are at play at the use of land.

There are places like Greenville or Savannah where

they have two-hour free parking in their peripheral

areas Downtown, but they can do that because

Downtown makes a lot of money for them. Without all

those parking garages, you would have a lot of surface

parking lots and wasted land.

Sharon Snow of Jacksonville, another Email

Group member, writes that if she were mayor she

would make the first hour of parking free, which

is what is done in Eugene, Ore. Does that sound

practical here?

SHAD: Things like that are practical, but they

depend on a lot of enforcement. The ideal situation

would be the first hour is free, the second hour is $2,

the third hour is $3. If you wanted to pay for it, you

could sit on the street all day, but it would cost you 30

or 40 bucks. Let the market decide how long people

are staying on meters. The average cost of parking

Downtown is about $80 a month, and for a lot of folks

who work Downtown, $1,000 a year is a big deal. What

would you do for $1,000?

Are there better meters or better metering systems

than the ones we have now? For instance, we

have a few meters that allow credit cards.

SHAD: About one-third of the meters allow credit

cards. We tested the parking meter sensors on Laura

Street. The sensors in the street tells us if a car is there.

You can know how long someone has been there, so

you have the technical ability to give the first hour

free. When the enforcement guys are chalking tires,

that is not super effective because people go back and

wipe the chalk off.

What?

SHAD: You’re shocked to hear that. So there are

some technical solutions that have big advantages.

Savannah and St. Augustine use pay stations, a

P

PARKING

NUMBERS

43,500

Public parking spaces

in Jacksonville, which

include garage parking,

metered street parking

and peripheral parking.

1,650

Metered parking spaces

located on Downtown

Jacksonville streets.

25¢

The cost of parking

for 30 minutes at a

Downtown meter.

$11M

Parking fines –

representing 191,500

citations dating back to

1980 – the city wrote

off in 2016.

$700,000

Annual revenue the

City of Jacksonville

receives from

metered parking.

couple per block.

So you put money in a machine and you put the

receipt in your dashboard window.

SHAD: A lot of them don’t need a receipt anymore.

A lot of them are wireless. Those credit card

meters are essentially tiny cell phones and so those

transactions get run in real time. I could look from

my desk and tell you how many nickels were in each

machine. You can set it up so you type in your license

plate number, put money on your credit card and that

sends it up to the Internet, and then it is sent down to

the enforcement guy with his hand-held ticket-writing

machine. There is a pay-by-cell app. It knows your

credit card number and your license plate number,

and it knows what block you’re on. A lot of them will

send you an alert that, hey, “you have 15 minutes left

on your meter, what do you want to do?”

So you would never get a ticket that way.

SHAD: The issue there is you have to get the pricing

right. Otherwise, if I’m going to work, I’ll just park

there and let it charge me unless the pricing is such

that I don’t want to do that.

So it all gets back to price.

SHAD: Like any product, if you run out of stuff,

you’re not charged enough. We have a shortage of

metered spaces, but we have a real surplus of spaces

around the edge of Downtown, around the convention

center. If you price it properly, people will fill

those in, and there will be spaces in the core.

Getting a ticket and encountering a panhandler

are the two things people never forget about

Downtown.

FIELD: I think that speaks to why we need to have

more stuff Downtown so your experience is more

memorable. I get panhandled in Five Points almost

every day, not as much as Downtown, but it’s not

my chief memory of Five Points. Recently I was on a

rooftop bar with friends in Five Points and having a

great time. That’s the challenge of Downtown, making

it a more memorable experience.

MIKE CLARK has been reporting and editing for The Florida

Times-Union and Jacksonville Journal since 1973. He has

been Editorial Page Editor for the last 12 years following 15

years as Reader Advocate.

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 51


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75 Glen (904) Homes Ridge 580-3464

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Hardscape, landscape and other items shown may be decorator suggestions that are not included in the purchase price and availability may vary. Ryland Homes of


CHECKING THE PULSE

J MAGAZINE POLL:

LACK OF AMENITIES

AND ATTRACTIONS

TOP SURVEY RESULTS

ON WHY PEOPLE

AVOID DOWNTOWN

BY FRANK DENTON

ILLUSTRATION BY JEFF DAVIS

J MAGAZINE

hree years ago,

a woman in St.

Johns County

T

told a Times-

Union writer

she never

comes Downtown because

“there’s nothing there except

drunks and bums.”

She may still be sequestered

in her suburb, but a lot of other

people around Northeast Florida

are finding more in the heart

of the city — and expecting still

more.

Downtown Jacksonville is finally

on the ascent, though with

a lot more progress needed, and

people around Northeast Florida

are ready to take advantage

of its growing — and, especially,

anticipated — list of amenities

and attractions.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 53


What they need are more reasons to

make the trek — and to feel safe while

they’re here.

Those are the major conclusions of a

University of North Florida poll of people in

Duval and contiguous counties for “J” and

the Times-Union.

The poll findings offer strong support

for recent progress on Downtown but,

more important, powerful demand for the

right mixture and concentration of venues,

events and activities to pull people into the

heart and achieve real, permanent civic

synergy.

Thirty-seven percent of Northeast

Floridians believe Downtown is improving,

including 42 percent of Duval residents.

About one-third aren’t seeing it yet, and

almost one-fifth actually think Downtown is

getting worse.

The optimists tend to be higher-income:

49 percent of people whose income is

$75,000-$100,000 see improvement, and

43 percent of people who make more than

$100,000.

Almost half — 48 percent in Duval,

47 percent in the contiguous counties —

already come Downtown a couple of times

a year for leisure or entertainment — 38

percent for concerts, 30 percent for dining,

28 percent for sports events and 27 percent

for other events like Art Walk, fireworks, Jazz

Festival or home, boat or gun shows.

Very few come Downtown for the museums

(7 percent) or Jacksonville Landing

(4 percent), despite the latter’s regular free

entertainment on the river.

More than one-fourth of respondents

“never” come Downtown for leisure or

entertainment — 23 percent in Duval and

32 percent in the other three counties.

These “nevers” are heavily weighted older,

42 percent of those 55-64 and 51 percent of

65-plus people.

Asked why they don’t come Downtown

more frequently, about one-third said they

have no reason to come because there’s

nothing to do there — 36 percent in Duval

County and 32 percent in the other counties.

Jake Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision,

said they’re out of touch. “Often outdated or

wrong, these perceptions are typically held

by people who haven’t visited in a while.

Asking those who spend time here every

day paints a clearer picture: Downtown is a

vibrant place with many activities and amenities.

It’s easy to get to and statistically very

safe. What Downtown needs most is more

people living, working and playing here,

which is why we work hard to educate the

community on all Downtown has to offer.”

Aundra Wallace, CEO of the Downtown

Investment Authority, sees the results of the

poll as both “positive” and “constructive

criticism.”

“People are seeing change, and they

want change even faster,” he said. “If you

had asked the same questions in 2012,

the discussion would be vastly worse than

today. There probably would have been a

higher average of people not seeing any

improvement. We know what we’re doing is

working, but the market is saying they want

more. That’s good position to be in.

“There can be more entertainment

attractions for people, and we are trying to

address that as fast as we possibly can.”

Paul Astleford, president and CEO of

Visit Jacksonville, the city’s convention

and visitors bureau, said the poll’s findings

represent not just locals but also the power

of their word of mouth. “Residents are important

because they are the ones inviting

J MAGAZINE POLL

37

IN GENERAL, DO YOU THINK

DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE IS ...

