J Magazine Fall 2017

riverside1

The magazine of the rebirth of Jacksonville's downtown

THE MAGAZINE OF THE REBIRTH OF JACKSONVILLE’S DOWNTOWN

OWNERSHIP

I S S U E

PAST ITS PRIME

COULD A NEW

CONVENTION

CENTER BREaTHE

MORE LIFE INTO

DOWNTOWN?

P26

DEVELOPMENT

THE CATHEDRAL

DISTRICT AIMS

TO ADD HEART

TO THE CORE

P66

HOMELESSNESS

NO QUICK FIX

IN SIGHT FOR

DOWNTOWN

HOMELESS

POPULATION

P78

WHO OWNS

DOWNTOWN?

DISPLAY THROUGH NOVEMBER 2017

$4.95

HINT: HE’S ONE OF THEM

P18

FALL 2017


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contents

Issue 2 // Volume 1 // FALL 2017

26SUB

PRIME

BY FRANK DENTON

18 40 52

59

WHO OWNS

DOWNTOWN?

BY MARILYN YOUNG

NEAR WALK

BOTTOM

BY MIKE CLARK

THE URBANITES

BY ROGER BROWN

UNCOVERING

THE NECKLACE

BY RON LITTLEPAGE

AN URBAN

REVIVAL

BY LILLA ROSS

FLOAT TRIPS

BY PAULA HORVATH

66 74 78 86

DOWNTOWN

HOMELESSNESS

BY PAULA HORVATH

ELBOW BOOM

BY JASMINE MARSHALL

6

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


J MAGAZINE

PARTNERS

DEPARTMENTS

9 FEEDBACK

11 FROM THE EDITOR

13 BRIEFING

14 PROGRESS REPORT

16 RATING DOWNTOWN

45 12 HOURS DOWNTOWN

49 EYESORE

92 THE BIG PICTURE

95 QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

98 THE FINAL WORD

THE MAGAZINE OF THE REBIRTH OF JACKSONVILLE’S DOWNTOWN

OWNERSHIP

I S S U E

PAST ITS PRIME

COULD A NEW

CONVENTION

CENTER BREATHE

MORE LIFE INTO

DOWNTOWN?

P26

DEVELOPMENT

THE CATHEDRAL

DISTRICT AIMS

TO ADD HEART

TO THE CORE

P66

HOMELESSNESS

NO QUICK FIX

IN SIGHT FOR

DOWNTOWN

HOMELESS

POPULATION

P78

WHO OWNS

DOWNTOWN?

DISPLAY THROUGH NOVEMBER 2017

$4.95

HINT: HE’S ONE OF THEM

P18

FALL 2017

ON THE COVER

Ever wonder who owns all of

the property in Downtown

Jacksonville? Or, how much of it is

even being taxed? » SEE PAGE 18

ILLUSTRATION BY JEFF DAVIS


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

H

THE MAGAZINE OF

THE REBIRTH OF

JACKSONVILLE’S

DOWNTOWN

H

Michael P. Clark

Roger Brown

WRITERS

PUBLISHER

Mark Nusbaum

GENERAL MANAGER/

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Jeff Davis

EDITOR

Frank Denton

VP OF SALES

Lana Champion

DIRECTOR OF SALES

Lyn Sargent

VP OF CIRCULATION

Amy McSwain

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.

© 2017 Times-Union Media. All rights reserved.

A PRODUCT OF

EDITORIAL BOARD


FEEDBACK

THE PREMIERE ISSUE

BY THE TIME the first issue of

J Magazine hit the streets in June, we found

ourselves inundated with feedback on

everything from creative ways we can work

together to improve the core to what’s wrong

with Downtown Jacksonville. Kevin Borovsky

wasn’t afraid to share his enthusiasm AND

even dream a little in the process: “PLEASE

get downtown rocking!!! A large Ferris wheel

by the river by the stadium, for example.”

RE: Activating the Shipyards: Jaguars

owner Shad Khan continues partnering with

the city to invest in Downtown Jacksonville

“Shad Khan is one of

the BEST things to

happen to Jacksonville!”

STEVEN JACKSON SR.

RE: DOWNTOWN: It’s time to fix it!

“If you want to revitalize

Downtown, you have to

have cheap/free parking

and affordable housing.”

Rick Puckett

“Too much violence

Downtown, I’m speaking

from experience ... I avoid

going Downtown at all

cost.”

Carolyn Cancilla

“The only time I’m

Downtown is during

football season.”

Michael Andre Watkins

“One word: crime.”

Jonathon Armstrong

“I avoid (Downtown)

because of the following:

1. One-way streets

2. Lack of parking – expense

3. Pan handlers/homeless

4. Crime

5. Pricey venues

6. Jail/bail bonds/court”

Ray Seabolt Jr.

“Too large of a homeless

population!!!

Zaida Perez

RE: A RIVER RUNS

THROUGH US

“All you have to

do is be behind

some out-of-town

traffic on the

Fuller Warren

and watch how

they stare at the

river. We have

never used our

best asset to our

advantage like we

should.”

Mary M Roe

“About time!! So

much potential!!!”

Billy Mitchell

“So is Shad the

ONLY millionaire

in Jacksonville

willing to put his

money where his

vision is?”

Mark Anthony Rivera

“There is nothing

futuristic about

Daily’s Place”

Michele Fraser

“Khan is literally

offering to develop

Jacksonville for us,

and people are still

complaining. Way

to go.”

Tommy Higginbotham

“Khan is a great

person. He sees

the potential and

strives to make Jax

great again!!!”

Robin Bennett

RE: The Space Race: When it comes to parking in

Jacksonville’s Downtown, perception may be a reality

“Paying for parking is why

I don’t go Downtown.”

Ron Spofee

“Parking is hell. Maybe

put that on your list of

to-do`s.”

Bianca Rodriguez

“My No.1 issue every time

I have been Downtown is

parking where I need to

go. Not walk six or seven

blocks from where I found

parking to wherever it was

that I needed to go.”

Steven Pulley

RE: EYESORE:

Berkman Plaza II

“Definitely do

something (about

Berkman II).

Nothing scares away

potential business

and investors like

buildings sitting

around in supposedly

prominent parts of

town unfinished.”

Beck Stein

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 9


FROM THE EDITOR

Downtown cranes

signal momentum as

projects take shape

FRANK

DENTON

PHONE

(904) 359-4197

EMAIL

frank.denton@

jacksonville.com

f you haven’t been Downtown in

I a few months, you’ve missed a

long-lost and beautiful sight.

Cranes. Construction cranes.

They’ve been at work all around Downtown: erecting

the Lofts at LaVilla, the new Regional Transportation

Center and the Houston Street Manor apartments on the

west side of Downtown and, of course, Daily’s Place on

the east end.

On the Southbank, there have been cranes lofting

the Broadstone River House apartments and the Baptist-M.D.Anderson

Cancer Center.

On the Northbank Riverwalk, three cranes are poised

to rip out a collapsed street and an old parking lot to

recreate a St. Johns River inlet that soon could be the site

of ... well, read my story on page 26.

It was only last October that Mayor Lenny Curry

expressed urgency to the Times-Union Editorial Board

about Downtown revitalization: “When can I see cranes?

I want to see cranes. I want to see them tomorrow.”

He’s seeing some now, and there are more to come:

Our Progress Report is on page 14.

As encouraging as the crane sightings are, note they

are on the periphery of Downtown, as if they’re surrounding

and anticipating the main events to catalyze

true revitalization: the Shipyards, the Laura Street Trio/

Barnett Bank, The District, a convention center and the

successors to the Landing and Berkman II.