STAYING

THE SAME

32%

IMPROVING

37%

GETTING

WORSE

19%

DON’T

KNOW

12%

HOW WOULD YOU IMPROVE

DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE?

16%

14%

13%

11%

11%

10%

9%

8%

MORE ACTIVITIES/

ENTERTAINMENT

MORE POLICE

MORE/BETTER PARKING

LESS CRIME/

MORE SAFETY

REDUCE TRAFFIC/

IMPROVE ROADWAYS

MORE/BETTER

RESTAURANTS

IMPROVE ARCHITECTURE/

MORE DEVELOPMENT

MORE STORES/

SHOPPING

OTHER MENTIONS: 7% – Address the homeless

issue, Make it nicer/Cleaner; 5% – Improve

The Landing, More kids/Family friendly; 4% –

More business; 2% – More residential/liveable;

1% Better public transit, More accessible.

54 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


friends and relatives to visit Jacksonville.”

Astleford, who has been in Jacksonville

only 4½ years, said the respondents who

think there’s nothing to do Downtown just

aren’t looking for it. “When I look at the

list of thing on our website, or the Downtown

Vision website, there’s no end to the

amount of stuff. There are always things

happening.”

The second major reason that some

people never come, for 21 percent of

respondents, is the belief that Downtown is

dangerous.

Police statistics show that Downtown

is one of the safest parts of the city, but the

problem is the public perception, likely reinforced

in January by a shooting on Laura

Street during the monthly Art Walk and a

probably related shooting two weeks later.

“Here’s the challenge with that perception,”

Wallace said. “You have an event that’s

been going on over a decade, in excess of

150 Art Walks, and we’ve had two incidents

in that time frame that happen to be unrelated

to Art Walk itself but shine a negative

light on Art Walk and Downtown because

they took place there.

“Statistics don’t matter when someone

has a perception, and we have to work on

how to address the perception.”

Parking (10 percent) and traffic and road

construction (8 percent) were slightly bigger

deterrents than panhandlers, at 5 percent.

Duval respondents said the single

biggest thing to improve Downtown would

be more attractions and things to do (20

percent), with 16 percent wanting more

police and 14 percent better parking.

Clay, St. Johns and Nassau residents

called for improved traffic and highways

(15 percent), better parking (13 percent)

and more safety (15 percent).

“We have to do a better job of identifying

parking for people,” Wallace said, “because

we have a plethora of parking.” (See

the related story on page 48.)

Astleford, a veteran of 30 years in tourism

and convention marketing, 20 of them

with the convention and visitors bureaus

in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, said the

special sauce for Downtown synergy is not

just more events and venues but also “creating

connecting experiences. Instead of

individual restaurants and attractions, start

to create an experience realm. How can we

connect these attractions?”

He suggested this “experiential tourism”

would connect different reasons for coming

Downtown, not just to see a concert

or baseball game then leave, but also have

dinner and a stroll along an attractive and

engaging riverfront. “How we can create

these luring kinds of linked experiences

takes some time and effort.”

The survey’s results indicate that, while

Downtown’s image is improving, the challenge

seems clear: create a compelling and

connected collection of entertainment,

activities and events in the heart of Downtown

and along the river, and the people

will come, swarming over the old negative

perceptions.

The random-sample telephone survey of 643

residents of Duval and surrounding counties (Nassau,

Clay, St. Johns) was conducted in early May

by the University of North Florida Public Opinion

Research Laboratory. Margin of error: around 5

percent.

FRANK DENTON was editor of The Florida-Times

Union in 2008-2016 and now is editor

at large. He lives in Avondale.

J MAGAZINE POLL

WHY HAVE YOU NOT COME DOWNTOWN MORE OFTEN IN THE PAST YEAR?

66+34+3479+2180+2090+1091+992+894+695+5

20%

8% 6%

34%

NOTHING

TO DO

THERE/NO

REASON

TO GO

21%

DANGER-

OUS/

TOO MUCH

CRIME

TOO FAR

AWAY

10%

HARD TO

PARK

9%

TOO BUSY

TRAFFIC/

CONSTRUC-

TION

LACK OF

TRANSPOR-

TATION/

TOO OLD/

SICK

5%

GET

HASSLED/

PANHAN-

DLERS/

HOMELESS

JEFF DAVIS

IN THE PAST YEAR,

HOW MANY TIMES

HAVE YOU GONE

DOWNTOWN FOR

ENTERTAINMENT

OR LEISURE?

DAILY

1%

WEEKLY

7%

49%

COUPLE

OF TIMES

A YEAR

26%

IN THE PAST YEAR,

HOW MANY TIMES

HAVE YOU GONE

DOWNTOWN FOR

PROFESSIONAL OR

WORK REASONS?

WEEKLY

18% NEVER DAILY

ABOUT

13%

ONCE A

ABOUT

11%

MONTH

ONCE A

MONTH

7%

34%

COUPLE

OF TIMES

A YEAR

35%

NEVER

Poll results from a J MAGAZINE random-sample telephone survey of 643 Northeast Florida residents in Duval, Nassau, Clay and St. Johns

counties, conducted in early May by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory. Margin of error: +/- 3.9 percent.

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 55


DOWNTOWN DILEMMA

By Roger Brown

CURBING

PANHANDLERS

P

It is disorienting and even distressing

for the people targeted for

panhandling.

They are the citizens and visitors

who are sometimes unable to walk to

jobs, homes, appointments, restaurants,

concerts or other destinations

in Downtown Jacksonville without

having their personal space invaded

ANHANDLING.

It is a scourge of Downtown Jacksonville.

It is dehumanizing and demeaning

for the actual panhandlers: the people

who regularly roam Downtown block

after block, asking for money.

by people asking for money. Without

having their heartstrings constantly

tugged and manipulated for coins.

So when you raise the issue of

panhandling with Jake Gordon, the animated

CEO of Downtown Vision Inc.,

you understand why his first reaction

is an audible sigh.

“Panhandling may be a nuisance

crime, but it’s one we take very seriously,”

Gordon says. “It’s a bad experience

for the people who are subjected to

it. It’s not helping the people who

are doing it. And it’s not helping our

Downtown in any way.”

That stark appraisal gets no

argument from Jacksonville Sheriff’s

Office Zone 1 Chief Jackson Short, who

oversees the department’s Downtown

enforcement efforts. “It is definitely

an issue that can impact the quality of

living and working in the Downtown

area,” Short says.

“It is a criminal offense. And we

address it as such.”

THERE OUGHTA BE

A LAW – AND THERE IS

And, yes, in case you’re wondering:

FLORIDA TIMES-UNION ARCHIVE

56 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


There IS a law that bans panhandling in

Downtown Jacksonville.

And that law DOES have tough language

in it.

It deems panhandling to be a misdemeanor

offense that can lead up to as much

as a $500 fine — and as many as 90 days in

jail — for repeated offenses.

Section 614.138 of the city’s Code of

Ordinances states that is unlawful for anyone

within Jacksonville’s “Central Core Enhancement

Area” — in other words, its Downtown

section — to: “Solicit or beg on any sidewalk,

highway, street, roadway, right-of-way,

parking lot, park or picnic grounds or other

public or semi-public area, or in any building

lobby, entranceway, plaza or common

area without the permission of the owner

thereof.”