If you love Jacksonville (and aren’t a complete cynic),

you have to be getting excited about the promise of all

those projects ... but it’s still just that, promise, until those

cranes actually are at work lifting steel into the air.

We have to keep our focus sharp, our minds open

and our pressure resolute.

Since the premiere issue of J three months ago,

Downtown revitalization has made real progress, with

those cranes and other small but important steps:

n Curry and Mark Lamping, Jaguars president

representing Shad Khan’s Iguana Investments, visited

Kansas City, St. Louis and Baltimore looking for ideas for

public-private partnerships.

n The District announced that its massive development

will include a 200-room hotel.

n In a symbolic rebirth, Morton’s steakhouse

opened in the Hyatt Regency, five years after giving up

the ghost on the Southbank. It’ll have competition from

the coming Cowford Chophouse.

n Curry’s budget includes money to raze the old

courthouse and city hall to allow development, possibly

as a convention center, and maybe to fund improvements

to the venerable Emerald Necklace plan. See Ron

Littlepage’s story on page 59.

n The Downtown Investment Authority is working

on “road diets” and two-way streets to humanize

Downtown.

n A consultant’s study of a new convention center

concluded: “Not now.” But it meant not yet, until some

other Downtown projects come to life – and they’re on

the verge. So soon, it can be, “Yes, now!”

You’ll read all about that in this second issue of J and

more:

On page 18, Marilyn Young shows why much of

Downtown doesn’t pay property taxes, Mike Clark

explores the need for better walkability (page 40), and

Paula Horvath asks why our river taxis can’t be expanded

and cheaper, or even free (page 74).

Downtown has lots of things to do but needs more.

Jasmine Marshall wants to lure you into the Elbow entertainment

district (page 86).

If you’re bothered by the homeless or transient people

Downtown, Paula Horvath tells how Orlando dealt

with the issue (page 78) — and introduces you to one of

them who wants a word with you (page 82).

The quietest part of Downtown is becoming one of

the most interesting. Read Lilla Ross’ take on a spiritual

approach to revitalizing the Cathedral District (page 66).

Downtown already has some committed residents

who are passionate about their neighborhood. As Roger

Brown writes (page 52), they’re even organized!

Remember in the first J, we declared Berkman II an

eyesore? Well, we think that’s about to be resolved, so we

found another — a high-profile company visually polluting

the Riverwalk whom we call out on page 49.

If things seem to be moving fast, remember that each

Wednesday we devote most of the T-U op-ed page to all

things Downtown.

Meanwhile, all of us need to keep the faith up —

and the pressure on.

Frank Denton was editor of The Florida Times-Union in

2008-16 and now is editor at large and editor of J. He lives in

Avondale.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 11


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DIGITS

TOTAL

ASSESSED

VALUE OF

ALL THE

PROPERTY IN

DOWNTOWN

JACKSONVILLE

SOURCE:

2016 Property

Appraiser’s Office

BRIEFING

By The Florida Times-Union Editorial Board

Thumbs down to JEA

for making it necessary

for Mayor Lenny Curry

to mediate its technical

dispute with the

Cowford Chophouse.

Thumbs up to Fresh

Market, the Brooklyn

pioneer which had a

“Grand Re-opening” to

show off some additions

and improvements.

Thumbs down to

the snail-like pace of

updating parking

meters Downtown,

some of which still don’t

allow credit cards for

payment.

Thumbs up to the

Jumbo Shrimp, who

were a hit on and off

the Downtown Baseball

Grounds in their first

year as Jacksonville’s

rebranded minor-league

baseball team.

Thumbs down to the

still-too-familiar sight of

transients and

homeless people

sleeping overnight along

the Riverwalk. Sit, stand,

walk, but don’t make us

watch you sleep there.

HITS & MISSES

Thumbs up to the

Friends of

Hemming Park for

doing a much better

job of balancing the

responsibility of keeping

the Downtown park

safe and clean with the

desire to keep it full

of activities that draw

people.

Thumbs down to

the confusing

street pattern

of Bay Street,

which continues

to confound even

the most seasoned

Downtown folks with

its perplexing lane

signals and awkwardly

aligned lanes.

Thumbs up to our

Jacksonville

Symphony

Orchestra, which

expanded its season

and its Masterworks

series and is upgrading

its musicians.

Thumbs up to the

Jaguars’ effort to

bring the NFL Draft

event to Jacksonville

sometime between

2019 and 2023.

FIRST PERSON

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»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»»

Thumbs down to

our city’s failure

to take advantage

of showcasing

Jacksonville’s rich

and significant role

in African-

American

history.

Thumbs down to

the Main Street

Bridge being

constantly closed over

weekends, discouraging

people from trying to

come Downtown.

Thumbs up to the

increasing presence of

cranes along our

Downtown skyline

and shovels into our

Downtown dirt. Things

are getting built, and

progress is being

made.

Thumbs up to

Daily’s Place

amphitheater,

which has certainly

lived up to its promise

to be an intimate, eyecatching

Downtown

facility that can attract

top-tier musical

performers.

“Our library. Our river. Heck, the Desert Rider

(on Hogan Street) is a pearl — it’s got the best

cheesy grits you will eat in a restaurant.”

Eric Smith, former city councilman ON DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE (PAGE 52)

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 13


BROOKLYN

PARK

CHELSEA

PARK

BROOKLYN

J MAGAZINE’S

PROGRESS REPORT

HOUSTON

FORSYTH

ADAMS

PRIME OSBORN

CONVENTION

CENTER

OAK

JACKSON

DUVAL

MONROE

MAGNOLIA

MAY

RIVERSIDE AVE.

MADISON

Monroe Lofts

A 108–unit project, approved

by the Downtown Development

Review Board.

STATUS: Closing documents for the

financing of the project have just begun

to be circulated among the parties. The

project remains on schedule, with construction

in early 2018.

JEFFERSON

LAVILLA

BAY

WATER

BROAD

CLAY

Lofts at

LaVilla

This complex will

feature studio,

one, two FLORIDA and three bedroom

units TIMES-UNION

directly in front of Prime

Osborn Convention Center.

STATUS: Construction continues

as planned and the project

remains on schedule for a fall

opening.

PEARL

JULIA

ACOSTA BRIDGE

Houston

Street

Manor

A seven-story,

72-unit senior housing

development at Houston

and Jefferson on the edge of

LaVilla catty-corner from the

Courthouse.

STATUS: Under construction,

to be completed by

December.

HEMMING

PARK

HOGAN

LAURA

Laura Street

Trio and Barnett

Bank Building

Renovation of the iconic

buildings into residences, offices, a hotel

and commercial/retail uses. Mayor Lenny

JACKSONVILLE

Curry and the Downtown Investment

TIMES-UNION

LANDING

Authority CENTER approved the $79 million project,

with $9.8 million from the city.

STATUS: Redevelopment agreements

have been signed, and due diligence on

the future garage at Forsyth and Main is

set to begin.

BEAVER

ASHLEY

CHURCH

MAIN

MAIN STREET

BRIDGE

FRIENDSHIP

FOUNTAIN

OCEAN

FOREST

OAK

MAY

UNITY

PLAZA

TRANSPORTATION CENTER

The $57 million multi-modal hub, in

LaVilla across from Prime Osborn, will

centralize local, regional and intercity

transportation, including local bus, Skyway, regional

bus and intercity bus and passenger rail service.

STATUS: Under construction. Completion expected

by the end of 2019. Watch a live feed of construction

on JTA’s website at www.jtafla.com.

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: The DIA approved a $9 million

grant to assist in the development of

the approximately $63 million project.

PRUDENTIAL DR.

RIVERPLACE

SAN MARCO BLVD.

MARY

RIVERSIDE

N

RIVERSIDE

ARTS MARKET

Burlock & Barrel Distillery

The whiskey distillery and tasting room near

Unity Plaza has its state and federal licenses.

STATUS: Final Downtown Development

Review Board approval pending.

FULLER WARREN BRIDGE


NEWMAN

SPRINGFIELD

FSCJ student

housing

The project will have 20

apartments for 58 students,

and a café named 20 West, part

of the school’s culinary program.

STATUS: Building renovations are

underway. The café should open in the

fall and the housing sometime in 2018.

MARKET

LIBERTY

WASHINGTON

CATHERINE

Cowford

Chop

House

With $10 million

of restoration going into

the former Bostwick Building,

this upscale restaurant across

from the Main Street Bridge

will feature a rooftop lounge.

STATUS: Restoration is

almost complete, and the

opening is set for early

October.

PALMETTO

MEMORIAL

ARENA

ARLINGTON

EXPRESSWAY

A. PHILIP RANDOLPH

BASEBALL

GROUNDS

Jaguars’ indoor

practice field

The 94,000-square-foot

facility is part of the

$90-million EverBank Field project that

included the Daily’s Place amphitheater,

which opened in May.

STATUS: Open!

GEORGIA

ADAMS

FRANKLIN

EVERBANK

FIELD

BAY

The Doro

District

Plans include a

restaurant, bar and

bowling and possibly a hotel or

multifamily residential.

STATUS: Approved by the

Downtown Development Review

Board and the DIA.

SPORTS COMPLEX

GATOR BOWL BLVD.

DAILY’S

PLACE

METROPOLITAN

PARK

FLAGLER

NORTHBANK

KIPP

Old courthouse

and city hall

Mayor Lenny Curry proposed

$8 million in his budget for

next year to raze the buildings to make

them available for development.

STATUS: Pending in City Council

Broadstone

River House

This five- to-sixstory

structure will

have 260 to 300 apartments, with

a parking structure.

STATUS: Construction continues

on schedule.

SOUTHBANK

BROADCAST

The Shipyards

Shad Khan’s plan for mixed-use redevelopment

of the old Shipyards and Metropolitan

Park. Approved by the DIA.

STATUS: Negotiations on details are ongoing. The DIA

approved a site-access agreement for Khan’s Iguana

Investments to begin environmental assessment of the

Metropolitan Park (including the Kidz Campus site).

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

The District

Peter Rummell’s community concept

will have up to 1,170 residences, 200

hotel rooms, 285,500 square feet of

commercial/retail and 200,000 square feet of office

space, with a marina.

STATUS: The redevelopment agreement is being

negotiated among the developers, the Downtown

Investment Authority, the city and JEA.

MONTANA

HENDRICKS

KINGS

ONYX

LOUISA

The San Marco apartments

This $25 million development will have 143 units of

workforce housing with a few studios but the rest oneand

two-bedroom apartments.

STATUS: The DIA approved development rights and a $2.5 million

grant in August. Next: the Downtown Development Review Board.

SAN MARCO

DOWNTOWN

JACKSONVILLE

A J MAGAZINE REPORT

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 15


POWER

RATING DOWNTOWN

By The Florida Times-Union Editorial Board

Apartment construction pushing

progress in Downtown Jacksonville

4 4

8

4

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

PUBLIC SAFETY

LEADERSHIP

HOUSING

INVESTMENT

Mayor Curry budgeted 100

more cops, but it will take time

for them to be trained and on

the street. While there have

been a rash of thefts,

a dangerous Downtown is

mostly a misperception.

PREVIOUS RATING: 4

Curry is on the case, in his

budget and priorities and

behind the scenes, as he

pushes and cajoles to confront

tough issues and make

things happen.

PREVIOUS RATING: 8

Apartment developments are

going up in LaVilla and the

Southbank, with more coming

in Brooklyn and San Marco.

It’ll be great to have those

FSCJ students living on

Adams Street.

PREVIOUS RATING: 3

All those new apartment

complexes, Daily’s Place and

the Baptist Health buildings are

a good start, but we’re looking

for massively more private

investment just waiting for

Downtown momentum.

PREVIOUS RATING: 3

4

5

3

2

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

DEVELOPMENT

EVENTS & CULTURE

TRANSPORTATION

CONVENTION CENTER

We’re waiting for shovels in

the ground and cranes building

the Shipyards, The District,

a convention center and

whatever replaces the

Landing and Berkman II.

PREVIOUS RATING: 4

Daily’s Place is packing ’em

in. The resurgent Jacksonville

Symphony expanded to

38 weeks, soon to be 40,

with Masterworks increasing

from 10 to 12. See the JSO

free Nov. 1 at Art Walk.

PREVIOUS RATING: 4

Watch a live feed of the

new Regional Transportation

Center in LaVilla on JTA’s

website (www.jtafla.com).

It will get Greyhound off Pearl

Street. The river taxis

are stepping up.

PREVIOUS RATING: 3

Another consultant’s

report says “not now,”

because Downtown isn’t

ready. When other plans

become soup, it needs to

become NOW!

PREVIOUS RATING: 2

OVERALL RATING

With all those new apartments, we’ll have the people

living Downtown, and we’re adding even more things for

them to do. Even more people will enjoy Downtown

when the mainsprings – the Shipyards, The District and,

dare we say, a reimagined Landing – come to life.

PREVIOUS RATING: 4

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

JEFF DAVIS

16

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


18

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


FROM GOVERNMENT buildings TO

CHURCHES, ARE TAX EXEMPT PROPERTY

OWNERS IN OUR DOWNTOWN TAKING UP

VALUABLE REAL ESTATE WHILE PUTTING

A DAMPER ON DEVELOPMENT?

WHO OWNS

DOWNTOWN?

BY MARILYN YOUNG // FOR J MAGAZINE

PHOTOGRAPH BY CHARLES SUTTON // SUTTON DIGITAL DESIGN

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 19


DOWNTOWN’S HIGHEST-ASSESSED PROPERTY

Which Downtown property had the highest assessed value in 2016? THE Duval

County Courthouse at 501 W. Adams St. topped the list at $205.41 million.

(Don’t forget, the cost for the facility, that opened in 2012, was $350 million.)

EXCLUSIVE

ONLINE

CONTENT

Visit our website at

jacksonville.com/jmag

to view an interactive

map containing the

owners, valuations

and taxes for every

property in Downtown

Jacksonville.

owntown Jacksonville has long been an anchor for government,

churches and nonprofits, which bring thousands of workers, worshipers

and customers to the urban core.

But that anchor causes a drag on the amount of property taxes

paid in the three Downtown taxing districts.

Those institutions typically don’t pay property taxes, as long as

Dthe property’s primary use is for an exempt purpose.

Other exemptions include residences with an assessed value less than $25,000 that have the standard

$25,000 homestead exemption.

Last year, those exemptions resulted in no taxes being collected on the tax accounts that make up

43 percent of the urban core’s $3.02 billion assessed value. Those tax-exempt organizations do pay

taxes when operating a non-exempt business, such as a parking garage.

For example, government agencies owned nearly 400 sites owned by government agencies

are worth more than $1.07 billion, but they were taxed on just one property that had a taxable

JEFF DAVIS

20

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


TOTAL Market value:

$3,092,316,515

TOTAL Assessed value:

$3,021,914,038

TOTAL Taxable value:

$1,459,199,029

WHO OWNS DOWNTOWN?

» GRAPHIC BY JEFF DAVIS & MARILYN YOUNG // J MAGAZINE «

TOP OWNERS

(based on assessed value)

1

City of

Jacksonville

Assessed value:

$868.63 million

Taxable value:

$137,225

2

Southern

Baptist Hospital

of Florida Inc.