The numbers suggest the JSO’s Downtown

patrol is making a genuine effort to carry

out that law. From January 2016 through

April of this year, nearly 500 transients in

Downtown Jacksonville were ticketed for

panhandling or similar, nuisance-oriented

misdemeanor crimes.

“Panhandling can be difficult to enforce

because from a distance it looks like an

interaction between two people,” Short says.

“But it is not impossible to enforce, and we

do intervene when possible.”

That balancing act, however, is why

Downtown panhandling remains a stubborn

issue.

“If an officer is patrolling the Downtown

area and observes two people in a conversation,

it can be difficult to know if the

conversation is consensual or an unwanted

solicitation,” Short says. “We have to balance

enforcing the laws without violating citizens’

right to not be illegally stopped.”

That obstacle aside, however, it’s clear

that the JSO isn’t ignoring Downtown panhandling.

Indeed, it is keen to reduce it.

And both Short and Gordon suggest

the city has other arrows in its enforcement

quiver to address panhandling.

Short says Zone 1’s work to tackle panhandling

is sure to benefit as it adds some

new officers to its Downtown ranks.

Gordon says Downtown Vision Inc. —

one of the city’s lead advocates for living and

working Downtown — is exploring another

way to discourage panhandling.

He said the nonprofit may have its dozen

or so “Downtown ambassadors” provide

information to visitors that encourages them

to bypass panhandlers and instead donate

to one of the numerous nearby social service

agencies that directly help people with

“People have to

learn to say, ‘No’

to panhandlers –

and to keep saying

that to them.”

JAKE GORDON

CEO OF DOWNTOWN VISION INC.

legitimate needs — from those who need

food and shelter to others battling mental

health issues.

Gordon says that soft yet proactive approach

could snatch away the strongest card

that Downtown panhandlers play in begging

others for money: the guilt card.

“It would allow the person (being targeted)

to say, ‘No,’ without feeling guilty about

saying it,” Gordon says.

CUT OFF THE DEMAND

Now take a moment and re-read Gordon’s

above statement.

And focus on the word “No.”

Because it’s the single word that both

Gordon and Short believe holds the most

power in attacking Downtown panhandling.

Noting that just within Downtown Jacksonville,

there are more than 10 social service

agencies that daily provide assistance to the

needy, Gordon maintains that saying “no” to

panhandlers isn’t harsh or heartless at all.

“I truly believe that there is no one panhandling

in Downtown Jacksonville who’s

genuinely in need,” Gordon says. “It’s not like

the panhandlers are unaware that there are

services available for them Downtown —

they are totally aware of that.

“But what they’re really aware of is that

you may have some money in your pocket.

And they want it. It’s not much more complicated

than that.”

So the answer, Gordon says, should hardly

be a mystery.

“People have to learn to say, ‘No’ to

panhandlers — and to keep saying that to

them,” Gordon says. “If you cut off the supply

for Downtown panhandlers, you cut off the

demand. And if you cut off the ability of panhandlers

to demand money, you can start to

reduce their presence. It’s that simple.”

Short agrees there is no legitimate reason

for people to panhandle. “There are plenty of

opportunities for those who are hungry to get

food,” Short says.

THE TWO TRUTHS

Look, here are the two truths we must

face regarding the presence of panhandling

in Downtown Jacksonville:

Truth No. 1:

Downtown Jacksonville isn’t some

privately controlled area — an amusement

park, a shopping center — where people

who might make others feel a bit uneasy can

be kept out.

Or thrown out.

Downtown Jacksonville opens its arms to

everyone.

And panhandlers will always be among

the people running into those outstretched

arms.

So if you’re going to be in Downtown

Jacksonville, you must embrace that — and

the fact that you won’t ever be in an antiseptic

bubble — free of smells, sounds and

people who may make you uncomfortable.

Accept it. Deal with it. Put on your grownup

clothes and go with it.

We’re in a big, sprawling American city,

and people and discomfort, from time to

time, is part of the admission ticket.

Besides, are you really going to give

panhandlers so much power over your life

that the mere thought of running into them

discourages you from coming Downtown?

Or from enjoying the rich, organic and

wonderful experiences Downtown has to

offer?

Really? Seriously?

After all, Gordon pretty much nails it

when he says this:

“One of the best ways to make panhandlers

less of a problem Downtown is to have

lots more people in general Downtown.

Now here’s Truth No. 2:

No, it’s not realistic to think that our city

can get to a point where no one panhandles

in Downtown Jacksonville.

But, yes, it is realistic to strive for a day

when fewer people are panhandling in

Downtown Jacksonville.

Before that day can ever become reality,

one simple word must be transformed into

one powerful mantra.

It’s the word “No.”

ROGER BROWN has been a Times-Union

editorial writer since 2013. He lives in Downtown

Jacksonville.

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 57


12 HOURS IN DOWNTOWN

By Tony Allegretti

Visitors to MOCA at 333 N. Laura St., take in

“Multiverse,” a painting by American muralist

Maya Hayuk on display in a gallery featuring

work from the museum’s permanent collection.

Exploring Downtown with

a day of art, coffee & culture

JEFF DAVIS

I

’ve spent 10 or 12 hours a day Downtown,

most days, for almost two

decades. There have been amazing

things that have come and gone, and there are

always copious choices of fun things to do and

see. To recreate this day, you’ll need to do it on a

weekday, perhaps a Friday.

I’m suggesting arriving in casual clothes with

comfortable shoes for this excursion.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 59


LEFT: Under the Main Street Bridge along the Southbank Riverwalk, you’ll find “Mirrored River,” a 60-foot mosaic art piece reflecting the downtown skyline.

RIGHT: One of the popular lunchtime items at Super Food and Brew, at 11 E. Forsyth St., is the Pretzelwich with spicy garlic Dijon mustard.

1 10 AM | PUBLIC HOUSE

It is always good to give a bit of energy

to a new adventure, so let’s start at the

new Public House Coffee at the Jacksonville

Landing. Public House has all

of today’s concoctions, but I always just

go for a strong Americano. The coffee is

fresh and strong, and a tasty pastry will

hold us over until a late lunch. Since we

are talking about 12 hours of exploration,

let’s make it a large Americano.

Water Street is buzzing with Jacksonville

Symphony Orchestra musicians

checking in and the technical crew from

the FSCJ artist series unloading massive

trucks of the latest in performing arts.

2 10:30 AM | OMNI SHOESHINE

I like to make my way to the Skyway

through the Omni Hotel. Our Northbank

hotels (Omni and Hyatt) have both been

recently refurbished and offer excellent

accommodations for a fraction of what

you’d spend in most downtowns. Since

I have on nice, comfortable shoes and

because it’s Friday, I stop and get a shine

from Perry, who mans the shoe shine in

the Omni on Thursdays and Fridays.

You can see Central Station from

your shine. Let’s jump on the Skyway

there. But before we do, let us take a look

at the strolling gallery under the Skyway

on the columns that hold up our peoplemover

from Central to Hemming. New

colorful works from Andrew Reid and

Cecilia Lueza transform and energize the

strolls at Bay and Hogan.