(holdings include

Baptist Medical Center)

Assessed value:

$266.21 million

Taxble value:

$10 million

3

Hertz

Jacksonville

One LLC

(holdings include the

Bank of America Tower)

Assessed value:

$75.71 million

Taxable value:

$75.71 million

4

Allegiance

Jacksonville LLC

(holdings include the

Wells Fargo Center)

Assessed value:

$66.17 million

Taxable value:

$66.17 million

5

Federal

government

Assessed value:

$57.82 million

Taxable value: $0

40+34+13+3+10+u

38.48%

COMMERCIAL

ASSESSED VALUE:

$1.16 billion

TAXABLE VALUE:

$1.12 billion

10.94%

RESIDENTIAL

ASSESSED VALUE:

$330.76 million

TAXABLE VALUE:

$313.86 million

HOW THE PROPERTY BREAKS DOWN

2.59%

CHURCHES

ASSESSED VALUE:

$78.23 million

TAXABLE VALUE:

$6.64 million

35.55%

GOVERNMENT

ASSESSED VALUE:

$1.07 billion

TAXABLE VALUE:

$137,225

12.28%

NONPROFITS

ASSESSED VALUE:

$371 million

TAXABLE VALUE:

$13.24 million

SOURCE: 2016 Property

Appraiser’s Office

ADDING IT UP

6

Properties whose owners

and addresses are

confidential. (Two parking

lots, a residential condo, a

single-family home, a waste

land site and a group care/

sanitarium/convalescent

facility.)

11

Park/recreational sites

owned by the City of

Jacksonville.

43+57+

$

43

Percentage of properties in

Downtown’s total assessed

value that aren’t taxed.

141

Single-family homes in

Downtown, with assessed

values of $7,946 to $546,240.

228

Private and public parking

lots and garages in

Downtown’s taxing districts.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 21


WHO OWNS DOWNTOWN?

» DATA VISUALIZATION: Courtney Williams & MARC JENKINS «

TOP OWNERS

GOVERNMENT

COMMERCIAL

The City of Jacksonville’s 192 properties had a total

assessed value of $868.63 million, making it the top

owner in that category in 2016. The next closest is

Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida at $266.21 million.

Total assessed value: $1.07 billion

Percent of assessed value in Downtown: 35.55%

Total taxable value: $137,225

Percent of taxable value in Downtown: 0.01%

Total assessed value: $1.16 billion

Percent of assessed value in Downtown: 38.48%

Total taxable value: $1.12 billion

Percent of taxable value in Downtown: 77.03%

value of $137,225.

And First Baptist Church owns buildings

on 11 Downtown blocks, with a total

assessed value of $54.8 million, according

to records from the Property Appraiser’s

Office. In 2016, the church’s total taxable

value was $2.2 million tied to two of the

parking garages it operates.

The impact of the exemptions is typically

higher in downtowns than in urban

areas because of the strong presence of

governments, churches and nonprofits.

Taxes paid by Downtown entities in

Jacksonville totaled $29.09 million in

2016, just 2.5 percent of the $1.14 billion in

property taxes collected in Duval County,

according to the Tax Collector’s Office.

There has been increasing discussion

across the country about the impact those

property tax exemptions have on dwindling

government budgets, particularly

during the recession.

In 2015, Maine Gov. Paul LePage first

pushed the state Legislature to allow governments

to assess taxes on nonprofits

that owned property worth more than

$500,000, according to the Portland Press

Herald. The issue arose again this year

when a potential government shutdown

was being threatened.

While those debates have become

more frequent in the past decade, sweeping

changes to the exemptions aren’t likely

to be made anytime soon. They’ve been

in place for generations.

Aundra Wallace, CEO of the Downtown

Investment Authority, said he

wasn’t surprised by the percentage of

tax-exempt properties in Jacksonville’s

urban core.

“We are a city in the Southeast, and at

the end of the day, we’re still part of the

Bible Belt,” he said.

Wallace said that certainly puts more

pressure on officials to maximize potential

Downtown development opportunities.

Such as having a 28-acre Southbank

site owned by JEA become home to The

District, a planned healthy living community

by Elements Development of

Jacksonville. The Peter Rummell-Michael

Munz partnership recently signed a deal

with a hotel for the massive mixed-use

community planned along the St. Johns

River.

The development would include

285,500 square feet of commercial and

retail space, 200,000 square feet of office

space, 1,170 residential units, a 125-slip

marina and a public riverfront park, the

22

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017

SOURCE: 2016 Property Appraiser’s Office, ESRI


WHO OWNS DOWNTOWN?

» DATA VISUALIZATION: Courtney Williams & MARC JENKINS «

Times-Union previously reported.

Last year, the site at 801 Broadcast

Place had an assessed value of $25.9 million,

but because it’s owned by JEA, the

taxable value is zero.

The development value for The District

would be $400 million-$450 million,

which will increase the taxable value exponentially.

The same would be true for the 70

acres that Jacksonville Jaguars owner

Shad Khan wants to develop across from

EverBank Field.

If an agreement is reached with Khan’s

investment company, the city-owned

Metropolitan Park and Shipyards sites —

which have no taxable value — would become

another mega-development.

At full build-out, the project will include

600-1,000 residential units, a hotel,

300,000 to 500,000 square feet of office

space, 150,000 to 250,000 square feet

for retail and restaurants and a marina,

the Times-Union reported. All of which

should bring a huge increase in taxable

value.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget included

$8 million to demolish the old county

courthouse and city hall on Bay Street.

Wallace said the ability to have a clean

slate on the high-profile site near the Hyatt

Regency Jacksonville Riverfront would

be attractive to a developer.

And hopefully become another example

of turning a government-owned property

into a development that generates

jobs, capital investment and tax dollars.

Wallace pointed out that the tax-exempt

institutions in Downtown play a

role in its vitality and lifestyle.

Indeed, they invest millions in capital

improvements, employ thousands of

people who give a boost to Downtown

businesses and can serve as a catalyst for

growth.

For example, the Jessie Ball duPont

Fund spent more than $20 million to buy

and convert the former Haydon Burns Library

into an office center for nonprofits.

Those agencies brought 200 employees

to Downtown, all potential customers for

restaurants and stores.

The impact from the center’s 2015

opening was felt quickly, including by the

Burrito Gallery. The restaurant received

a $73,000 DIA grant to finance a kitchen

expansion and other work, which owners

said was partly necessary because of the

influx of customers from its new neighbor

just across Adams Street.

The renovations at the Jessie Ball du-

RESIDENTIAL

NONPROFITS

CHURCHES

Total assessed value: $330.76 million

Percent of assessed value in Downtown: 10.94%

Total taxable value: $313.86 million

Percent of taxable value in Downtown: 21.51%

Total assessed value: $371 million

Percent of assessed value in Downtown: 12.28%

Total taxable value: $13.24 million

Percent of taxable value in Downtown: 0.91 %

Total assessed value: $78.23 million

Percent of assessed value in Downtown: 2.59%

Total taxable value: $6.64 million

Percent of taxable value in Downtown: 0.45%

SOURCE: 2016 Property Appraiser’s Office, ESRI

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 23


Your city from a

NEW PERSPECTIVE.

WatsonRealtyCorp.com

800.257.5143

WatsonCommercial.com

904.731.4511


TOP PROPERTY

ASSESSED

VALUES

BY CATEGORY

Church

First Baptist Church

600 N. Main St.

Assessed value: $15.99 million

Taxable value: 0

Commercial

Bank of America Tower

50 N. Laura St.

Owner: Hertz Jacksonville

One LLC

Assessed value: $72.42 million

Taxable value: $72.42 million

Government

Duval County Courthouse

501 W. Adams St.

Owner: City of Jacksonville

Assessed value: $205.41 million

Taxable value: 0

Nonprofit

Baptist Medical Center

800 Prudential Drive

Owner: Southern Baptist Hospital

of Florida Inc.

Assessed value: $204.02 million

Taxable value: $5.85 million

Other

Group care/sanitarium/

convalescent facility

Owner and address are confidential

Assessed value: $3.32 million

Taxable value: 0

Residential

The Strand

1401 Riverplace Blvd.

Owner: Delorenzo Strand LLC

Assessed value: $44.93 million

Taxable value: $44.93 million

SOURCE: 2016 Property Appraiser’s Office

Pont Center raised the assessed value of the building from $1.9 million

in 2013 to $12.4 million in 2016, but no taxes were assessed because

the duPont Fund is a tax-exempt foundation.

First Baptist Church Senior Executive Pastor John Blount said the

church’s facilities include four parking garages, three worship auditoriums,

a grade school for kindergarten

through eighth grade

and a music training institute for

adults.

He said the church’s weekly

gatherings draw 6,000 people

from around the region to Downtown.

That, coupled with the

church’s other programs, such as

the school, adds “vibrancy” to the

area around the church and supports

nearby businesses.

“A healthy, vibrant, inviting

Downtown is essential for

this daily pulse of life to spread

throughout the region, to connect

to the neighborhoods, to

give a sense of unity and civic

pride to those who call it home,”

said Blount, who serves on the

Downtown Vision board.

Downtown Vision is specifically

impacted by the heavy

tax-exempt presence in the urban

core. Those owners that

don’t pay property taxes also aren’t

required to pay the additional

1.1 mil contribution to help

fund Downtown Vision.

Last year, the agency received

$704,492 through the assessment

paid by businesses in a 90-block

area, according to the Tax Collector’s

Office.

Jake Gordon, Downtown Vision’s

CEO, is thankful that many

exempt businesses choose to pay

the assessment, including the

duPont Center, First Baptist, JEA

and the JaxChamber.

Also, the General Services Administration

pays a fee for work

Downtown Vision does around

the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse.

Gordon said it is “similar” to the equivalent of a 1.1 mil contribution.

Curry’s budget included an additional contribution that would

match the full assessment on city-owned property, Gordon said. If approved

by council, the $146,831 will be used to hire more ambassadors

to drive Downtown Vision’s priority of keeping the urban core clean

and safe.

TOP 10 PROPERTY ASSESSED VALUES

1. Duval County

Courthouse

501 W. Adams St.

Owner: City of Jacksonville

Assessed value: $205.41 million

Taxable value: 0

2. Baptist Medical Center

800 Prudential Drive

Owner: Southern Baptist Hospital of

Florida

Assessed value: $204.02 million

Taxable value: $5.85 million

3. EverBank Field

1 EverBank Field Drive

Owner: City of Jacksonville

Assessed value: $166.28 million

Taxable value: 0

4. Bank of America Tower

50 N. Laura St.

Owner: Hertz Jacksonville One LLC

Assessed value: $72.42 million

Taxable value: $72.42 million

5. Police Memorial

Building

501 E. Bay St.

Owner: City of Jacksonville

Assessed value: $71.49 million

Taxable value: 0

6. Wells Fargo Center

1 W. Independent Drive

Owner: Allegiance Jacksonville LLC

Market value: $57.59 million

Taxable value: $57.59 million

7. Aetna Building

841 Prudential Drive

Owner: GV-IP Jacksonville Owner LLC

Assessed value: $46.85 million

Taxable value: $46.85 million

8. EverBank Center

301 W. Bay St.

Owner: Amkin West Bay LLC

Assessed value: $46.20 million

Taxable value: $46.20 million

9. Hyatt Regency

Jacksonville Riverfront

225 E. Coastline Drive

Owner: Jacksonville Hotel 2014

Purchaser LLC

Assessed value: $45.60 million

Taxable value: $45.60 million

10. The Strand

1401 Riverplace Blvd.

Owner: Delorenzo Strand LLC

Assessed value: $44.93 million

Taxable value: $44.93 million

JEFF DAVIS

Marilyn Young was an editor at The Florida Times-Union in

1998-2013 and was editor of the Financial News &

Daily Record in Downtown in 2013-2017.

GOVERNMENT

NONPROFIT

COMMERCIAL

RESIDENTIAL

SOURCE: 2016 Property Appraiser’s Office

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 25


SPECIAL

REPORT

As a HISTORIC LANDMARK OF A FORGOTTEN TIME,

THE JACKSONVILLE TERMINAL IS AN ICONIC STRUCTURE.

AS A MODERn DOWNTOWN HUB OF ACTIVITY, THE

Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center IS A BUST.

BY FRANK DENTON // PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFF DAVIS // J MAGAZINE

26

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


Built in 1919, the Jacksonville Terminal

was the largest railroad station in the South.

In 1986, the terminal was converted into

The Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 27


SPECIAL

REPORT

The Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, bless its heart, is still the grand Neo-Classical Revival monument that,

in its time as Union Terminal, welcomed thousands of people to Jacksonville every day for more than a half-century.

These days, it’s being crowded, and even obscured, by the new Jacksonville, with the Lofts at LaVilla smack in its

front yard and the new Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center arising on its north flank.

But if you get the right angle, the Prime Osborn retains much of its grandeur and some of its dignity, after having

been repurposed 30 years ago into an expansive meeting facility. “With 265,000 square feet of space,” its marketing

material says, “the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center is large enough and versatile enough to accommodate

gatherings of virtually any size.”

But it’s not a

convention center.

28

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


Vendors begin packing up as an August

tech conference winds down at the

Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center.

Its floor space and easy parking make it

ideal for community events, trade shows,

QuiltFests, Home & Patio Shows and even

proms and elegant balls — attracting locals

who can drive in for the function then drive

home in time for dinner or bed.

But it is not the convention center that

Jacksonville needs if it is to become the multifaceted

destination city that attracts purposeful

visitors from all over the country and

world to discover the city’s charms — and,

while they’re at it, have a good time, spend

some money and maybe invest here.

A train station, especially the one that was

the largest in the South when it was built in

1919, needs to be accessible but away from

the city center; a true convention center must

be in, and integrated into, the city’s beating

heart.

That realization is bubbling among city,

civic and business leaders, and there are

ideas and even plans — or maybe a plan —

quietly swirling around and awaiting the

right moment to go public and on Jacksonville’s

Downtown agenda.

But let’s find our way there.

Convention centers are not merely big

boxes but can be confoundingly complex:

whether and who to build what kind of facility

where and in conjunction with what — and

with whose money and toward what goals?

With the wisdom of more than 30 years

and the Prime Osborn experience, Jacksonville’s

leaders will be much smarter this time.

Before they propose a plan, they should

filter it through the cautionary study by Heywood

T. Sanders, an urban development

scholar, published in 2014 as his book “Convention

Center Follies: Politics, Power and

Public Investment in American Cities.”

Sanders recounts the rocky love affair

over the past half-century between cities,

eager for economic development and downtown

renewal, and convention centers. Rosy

recommendations from a small group of

industry consultants spurred many cities to

invest tax dollars into more and ever bigger

convention centers to compete against each

other in a “metropolitan arms race.”

“Over and over, consultant market and

feasibility studies for new or expanded convention

centers have forecast a significant

return in terms of new convention attendees,

visitor spending, economic impact and jobs,”

Sanders wrote.