3 11 AM | REDDI-ARTS

Let’s hop on an every-seven-minute

ride to the Southbank and head all the

way to Kings Avenue Station. You can’t

help but hold on as your car climbs out

of a spaghetti maze up the incline and

across the St. Johns, an American Heritage

River. The river is always majestic at

this time of day, and you can see clearly

from the Acosta Bridge, the Fuller Warren

to your right and Main Street, Hart,

Mathews and even Dames Point to your

left.

Upon arriving at Kings Avenue

station, we skip over a block to the west

and pop in to Reddi-Arts, a full-service

art-supply store and gallery. For a good

price, let’s pick up some pastels and

sketch pad to memorialize our day, shall

we?

From Reddi-Arts, we walk north toward

the residential waterfront condos.

See if you can find the public access

between the Peninsula and Strand. It’s

a beautiful shady stroll that ends at our

new Southbank Riverwalk. The Riverwalk

is always alive with joggers and

strollers, and you can take great photos

of our river and Downtown from multiple

spots.

4 NOON | MIRRORED RIVER

We pay homage to our Navy roots

with our sailor sculpture, and farther

down, under the Main Street Bridge,

you’ll see the latest piece in our city’s

permanent public art collection. “Mirrored

River” was commissioned in 2015

and completed by Roux Arts and dozens

of citizen artists. It could be the most

beautiful mosaic under a bridge in the

world. Take plenty of photos using the

trickery of the mirrors and the excellent

view.

5 1 PM | MOSH

As you emerge from under the

bridge enjoy Friendship Fountain and

its new furnishings and pergola on the

way to MOSH. It’s Friday, which means

$5 Friday! MOSH is worth it at any price.

Soak up the often maritime, science

and history exhibits that rotate in this

75-year-old institution.

Ok, I’m getting hungry. Let us jump

on the Water Taxi at Friendship Fountain

and ride across to the Landing where

we can cut through the parking lot

and the JAX Chamber lot to get a quick

sketch in of Aisling Millar McDonald’s

triumphant sculpture, “Harmonious

Ascent.”

JEFF DAVIS (4); JEFF DAVIS (MAP)

60 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


LEFT: Chamblin’s Bookmine at 215 N. Laura St., features hundreds of thousands of books including this 1943 copy of “The St. Johns: A Parade of Diversities.”

RIGHT: Murals featuring the art of Andrew Reid and Cecilia Lueza adorn the pillars supporting Jacksonville’s Skyway near Bay and Hogan Streets.

6 2 PM | SUPER FOOD & BREW

Just a block or so north, we finally

arrive for a late lunch at Super Food

and Brew. Super Food has the best tuna

poke this side of Japan. They’ve got

other options, including lobster, and the

prices are as good as the food is fresh.

Since we’ve clearly taken the day off, I

recommend washing it all down with a

local pint, which is always on tap and

ice cold.

After lunch, we head west again, but

up Adams Street. We can see progress in

the making as the old Lerner Building is

buzzing with construction, soon to feature

FSCJ student housing and a culinary

test kitchen and restaurant.

7 3 PM | ART & LITERATURE

Take a right on Laura and pop into

the Wolf & Cub, a hipsters’ retail refuge

with local art and vintage fashion. Now

that you bought some things for the

list you didn’t know you had, complete

your shopping at Chamblin’s Bookmine,

which is an endless labyrinth of the

written word.

Let’s enjoy a nice soda water outside

Chamblin’s and sketch the beautiful

Snyder Memorial Church, Greenleaf

& Crosby Building, Jacob’s Clock and

bustling Hemming Park across the street.

You’ll love the new iconic sculpture by

Rafael Consuegra in front of Snyder as

well as the innovative sculptures as bike

racks and street furniture, all part of the

12 HOURS IN DOWNTOWN

Adams St.

Forsyth St.

Bay St.

2

Water St.

Hogan St.

THE LANDING

ST. JOHNS

RIVER

FRIENDSHIP

FOUNTAIN

San Marco

5

Laura St.

1

4

7

8

Main St.

MAIN STREET

BRIDGE

Coastline Dr.

Riverplace Blvd.

Mary St.

6

Flagler Ave.

10

Kipp Ave.

Ocean St.

9

Newman St.

Market St.

Prudential Dr.

3

Downtown Investment Authority’s Urban

Arts Projects (phase one).

8 6 PM | MOCA

As the sun sets, let’s duck into the

Museum of Contemporary Art and take

in the atrium installation and three

floors of some of the most acclaimed

contemporary art on the planet. We’ll

have to come back to properly take it all

in because we need to hustle toward the

Florida Theatre to catch the early show.

9 7 PM | FLORIDA THEATRE

One of two tonight. The Florida

Theatre has had a great run of booking

ultra-hot trending comedians who can

sell out two shows in one night.

10 10 PM | 1904 MUSIC HALL

Another cold pint of local beer is in order

after our laughs, so we duck into 1904

Music Hall around the corner and catch

some live music. This music hall has been

recognized as one of the best places to

watch a performance in our state. But my

favorite pastime here is to sit in the back

patio which is a 360-degree gallery of local

graffiti and reflect on the day that was.

TONY ALLEGRETTI, a Jacksonville resident

since 1997, is executive director of the Cultural

Council of Greater Jacksonville.

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 61


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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

By Mike Clark

Creating energy in

the urban core

Mike Field is more than an observer

of the successes and failures of

Downtown Jacksonville, he’s also

rolled up his sleeves to become

a catalyst for ideas and growth

M

ike Field, 38, proudly calls himself a

“dumpster baby.” He was born in Riverside

Hospital to a woman from North Carolina,

was taken in by Catholic Charities and later adopted

by his mother and father.

MIKE FIELD

LIVES IN:

Fairfax

FROM:

Jacksonville

WORK:

Senior analyst at JPMorgan

Chase, cofounder of

Moderncities.com

cofounder of Transform

Jax, founder of Jaxsons

Night Market, founder of

Jax Truckies

He graduated from Bishop

Kenny and earned

a bachelor’s degree in

economics from Florida

State. He has spent the

past 15 years in banking

and helped start Jax

Truckies, Jaxsons Night

Market (which worked

better than he thought)

and Moderncities.com, a

website about urban life

and innovations. In his latest venture, he and Jack

Shad opened a food truck park Downtown.

BRUCE LIPSKY

On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being a ghost town and 10 being a

tourist destination, what score would you give Downtown

Jacksonville?

I’d give Downtown a 4. Not to be negative, but I think you

have to be honest about the challenges that Downtown faces

before you can agree on a way forward. Around the Super

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 63


Bowl in 2005 it was a 2, so the trend is

upward.

The main thing that’s apparent when

comparing Jacksonville to urban centers

around the Southeast is that we’ve now

missed out on two multifamily construction

booms, first condos and now apartments.

The number of residents surrounding

the urban core is probably the biggest

separating point between a score of a 3 and

an 8.

The population of the urban neighborhoods

surrounding what we consider

the Central Business District have all but

vanished. It’s interesting to note that the

CBD has a larger residential population

today than what existed in 1960, but since

1960 the population in the “urban core”

has decreased by about 60 percent.

Neighborhoods like Sugar Hill, LaVilla,

Oakland, Fairfield and Brooklyn have been

wiped off the map. Even Riverside is less

dense today than it was 30 years ago. The

density of those urban neighborhoods is

what made Downtown thrive. Whereas

LaVilla would be comparable to South End

in Charlotte, today LaVilla doesn’t even

exist.