But he said those projections typically

fell short. “The rhetoric of convention center

boosters in city after city has not been

matched by actual performance … Much as

consultant forecasts of demand and center

performance have proven faulty, the basic

assumptions about convention and trade

show attendees, their visitation and spending

patterns, have proved unrealistic.”

Jacksonville was a bit late to the convention-center

trend in the 1980s and still made

some classic mistakes, mostly betting on the

come:

The project would “clean up” the area

around the terminal.

Convention planners would want to

come to a facility because of its striking architecture

and history.

A major convention hotel would be built

just across the street.

Meanwhile, conventioneers could stay at

hotels on the other side of Downtown and get

to the center via the Skyway Express and water

taxis up McCoys Creek.

The center would lead to construction of

“a new showcase entrance into Downtown”

from I-95.

A $34 million “business and professional

office complex” was announced across the

street. There would be residential development

along McCoys Creek and in Brooklyn.

None of that happened.

Still, City Council had approved the $24.5

million project in June 1982 on a vote of 15-1,

and the renovated, expanded and renamed

center opened Oct. 17, 1986. The Times-

Union quickly reported bookings beyond the

consultants’ projections.

But within a month of Prime Osborn’s

opening, 150 meeting planners toured the

center, and the T-U reported that, while they

were impressed with the building, some said

they “will not consider booking conventions

in the city for at least three years because of

a lack of shopping, entertainment and hotel

rooms.”

Mollie Grulke of Deerfield, Ill., was more

blunt: Jacksonville’s hotels looked “rundown”

and local restaurants offered little other

than seafood. “I would not bring a group to

Jacksonville. There is nothing to do.”

Thirty years later, that hasn’t changed

nearly enough. In a new report, consultants

from the Strategic Advisory Group (now part

of Jones Lang LaSalle or JLL), hired by the

Downtown Investment Authority, say they

interviewed more than 30 meeting planners,

and most rated Jacksonville’s attractiveness

below 7 on a scale of 1-10.

“The areas that were cited most frequently

as challenges,” the report said, “were walkability,

the lack of a sufficient hotel package,

airlift, the need to ‘cleanup’ Downtown, safety

and the overall lack of ‘things to do.’”

Meanwhile, Prime Osborn has something

going on in at least one of its rooms 85

percent of the time — but over 2014, only 27

percent of its total available square footage

was actually used, compared to an industry

standard of 70 percent.

Jacksonville still does not have a convention

center.

So what, you reasonably might ask. Why

do we really need one?

The reasons now are significantly different

from the pragmatic, two-dimensional

ones that were used 30 years ago for the

Prime Osborn — which essentially were

cleaning up the LaVilla area and bringing in

out-of-towners to spend money in hotels and

restaurants.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 29


SPECIAL

REPORT

For today’s JacksonvillE,

bringing purposeful people from all over to

work creatively together would bring new

life and spirit to Downtown. Conventioneers

would put feet on the street and fannies in the

seats not only in hotels, bars and restaurants

but also in our handy and substantial arts,

culture and sports venues within walking or

Skyway distance.

More than that, you and I know that, if

Jacksonville has any sort of brand nationally,

it’s as the first half of the name of an NFL

team. “Jacksonville?” we hear when travelling,

“where’s that?” But when they actually

visit, they tend to want to stay, as many of us

did.

A convention center, said Gino Caliendo,

general manager of the Hyatt Regency,

“would open the market up and bring more

national exposure to Jacksonville. They’d

come here and see what we have and say ‘I

want to come back for vacation. Jacksonville

has the beach, the golf, the TPC ... ’”

Paul Astleford, Visit Jacksonville president

and CEO and a hospitality-industry veteran,

said, “Cities that know the value of convention

centers and trade shows know it goes far

beyond the dollars spent at the meetings. The

exposure is hugely influential for economic

development and growth — people who want

to move here, bring their business here, and

so forth.”

“When we go around the country selling

The Players or football, we need a package,

and that package is incomplete if the city

does not have a convention center,” Rick

Catlett, president and CEO of the JaxSports

Council, was quoted as saying at the Jacksonville

Business Journal Business of Sports

Summit. “If you don’t have that element

with hotels and a great stadium, we can’t get

events here. If we do not invest in a convention

center, we will keep taxes low and be

happy, but we will be limited in what the city

is able to do.”

“It would put Jacksonville on the map,”

said Ginny Myrick, a local economic-development

consultant. “It would bring a Downtown

after-hours presence, and hundreds

and hundreds of people would be employed,

people who would live Downtown in workforce

housing.”

“It would change the landscape for us

Downtown,” said Aundra Wallace, CEO of

the Downtown Investment Authority and

||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

Top 5 Convention

CenterS in the U.S.

Each year MeetingSource.com ranks the nation’s top convention centers using data from

the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), the National Business Travel Association

(NBTA) and the Institute of Business Travel Management.

1. CHICAGO:

McCormick Place

Located along Lake Michigan, McCormick

Place attracts close to 3 million visitors

each year and is also the largest convention

center in the U.S.

Exhibit hall floor: 2,670,000 sq. ft.

2. Las Vegas:

Las Vegas

Convention Center

This state-of-the-art facility, totals more

than 3.2 million sq ft and exceeds even the

highest standards in Vegas.

Exhibit hall floor: 1,940,631 sq. ft.

3. WASHINGTON, D.C.:

Washington

Convention Center

A relatively new convention center, the

attractions nearby make this a popular

convention destination.

Exhibit hall floor: 703,000 sq. ft.

4. ORLANDO:

Orange County

Convention Center

Orlando is a leader in the tradeshow

industry, and whatever you can dream up

for your next meeting, you can probably

make it happen there.

Exhibit hall floor: 2,100,000 sq. ft.

5. ATLANTA:

Georgia International

Convention Center

The world’s only convention center directly

connected to a major airport, GICC also

features Georgia’s largest ballroom at

40,000 sq. ft.

Exhibit hall floor: 150,000 sq. ft.

30 J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 SOURCE: meetingsource.com


‘‘

right convention center built at the right time

Cities that know the

VALUE Of convention

centers and trade shows know

it goes far beyond the dollars

spent at the meetings.”

PAUL ASTLEFORD

Visit Jacksonville president and CEO

the person most specifically responsible

for revitalization.

More specifically, in that new study, the

Strategic Advisory Group figured that the

— note those qualifications — could deliver

$3.52 in economic impact for every $1 invested

in debt service and operating-cost subsidy.

But Jacksonville would be buying into

intense intercity competition. “There are

rivalries between cities for the best sports

team, snack food, even slogan. But the most

cutthroat competition might be one local residents

barely ever notice: the bruising, toothand-nail

fight to host conventions and other

big special events,” Amanda Erickson wrote

five years ago in a CityLab article titled “Is It

Time to Stop Building Convention Centers?”

She quoted Christopher Leinberger, a

fellow in the Brookings Institution Metropolitan

Policy Program, as saying too many people

bought into the same vision at the same

time. “So many were saying, ‘All you have

to do is get 1 percent of the national market

and you’ll do just fine.’ Three hundred cities

bought the same logic.

“You need to look very carefully before

building another convention center in this

country.”

Sanders, in his “Convention Center Follies,”

said consultants may claim a long-term

history of demand for convention-center

space, but actual demand fluctuates with the

national economy, plunging after 9/11 and

the Great Recession.

Current data from the Center for Exhibition

Industry Research show that conventions

and trade shows rebounded quickly

after the recession in events, attendees and

spending but have leveled off with modest

growth.

IACC, an international association of

small- to medium-sized conference venues,

also reports growth: “As the meetings industry

continues its recovery for the fourth year,

IACC is seeing increased investment in newbuild,

meetings-focused venues as well as

capital investment in existing venues looking

to be at the forefront of meetings innovation.”