In South End, you have roughly 7,000

people there, which is equivalent to the

density of LaVilla at its peak. They may not

live “Downtown,” but they live within an

eight- to 10-block walk of Downtown.

When Vestcor’s 120-unit affordable

housing complex and Beneficial Communities’

72-unit senior housing complex

opens later this year, that will have been

the first new housing units added to LaVilla

since the neighborhood was demolished in

the 1990s.

We’re being left out of that multifamily

construction bubble again for the second

time in a row. As a person who is passionate

about Downtown and sees the upward

trend, that is a big concern.

Six years ago, we never had all the businesses

that are Downtown now, and that’s

reason for optimism.

I have friends in from out of town this

weekend, and the first place we will go is

the rooftop deck at Intuition. That wasn’t

even here a year ago. Then, we’ll go to Dos

Gatos and have a great cocktail and then

slide on over to Sweet Pete’s to get his kids

some candy. Those are all some really cool

places to show off to outsiders. There are

just not enough of them within a compact

area.

How far away are we from having that

density?

You look at Greenville, S.C. They focused

on that one main strip, and that is truly

a great place. People from surrounding

neighborhoods, that’s their destination

because that’s where all the great places

to eat are. They can walk up and down the

street because there’s a large concentration

of complementary uses in an attractive

environment.

You can copy that model in Jacksonville,

and that will at least get you a walkable

corridor Downtown that you’d be proud to

bring out of town visitors to.

So Laura Street all the way to the

Landing is supposed to be ours?

Laura and Adams is ground zero,

because that is where you have a density of

existing building stock that have some sort

of ground-level retail space. Bay Street is

nice, but there is nothing on the other side

of the street.

Somebody asked me, “How do you define

a place.” And I said you don’t define it,

you just know it. I was in Chicago once and

I turned the corner and I smelled some pizza

and heard some live music being played

Bring

Downtown

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62 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


at a bar next door that spilled out onto the

street. So there are great places, but that

concentration, that corridor is not there.

The Downtown Investment Authority,

the mayor, City Council, real estate brokers

and property owners all really need to sit

down with everybody at the table and start

a highly specific, strategic effort to create

two great corridors. Let’s understand exactly

how much street-level retail exists, what

it will cost to make these spaces habitable,

where are the gaps in walkability and then

make a concerted effort to make Adams

and Laura Streets truly vibrant places, and

go from there.

Does Brooklyn feel like Downtown to

you?

Brooklyn has been its own neighborhood

for nearly 150 years. We have to

respect that history and appreciate that

context. That said, I think Brooklyn is going

to be the next great Southeastern urban

neighborhood. There are two developers

that have assembled some land along Park

and Forrest that are going to really accelerate

Brooklyn’s growth.

The city has hired a consultant to look

at redesigning Park Street to make it more

people-friendly, because it’s junk right now.

If that gets completed, Park Street could

be every bit as fantastic as Gaines Street in

Tallahassee.

The booming health of Midtown in

Atlanta, The Gulch in Nashville and Uptown

in Charlotte are all crucial to the success

of their respective CBD’s, and our own

Brooklyn has a chance to be better than all

of those.

If you were mayor what would you do?

There is a block of vacant land that the

state attorney uses as a parking lot now

along Adams Street, which used to be the

George Washington Hotel. Give it away, immediately.

You could build a parking garage

on that site and wrap apartments around it.

By giving the land away, the city is

essentially acting as an equity partner that

a private developer can use to finance

market-rate residential. Same thing with

the land the city owns on Main Street that

is used for a sculpture park. That could

be used for a two-to-three-story block of

row homes. Give those away to encourage

market rate rentals, and you’ll have maybe

110-150 units pop up within a three-block

radius along Adams Street. Again, it’s all

about clustering complementary uses in a

compact setting.

It’s like a good home inspector, only for

a business.

Exactly. As a business owner, you make

really good sandwiches, but you don’t know

anything about electrical work. You don’t

know how to build a trench for your grease

trap. You know how to run a business and

provide good customer service.

Another aspect of that program is that

they act as a liaison for small business

owners as they go through a clearly defined

path in order to open their doors. Here in

Jax, if you have the cash to hire a land use

attorney, great, they can do it all for you. But

there’s nothing on the city’s website that

helps you walk through the process.

Let’s say you’re a marketing firm and

try to open in a place that used to be an

accountant’s office, then a year later you

get someone from the planning department

asking where is your certificate of

use? Then, the fire marshal shows up a few

months later and starts asking you about

the sprinkler system or fire alarm system.

All you know is that you went to the Tax

Collector’s office, got your business license,

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and you thought that was it. If you need to rezone your property,

then you’re really lost if you can’t afford an attorney. That small

business department gives you a clear path to open, so that you can

focus on being the best florist you can be instead of worrying about

whether you’ve inadvertently broken some law in the code. The

DIA has been good with being a liaison to business owners looking

to open up shop Downtown, given the limitations inherent with a

small staff and no budget.

There are a lot of a great people with great ideas about Downtown,

but there is no unified vision. Putting assets into action, both

from activating underutilized land and enhancing public infrastructure

to meet today’s needs, as well as fixing the broken processes,

are some thing that need to be done to make Downtown thrive. That

gives the private sector the confidence to invest.

So that is what the mayor should do or somebody equivalent?

There needs to be some champion to bring everyone together

rather than just wishing for good things. We’ll see what City Council

President Lori Boyer wants to do with the riverfront.

Which is linking 12 nodes together, kind of like what you’re

talking about Downtown. But she’s talking about creating a

new organization, someone to champion the river. Do we need

another one?

What I found with the Riverwalk, it’s two separate linear parks.

On the Northbank there are all sorts of separate easements across

properties. So you do need some kind of liaison, someone who

focuses just on those maintenance issues. To me, that’s probably a

position that is housed within the city, because the Riverwalk could

and should stretch far beyond the borders of what the DIA or DVI is

responsible for. I think there is a role for a “Friends of Riverwalk” organization,

but in a complementary way that could be leveraged for

fundraising efforts that are outside of what a municipal government

can do. In Chattanooga, which has an amazing riverfront with clusters

of activities and businesses within a compact setting surrounding

pristine waterfront public spaces, the city leveraged a not-forprofit

corporation called RiverValley Partners which was able to raise

money through foundations and enter into development agreements

that were outside of the purview of the city’s traditional role.

What do we need to do to make Downtown more pedestrian-friendly?

We worked with Downtown Vision on a new parklet program,

where you replace a parking space with outdoor seating. There are

a lot of streets Downtown, especially Adams, with small sidewalk

width. So you need to add areas to encourage a cafe culture. Again,

that means focusing on a three- to four-block area. So you don’t

have gaps like you do now.

Right now if you’re at Hemming Park and want to walk to Bay

Street, it’s not a very pleasant walk because you walk past a lot of

dead space. Walkability is as much about perception as infrastructure.

If you were at the Avenues Mall and saw nothing but empty

storefronts and dead space, you’d turn around and go home. Downtown

is no different.

When San Marco Square got redesigned, they narrowed the

lanes which slowed down traffic and actually added parking, put in

more green space, better crosswalk markings. Neighborhood leaders

leveraged what was scheduled to be a routine roadway re-striping

to positively shape the future of San Marco Square and improve

walkability throughout the commercial district.

And you have no choice but so slow down.

People bellyache about it, but you’re not supposed to speed

through there. And private businesses and individuals raised the

money for the Balis expansion to supplement the taxpayer-funded

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Are you hopeful about the future, do you see some positive

momentum? Having Brooklyn pop up from nowhere was kind of

a shock to us at the Times-Union as neighbors.

I’m still very worried about the lack of market-rate residential

construction. We’re on the tail end of a boom in urban, multifamily

construction, and we’re going to be left out of the bubble again for

the second time in a row.

That said, I’m very optimistic about the future. There are a lot

of people in my age group who are investing Downtown and in the

urban core. You have locally grown developers like Paul and Farley

Grainger that are stepping up and making it happen, that makes me

hopeful. Then you have people like David Cohen, Ben Davis and Jay

Albertelli who are bringing life to spaces in the urban core.

I’m in the real estate industry, and people that are my dad’s age

who remember when Downtown was great, have lost hope. The older

generation who have been through 30 years of rah-rah speeches with

no results are jaded. That’s understandable. Seeing people my age

investing their own money now and making things happen through

sheer determination and grit is a really positive thing.

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MIKE CLARK has been reporting and editing for The Florida Times-Union

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last 12 years following 15 years as Reader Advocate.

66 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


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DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE: IT’S TIME TO FIX IT!

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 20

whole begins to suffer: People who ought to

get together, by means of central activities that

are failing, fail to get together. Ideas and money

that ought to meet, and do so often only by

happenstance in a place of central vitality, fail

to meet. The networks of city public life develop

gaps they cannot afford.”

“Without a strong and inclusive central

heart (emphasis hers), a city tends to become

a collection of interests isolated from one

another. It falters at producing something

greater, socially, culturally and economically,

than the sum of its separated parts.”

A half century later, city planner Jeff Speck

wrote “Walkable City: How Downtown Can

Save America, One Step at a Time.” While

suburbs were invented to isolate people, he

said, “Cities were created to bring things together.

They better they do this job, the more

successful they become.”

“The Downtown is the only part of the city

that belongs to everybody,” Speck pointed out.

“It doesn’t matter where you may find your

home; the Downtown is yours too. Investing in

the Downtown of a city is the only place-based

way to benefit all of its citizens at once.”

This critical concept of Downtown as a

diverse, active, human community hasn’t

fit well in Jacksonville because our definition

of Downtown is necessarily so big. It’s

more than two miles from EverBank Field to

Prime Osborn and a mile from State Street

down to the river, and the Southbank adds

still more territory. Our major investments

have been scattered all over that roughly

three-square-mile area, so there’s no

synergy among, for example, the updates at

EverBank, the new Duval County Courthouse,

Hemming Park, the T-U Center and

the Elbow, much less the Southbank.

Planner Davis said a successful Downtown

will have these three C’s:

CLUSTERING of different developments

and amenities, something shopping malls

figured out long ago with their anchor-store

and food-court arrangements.

COMPLEMENTING uses, so users of one

are drawn to other components as well.

Convention-goers like to seek out food and

drink; symphony-goers want to have dinner

first; residents like to walk places.

COMPACT setting, so the human activity

doesn’t get diluted across parking lots and

empty buildings.

That concept would focus on the central

core, from the Hyatt Regency on the east to

Broad Street on the west and from State Street

south to the river, with the epicenter being

Laura Street, between Hemming Park and

Jacksonville Landing — where some of the current

planning is targeted. That’s ground zero.

Now is the time to stop muttering, blaming,

dreaming and planning. This year should

be the year of commitment and action — and

building cranes.

Paul Astleford, president and CEO of Visit

Jacksonville, has long argued that Downtown

doesn’t need more unconnected projects but

rather a vision for itself. “It’s not about what

we want to have or what we want to build; it’s

what we want to be.”

Now he sees energy shifting toward a common

vision around which projects will emerge:

“For the first time, leaders are understanding

the difference between vision and strategy.

“Transformation is happening, and it’s

exciting — from silo-driven projects by developers

to a collaborative, visionary approach

to who we want to be, how we want to present

Jacksonville to the world with a unified

voice. It’s happening. That transformation is

in progress.”

Four powerful forces — four M’s, if you

will — are now at work to push Downtown to

blossom faster: the market, the magnate, the

master plan and the mayor.

THE IRRESISTIBLE

FORCE OF THE MARKET

If Downtown doesn’t discover itself, it

may be swept over by encroachments from

its fringes, with market forces providing the

energy. Millennials, and some retiring Baby

Boomers, shunning commutes and the car

culture, want to live in an urban environment

and enjoy the arts, culture and entertainment

of greater Downtown.

If you haven’t driven up Riverside Avenue

in a few years, you’ll be amazed. The Brooklyn

area has added 604 new apartments in the

past two years and filled them, and another

10-story, 300-apartment tower called Vista

Brooklyn is planned for this year.

The developments include retail and

restaurants, and a little farther south, new

restaurants and bars are popping up all over

Riverside and Avondale, leading to parking

skirmishes with nearby residents.

As the force moves northeast, The Florida

Times-Union is actively exploring sale or

redevelopment of its prime site between the

river and Riverside Avenue, just off the Acosta

Bridge.

From the east, the Sports Complex has

added the new Daily’s Place amphitheater

and Intuition Ale Works, and the city is

working with Shad Khan’s Iguana Investments

to develop Metropolitan Park and the

Shipyards, which stretch all the way west to

... the Elbow, the relatively new and popular

entertainment district soon to be anchored

by the Cowford Chop House. And suddenly

you’re overlapping with the Florida Theatre

a block away and verging on ground zero.

And from the south, across the river, Peter

Rummell is moving ahead with his plans

for The District, the development originally

referred to as “Healthy Town.” Nearby, also

along the river, a 300-unit apartment complex

called Broadstone River House is under construction.

A river-taxi ride away from ground

zero.

In fact, the list of projects actively planned

or underway in the greater Downtown area

is much longer: the Southbank Apartment

Ventures, the Lofts at LaVilla, Houston Street

Manor, the newly uncovered inlet between

Liberty and Market next to the Hyatt, the

USS Adams museum ship, the planned

River & Post restaurant catty-corner from

the Cummer, new docks on the St. Johns, the

new Baptist/M.D. Anderson building, various

infrastructure improvements ...

Of course, the tired Jacksonville Landing

stands out, at ground zero, as an, uh, opportunity

to be explored when the lawsuit between

the city and the owners is resolved.

The proposed expansions of the riverwalks

on both banks, the river taxi and the Skyway

would tie together all of the above.

Downtown advocates point out that

Downtown may be very close to an inflection

point for private investment. No one wants the

risk of being the heroic pioneer investor, this

thinking goes, but when critical mass develops,

there is plenty of money that wants in.

Jim Bailey said every major building Downtown

has been sold within the past five years,

and there’s a reason — presumably not out of

frustration or desperation but rather as patient

investment. “You can see something there.”

THE MOJO OF

THE MAGNATE

Since he purchased the Jaguars in 2011,

JUNE 2017 | J MAGAZINE 69


illionaire Shad Khan has captivated Jacksonville,

with his personal story, his style, his

internationalism, his wealth and his 308-foot,

$200 million yacht often docked Downtown.

While his football team has been disappointing

on the field, Khan has been consistently

clear on his commitment to Jacksonville

and its Downtown, to the tune of more

than $100 million. He has ponied up almost

$82 million to join city money in upgrades

to EverBank Field, including the new Daily’s

Place amphitheater, and another $19 million

in philanthropic donations and start-up loans

for local business projects.