Sanders cautioned, “The reality of far

more limited growth, even in the face of a

continuing expansion of supply, is that the

convention market appeared to be increasingly

zero-sum.”

So a Jacksonville convention center

would plunge into immediate and intense

competition to take business away from other

cities — not the national powers like Chicago,

Atlanta and Orlando or what Sanders

calls “prime visitor destinations” like Boston

and San Francisco, but rather regional cities

like Tampa, Charlotte, Baltimore or Dallas.

So if we built a fancy new convention center,

how would we compete?

“First of all, it’s the destination,” said Brad

Mayne, president and CEO of the International

Association of Venue Managers. “Our

annual conference this year is in Nashville,

A tech conference attendee

finds a quite place to work on

his computer at the Prime F.

Osborn III Convention Center.


SPECIAL

REPORT

and we’re getting a lot of excitement because

it is one of the music cities in the country.

“Jacksonville, I’d think, would be one of

those destinations that could have great success.

Jacksonville has a lot going for it, being

in Florida. And the Jaguars put the destination

on the map.”

In fact, despite our own inferiority complex,

Jacksonville does have a lot going for

it: The weather. Downtown arts, culture and

sports venues. The river. Handy neighborhoods

with good restaurants. The Elbow. The

beach. Golf. Mega-shopping within reach. A

terrific airport and interstate highway access.

And some features that might not occur

to you.

Phillip Harris, executive director of the Association

for Educational Communications

and Technology, based in Bloomington, Ind.,

is bringing its annual convention to the Hyatt

Regency in November for the third time, and

he has had a great time here:

“The cultural and educational venues that

are a part of Jacksonville, I have really worked

to promote within our membership. Beaches

are too far away to be an attraction. But education

and culture are really underemphasized

in the promotional activities. MOSH,

the other museum — the ‘Cummer’? — a

good half-day visit.

“A group of us went over to this company

where they make animatrons for Disney.

The Sally company. They do a phenomenal,

incredible experience. Our people are technology

nerds.

“The two African-American brothers

(presumably James Weldon Johnson and

John Rosamond Johnson) and the theater

nearby (the Ritz Theatre and Museum).

Those are the kind of cultural and education

venues we like.

“Most of our attendees are college and

university faculty, and their interests are

different than nightlife. We meet until 8 or 9

o’clock at night.

“We walked down to the contemporary

art museum (MOCA), that’s an under-advertised

treasure, as to what is there. I stopped

at this used-book store (Chamblin’s). I collect

James Whitcomb Riley, and I found four volumes!

Usually I don’t find any.

“Those are the kinds of really neat places

that visitors may be more interested in than

the Visit Jacksonville people think. A convention

center probably would pick up on the

importance of communicating the cultural

and educational opportunities that are there.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Peterbrooke

chocolate is just addictive, the chocolate-covered

peanuts. My wife rations them

out to me. Another little special treat that

people don’t necessarily think about or know

about.”

Granted the education-technology attendees

are “real nerds,” as Harris said, but

the point is that there are also sports fans,

beach people, architecture enthusiasts, students

of black history, golf fanatics, Navy veterans,

railroad aficionados and nautical buffs

— all of whom would find added value in a

Jacksonville meeting. Or could, if we develop

and promote some of our lesser-known features,

to present Jacksonville as interesting as

it is. More on that to come.

The city’s newly expanded Human Rights

Ordinance is a competitive advantage. After

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Jacksonville based company

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32

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


I’d think,

would be one of those

destinations that could have

great success (with a modern

convention center).”

‘‘JAcksonville,

BRAD MAYNE

International Association of Venue Managers president and CEO

Texas passed a law seen as anti-LGBT, California

banned taxpayer-funded travel to Texas.

Several other states are considering such

bans.

The Hyatt’s Caliendo is a three-year newcomer,

but he and the Hyatt’s owners feel

good about their stake Downtown, making

their own bet on the come. “My owners believe

in Jacksonville, and they believe in the

future of Jacksonville. They made a statement

by investing (unspecified millions) in the

property over the last three years.”

Was the possibility of a convention center

on the mind of Morton’s steakhouse when it

reopened recently in the Hyatt several years

after closing its location on the Southbank?

“Absolutely,” Caliendo said.

Despite that enthusiasM,

no one is arguing that the current state of

Downtown could support a convention center.

Sanders, whose academic specialty is

publicly funded convention centers and the

politics of urban development, warned in

2005, “It is abundantly clear that a new or ever-bigger

convention center cannot in and of

itself revitalize or redeem a downtown core.”

“Do not talk about a convention center on

its own,” Astleford of Visit Jacksonville said.

“It has to be part of a bigger plan and vision

for Jacksonville. Cities that see it as part of a

package, a bigger attraction, have done very

well. So timing would be important. Getting

a customer advisory council formed — meeting

professionals of all kinds — should have

happened a long time ago. Cities that understand

that have been really successful in the

convention world.”

“It is not you-build-it-and-they-willcome,”

Caliendo of the Hyatt said. “You have

to have the infrastructure. You sell the amenities

of what you have.”

The new Strategic Advisory Group report

was blunt in its bottom-line recommendation:

“Postpone the construction of a new

convention center … until such time as it is

part of a destination plan that will improve

the overall attractiveness of Jacksonville as

a convention, meetings and major indoor

event destination.”

SAG said Jacksonville needs more walkable

full-service hotels, restaurants, bars,

shopping and other attractions before a

new convention center could compete

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SPECIAL

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against other cities.

But a huge step would be fulfillment

of current Downtown revitalization plans.

When SAG showed its meeting planners renderings

of pending plans — the Shipyards,

The District and Riverwalk extensions — and

“visions” like a potential aquarium, they

perked up considerably.

Hotels. A convention center must be

supported by a full-service convention hotel,

or hotels. We have the Hyatt Regency with

951 rooms, which Caliendo said had its best

revenue year in 2016. It’s backed up by the

Omni, but that would not be enough for a

successful center.

Harris is bringing his nerds back to the

Hyatt in 2020 but maybe not after that. “We

are on the edge of outgrowing the hotel, as far

as meeting space, and that’s probably limiting

the organizations that would consider

Jacksonville.”

expectations for technology are exponential.”

Amenities. A new convention center

would have to be part of a well-coordinated

and timed master plan that would include

not only the facilities and services to host

conventions but also a wide range of accessible

amenities that make the city attractive to

attendees — restaurants, nightlife, shopping

and beach excursions and creative use of our

most appealing venues.

A cocktail party on a river boat? A general

session at EverBank Field? Some very cool

receptions have been staged in the Jaguars’

Scenes from inside the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center.

“Over 85 percent of the respondents said

they were more likely to consider Jacksonville

after viewing the images,” the SAG report

said.

“Specific feedback included the observation

that this kind of transformation would

catapult Jacksonville as a destination that

would compete with many of the major

Southeast convention destinations.”

The city needs a self-confident vision of

itself, the consultants said, and a “holistic

plan” and a consistent brand promise that

differentiates Jacksonville.

Do we have such a vision and plan? For

starters, consider these four major components

of the chemistry necessary for a successful

convention center:

Location. Jacksonville learned the

hard way about the importance of location.

Similarly, Savannah built its convention center

across the Savannah River from its downtown

— which looks good way over there but

is not easily accessible, walkable. “Location,

location, location,” Wallace said. “It’s location

and timing.” To capitalize on the city’s assets,

the center would be in or adjacent to the

heart of Downtown.