The Downtown Investment Authority has

selected Khan’s Iguana Investments to be

the master developer for the Shipyards and

Metropolitan Park area. His plan includes

shopping, parks, marinas, food and entertainment,

a luxury hotel and spa and docking for

the USS Adams museum ship.

Khan’s proposal was chosen over two

others in part, no doubt, because of his record

here, his commitment, his resources, his

relationship with the city — and frankly the

synergy that would be created between this

Downtown development and the Jaguars.

“Whatever is good for Jacksonville is good

for the Jaguars,” Khan said in announcing his

plan. “That is the connection here. You can’t

have a viable city without a vibrant Downtown.

I think everybody gets that. That’s a

simple point. In the five years I’ve been here,

it’s, well, Downtown is dying. ... This should

be real change, and this is going to bring

Jacksonville back to life Downtown.”

“As goes Downtown Jacksonville, so goes

the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Khan said. “We are

one.”

One intriguing prospect is the possibility

of Khan bringing a Four Seasons hotel to the

city. Last fall, he bought the five-star Four

Seasons Hotel Toronto, spawning speculation

here, so the Times-Union asked him if the

Shipyards hotel might be that iconic brand.

Read his response carefully:

“I think we need to be aspirational,” Khan

said. “There’s nothing like that in Jacksonville.

I think you are defined by the highest

experience you have. To me, that would be

the logical brand for us. I don’t know if they

would have an interest. Certainly, we’d want

them involved, and I think with the mix and

the experience they have globally, some of

the best mixed-use projects in Canada, No. 1

is right there, Four Seasons. I think when that

opened, five others opened in Toronto. The

difference between them and the others is

night-and-day.

“They have a secret recipe that we want

to learn and tap into. That’s one of the many,

many resources to get Jacksonville Downtown

coming up and living up to its potential.”

THE POWER OF THE

MASTER PLAN ... THIS TIME

The Times-Union’s 2009 reporting project

presented a painfully vivid history of failed

Downtown development, showing lack of

vision, strategy, tactical funding and commitment.

The past four decades have seen a sad

series of committees, city agencies, studies,

proposals and master plans that have evaporated

— 15 of them since 1981.

A Downtown Development Authority was

created in the 1970s, as Hans Tanzler, the first

mayor after consolidation, tried to resuscitate

Downtown with the goal, now clearly naïve,

of competing against the new suburban

malls. The DDA was later made a mere

advisory board within a new Jacksonville


Economic Development Commission, then

was eliminated altogether during another

reorganization in 2006.

Finally, in 2010, Mayor John Peyton and

the private Jacksonville Civic Council agreed

that Downtown deterioration was “a matter

of urgent civic priority” and created the

Northbank Redevelopment Task Force to take

a fresh look at Downtown. Its report, in early

2011, made the case for “a successful, central

Downtown” as “everyone’s neighborhood.”

While it offered specific ideas for a new

convention center, development of the Shipyards

and other Downtown improvements,

perhaps its most important recommendation

was for creation of “a strong, independent,

well-funded but transparent and accountable

implementation agency ... for exclusive focus

upon Downtown development.”

Thus was born the Downtown Investment

Authority. CEO Aundra Wallace came in 2013

and plunged into leading the development

of a new Community Redevelopment Area

Plan, built on a set of consultants, “several

hundred community stakeholders” and 43

public meetings over 2014. The City Council

approved it in February 2015.

The plan, which looks out 30 years, warns

that it “requires consistent support by the

city’s administrations, legislative bodies and

business leaders as it transcends time.” It’s

a 381-page document that, for Downtown

devotees, is worth reading for its descriptions

of issues, solutions and projects and its comparisons

to other cities.

“Many studies offered recommendations

in the past to renew Downtown, but

until now never has an agency had the

decision-making power to create a plan and

execute it without City Council approval,

a streamlined process that was one of the

main reasons behind its creation,” the T-U’s

Christopher Hong wrote. “The authority’s

independence would make it a ‘one-stop

shop’ that could approve projects and attract

businesses with incentives without navigating

through multiple levels of government.

It would also protect the authority from the

changing priorities associated with elected

officials entering and leaving office and allow

it to pursue a plan beyond a single mayoral

administration.”

City Council gave the DIA $2.5 million

for its first year, meant to include only some

relatively small projects. Subsidies or other

support for large projects, like the Shipyards

and Laura Street Trio, still have to be approved

by the council.

But DIA was out of the gate, and Wallace

points to a sizable list of modest but recommended

projects that are done or in process:

lighting improvements, free Downtown

Wi-Fi, urban art and streetscape, bike racks,

Hemming Park redesign and programming

and a “retail enhancement program” that,

Wallace says, invested in a dozen Downtown

businesses for 125 new jobs and reduced retail

vacancies from 37 percent to 21 percent.

With private and other money invested

in the FSCJ student housing, the Cowford

Chophouse, the Jessie Ball duPont Center

and the Trio, Barnett Bank and an associated

parking building, Wallace said $125 million

has been invested in Downtown in the past

24 months.

Meanwhile, DIA is working on bigger

Downtown projects, including the Shipyards,

The District (formerly Healthy Town), finalizing

the Trio and Barnett Bank and other,

more market-driven projects.

“We’re right on time with how long it

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takes to do those things,” Wallace said. “Real

estate projects take time. . . This is a marathon,

not a sprint.”

Is the Trio/Barnett project really going to

happen this time? Yes, Wallace said, because

the right financial partners are now in place.

“I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Noting that 2017 is “a critical year for us,”

he said the biggest need is for those patient

investors to begin to step up. “We want to

see more entrepreneurs . . . We need some

more risk-takers ... Nothing

breeds more investment like

success, and that’s measured

by building cranes.”

Much of the positivism

around Downtown revitalization

now is how well

the work of the new DIA

is being received by other

leaders.

Jake Gordon, CEO of

Downtown Vision, the

non-profit supported by

Downtown businesses, said

DIA has made great progress:

“The CRA plan is very,

very smart. It’s the way we need to go forward.

Our board completely supports it.”

Lori Boyer, president of the City Council

and council member representing the Southbank,

is a champion of Downtown, and she

sees the stars in alignment this time. “I was

there at the creation of DIA, and I’m seeing

them come together as a group. They have

jelled and understand their role. They are

working effectively.”

THE COMMITMENT

OF THE MAYOR

As an accountant by training and a

Republican by temperament, Mayor Lenny

Curry is not one to exaggerate or bloviate.

So listen to the way he talked to the Times-

Union editorial board in October, as he took

a rare break from his intense focus on the

pension-funding issue to set up his next big

priority:

“We are also going to transform Downtown.

It’s coming ... This is not going to be

small-time stuff in the next few years. ...

Private-sector dollars where government is

the conduit is the key to do big, bold things

... You will see in the months ahead us rolling

infrastructure work that will speak to an environment

that additional private dollars will

want to invest in Downtown. The District’s

going to happen ...

“You have to set a tone and a culture if you

want to get things done. So what I can share

with you, I ask the private sector folks, every

time I see them: If we get our part done, when

can I see cranes? I want to see them tomorrow.

Because cranes speak to what’s coming.

“By the end of four years you will have

seen real development in and around the

whole area from the Shipyards, Met Park,

down to Berkman. It won’t just be a concept

and a conversation. There will be work done,

and I would like to see some of that work

completed (by the end of his term). Some of

the stuff, because it’s so big and bold, will go

“My approach is that the big projects will

attract the small projects. They all connect,

and they all make for a vibrant area.”

LENNY CURRY

JACKSONVILLE MAYOR

beyond the first four years.

“When you have entrepreneurs, individuals,

with capital liquidity to invest hundreds of

millions of dollars in our city, it’s our job, it’s

my job, to work with them to get the projects

going, to get them moving.

“At the end of the day, what do we want

Downtown? We want people Downtown, we

want arts Downtown, we want entertainment

Downtown. We want them living, we want

them working, we want them playing. If we

get the private sector moving, all that stuff is

going to come.

“Let’s talk about the riverfront. How do

you get the river active in a big way? You

have people living, being entertained, being

around big spaces that they feel good about.

From there with the District on the other side,

it will all fall into place. It’s all about density,

it’s about people. . .

“There are big projects and small projects.

My approach is that the big projects will attract

the small projects. They all connect, and

they all make for a vibrant area. Local dollars

have been willing to invest for years. They just

haven’t had a team in government willing to

sit down and say, let’s map this out, let’s make

a decision and let’s go. For whatever reason

in the past there has been too much debate

about why, where, who is this going to upset.

I am saying we are just going to go, period.

“They now know that they have a government

that is going to facilitate this and go.

And we’re not going to worry about ... you

can’t please everybody. If you try to please everybody

you’re not going to get things done,

and, I think maybe that has been part of the

issue with Downtown in the past.”

Those four M’s are why Downtown Jacksonville

is about to bloom and boom.

I don’t say that lightly because I’ve been

burned before. In my column Sept. 1, 2013,

I wrote confidently that the old Bostwick

Building, also known for its Jaguar stripes,

was about to be turned into a classy anchor

for the Elbow district: “If

all goes as planned, the

building will be sold to a

partnership that plans to

convert it into a ‘fine-dining

steak and seafood restaurant,’

with a rooftop patio for

al fresco dining overlooking

the Main Street bridge. It’s

to open in November 2014.”

The purchase happened,

but all didn’t go as

planned. November 2014

came and went, and so

did November 2015, and

the Bostwick Building just

sat there at Ocean and Bay, deteriorating.

Another Downtown disappointment. Finally,

some work began, but at one point, it looked

like just a couple of walls being propped up to

avoid collapse.

Now I know why. The bricks in the other

walls had been removed and numbered,

one by one, then restored, the architect says,

within two feet of where they were placed

when the building was built about 1902. The

reconstruction topped out in November 2016.

I recently toured the building and

watched it being transformed into what

finally will be the Cowford Chophouse. Those

walls are enclosed now, and workers are

finishing wiring, plumbing, the interiors. You

can see where the kitchens and bars will be.

The owners, perhaps burned themselves

back in November 2014, won’t give an opening

date. Construction is to be completed

“this summer.”

But it will open. Businesspeople don’t

invest $10 million in restoring an old building

and not open it. Yes, $10 million invested on

one corner of Downtown for a restaurant.

On its first night, I am going up to the

rooftop terrace bar overlooking the Main

Street Bridge over the St. Johns River, order a

martini and toast the new Jacksonville.

FRANK DENTON was editor of The Florida-Times

Union in 2008-2016 and now is editor at large. He

lives in Avondale.

72 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


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THE FINAL WORD

‘Lack of identity’

one factor hindering

Downtown growth

LORI

BOYER

PHONE

(904) 630-1382

EMAIL

LBoyer@coj.net

owntown is on the verge of

D transformation, and it will

change the image of our city and

the attitude of our residents about our

urban core. Five years from now, we will

be the new Austin or Nashville.

Jacksonville is blessed with a wonderful Florida

climate, friendly and hard-working residents and a

Downtown bisected by the majestic St. Johns River,

an American National Heritage gateway. Downtown

is home to the Jaguars, the Jumbo Shrimp and

a wide array of sporting events that cater to our

passion for sports. We have great museums, top

chefs and a vibrant craft brewing scene. We love

the Navy and our country. And we have a pretty

amazing history — of people, events and places.

But Jacksonville has long suffered from a lack of

clear identity and strong sense of community pride.

We were the tourist capital of Florida at the turn

of the last century, the heart of the movie industry

before Hollywood and the banking and insurance

headquarters of the South. But since the 1990s, our

identity has been adrift.

Now is the time to acknowledge our natural

assets — like the magnificent river — and recognize

that our true and everlasting identity is built around

them. And our Downtown, straddling the banks

of the St. Johns, is the perfect place to make the

statement that we LOVE Jacksonville and believe in

our future.

This is not just something about to happen — it is

a process that is already well underway and gaining

momentum with each passing day.

If you look closely, you can see the small pieces

coming together and big ones lined up in queue.

Between residential projects under construction

like the Broadstone on the Southbank and the

Lofts at LaVilla, to restored historic buildings

like the Cowford Chophouse, to the Daily’s

Place amphitheater, Downtown is on the move.

The restoration of the Laura Street Trio and the

development of The District and the Shipyards

should all commence within a year.

Private investment and the energy that more

residents bring to the urban core are critical to

Downtown’s success, and Mayor Lenny Curry is

committed to make these developments a reality.

New entertainment venues are opening, including

the amphitheater, Intuition Ale Works and Manifest

Distilling, and at least one new hotel is proposed.

While these developments are key, they alone are

not enough. The highly desirable Peninsula and

Strand on the Southbank are full of residents, but

their presence is barely felt Downtown.

Imagine a riverfront, accessible to everyone,

bustling with joggers, families on a stroll and

tourists exploring the waterfront. The sounds of

music are muffled by the splashing fountains, and

lush gardens provide relief from the heat of the

paved walkways. Water taxis and boats crisscross

the river providing tours and transit options to those

who prefer not to walk the series of pedestrianfriendly

bridges. Storyboards educate and entertain

visitors and residents alike about our unique

history, culture and character. A dramatic light show

provides nightly feature entertainment. Signs direct

you to the water and to parking, and each stop on

the Riverwalk is as unique and interesting as the

Downtown neighborhood behind it.

This vision of our Downtown waterfront is not

just for tourists and not just for those who live near

or in Downtown, but for everyone to enjoy and

celebrate. Downtown should be worth a visit not

just for the Jazz Festival, a concert or football game

— but every day.

Those public waterfront improvements are also

underway. Downtown will be THE place to be in the

very near future! Join the effort by volunteering to

help, promoting the vision and sharing your love of

Jacksonville and its heart, Downtown.

LORI BOYER, who represents the Southside, including the

Southbank and San Marco, is president of the City Council

and a leading advocate and activist for Downtown.

74 J MAGAZINE | JUNE 2017


REVITALIZE

& PRESERVE

Formed to revitalize and preserve downtown property values

and prevent deterioration in the downtown business district.

The Downtown Investment Authority was created to revitalize

Downtown Jacksonville by utilizing Community Redevelopment

Area resources to spur economic development. The Downtown

Investment Authority is the governing body for the Downtown

Community Redevelopment Areas established by the City

Council of Jacksonville. The DIA offers a variety of incentives for

businesses to locate Downtown, including expedited permitting

and economic development incentives.

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