Other hotels are being planned for Downtown,

including at the Shipyards, the Laura

Street Trio and the District. Berkman Plaza

II was rezoned as a hotel a few years ago, but

the would-be buyers back then couldn’t lure

a chain flag. It would if there were a nearby

convention center: “No doubt about it,” Astleford

said. Still another hotel could be built as

part of a new center.

Infrastructure. There would

be no point in opening a convention center

without adequate support services. “You

have to have a marketing team,” Mayne of the

venue managers association said. “You’ve

got to have quality service organizations with

restaurants and hotels. There are a lot of pieces

that have to support the convention. A/V,

all those types of services, with companies

that are qualified.”

“Upgrading the technology, internet access,

is an important consideration,” Harris

said. “Bandwidth at the (Hyatt) hotel is marginal.

We have 1,000 attendees, and all of

them bring several devices they need to use,

even in the elevator. Our people are getting

younger, and for us to survive, we have to accommodate

those younger people, and their

locker and weight rooms.

We would need more good Downtown

restaurants, beyond Morton’s and the soonto-open

Cowford Chophouse. Read Jasmine

Marshall’s story about the Elbow on page

86, and see if that qualifies as conventioneer

nightlife.

But what about other unique activities

and excursions? Harris’ little-but-joyful adventures

in Jacksonville were narrow and

specific, but they show that meeting planners

are understanding that conventioneers

want more than just to meet, greet and eat;

they want to experience their host city and its

spirit.

Dan Fenton, who led the SAG study here,

consulted three years ago with Visit Denver

and was quoted then as saying, “We heard

from some meeting planners that when they

are in the Colorado Convention Center, they

feel like they are in a big space in a big building

that could be anywhere. We recommended

that the center create spaces where it’s

possible to see the Rockies.

“It should take advantage of its environment

... The words that planners most frequently

associated with Denver were Rocky

34

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


Mountains, clean air and health.”

In Jacksonville, that might be the St. Johns

River, the beach and the climate and environment.

An ongoing and very methodical

identity and vision-seeking process called

TruJax has determined that the essence of

Jacksonville can be distilled into three words:

“The Water Life.”

And there’s another uniqueness that few

Jacksonvilleans recognize, though subliminally

it is a major reason we live here: While

we benefit from the Florida climate and

beach, we are a real city, compared to most

other Florida cities. We are a diverse, livable

city with a long, fascinating history and an interesting

future.

For just one example, the Times-Union

editorial board is working with local historians

and officials to inspire recognition,

survey and presentation of our 500-year

history, from the Timucua people through

the French and Spanish occupiers, the Civil

War, the silent-movie industry, the Great

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first

African-American labor union.

Present conventioneers with a menu of

activities like these and others, and watch

Jacksonville compete on the convention circuit.

The current movement

for a new convention center is rooted in the

2011 Jacksonville Civic Council Northbank

Redevelopment Task Force, which also recommended

creation of the Downtown Investment

Authority.

The report recommended that a new,

comprehensive center be built on some

or all of the land now occupied by the old

courthouse and city hall on Bay Street and

be attached to the Hyatt Regency. It would

be riverfront, since the city now is removing

a parking lot behind the courthouse that was

built over the river more than 50 years ago.

Some of the two blocks could be mixeduse

entertainment, retail and dining space,

Fire of 1901 and such luminaries as Stephen

Crane, Harriet Beecher Stowe, A. Philip Randolph,

James Weldon Johnson and Zora Neale

Hurston. There is plenty of material for a

black-history tour.

If that idea is too big and undeveloped,

consider the suggestion from Times-Union

reader Marvin Alford for a Downtown railroad

museum, using our many railroad assets

— another use for Prime Osborn! You probably

have not found the massive and magnificent

1919 Atlantic Coast Line steam locomotive

that is displayed proudly but lonely in

the middle of a parking lot behind the Prime

Osborn. Not to mention the old Orange Blossom

Special passenger car adjacent to the

center. And of course, Randolph founded the

the report said, “effectively extending our

core Downtown eastward and complementing

and extending the dining and entertainment

district currently emerging on East Bay

Street,” now called The Elbow.

Since the task force’s recommendations

six years ago, the city has selected Shad

Khan’s Iguana Investments as the developer

for the Shipyards, which ends just a halfblock

farther east — with Berkman Plaza II in

between. Are you connecting the dots here?

Pretty much all the way from EverBank Field

to the Times-Union Center.

City Council implemented the task force’s

recommendation to create the DIA, which is

hard at work, but the convention center recommendation

awaited a stronger economy

and more political leadership, which came

with the election of Lenny Curry as mayor

two years ago.

He created a Transition Leadership

Team, and its Economic Development Subcommittee,

chaired by John Delaney, UNF

president and former mayor, unanimously

recommended the city develop a convention

center. It specified the Bay Street site — and

simply incorporated the 2011 task force recommendation

into its report to Curry.

Such big projects were buried in the

mayor’s in-basket while he fought through

public-employee pension funding, but

now a convention center has risen near

the top.

Curry said: “This is a very real consideration

and discussion that’s happening.

It’s not just talk about it and dream about

it and not do anything.”

The first visible step in the mayor’s

mind was his inclusion in his budget for

next year $8 million to demolish the former

county courthouse and city hall and

make the land available for development.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the development

will be a convention center,

Curry said, “but I can tell you we have had

a number of conversations with different

folks about that site and about a convention

center. We’re not headed in one specific

direction at this point.

“When we begin demolition, I’ll be able

to share more because I can have more

discussions with interested parties. The

numbers have to work. I’m all about a rigorous

return on investment.”

So back to my confoundingly complex

convention center chemistry: whether and

who to build what kind of facility where

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 35


SPECIAL

REPORT

‘‘I NEVER TAKE

ANYTHING

OFF THE TABLE, BUT

I DON’T ENVISION A

PUBLIC CONVENTION

CENTER.”

LENNY CURRY

JACKSONVILLE MAYOR

and in conjunction with what — and with whose money and toward

what goals.

Most of those W’s are addressed above, but there are still the

“who” and “whose money” to be answered.

Of three possible answers — public, private or public-private

— the first is the least likely. Heywood Sanders’ cautionary career

is all about publicly funded convention centers, and Steven

E. Spickard, a land-use economist, once wrote: “Contrary to a

popular misconception, convention and conference centers are

designed to lose money. ... It is hard to be absolute because there

are real-world exceptions to virtually every rule; however, even in

the rare cases where revenues cover operating costs in meeting

facilities, they never cover debt service.”

And that’s not how Jacksonville usually rolls. “I never take anything

off the table,” Curry said, “but I don’t envision just a public

convention center.”

He wants to bring in private investment, so a public-private

mix is “the more likely scenario.”

Myrick, the economic-development consultant, has worked

with the founder of such a public-private project, the successful

Cobb Galleria Centre in Georgia, and said, “That’s the right way to

go. The private sector will always do an investment with an ROI.

Government is the only entity that can build something and lose

money on it.”

While the public sector can contribute, perhaps land or some

finance, she said private management always will be able to run a

convention center more efficiently because it can turn down freebie

or cut-rate requests, manage “dark” nights, solicit bookings

that pay more, turn down bookings for small groups.

Curry said he has an open mind. “Public-private would have

to include a return on investment. If you do it right, you’re going

to generate sales tax, bed tax, additional income around the area,

additional property tax. And the return works.”

Curry’s vision for a convention center, presumably on the Bay

Street site, expanded during his July trip to see downtown development

in Kansas City, St. Louis and Baltimore, accompanied by

Jaguars President Mark Lamping representing Shad Khan’s Iguana

Investments.

The mayor saw live examples of the point above about the

essential amenities for a successful convention center. “We’re

already discussing what comes first — the people, the food, the

entertainment, retail. There has to be a holistic commitment to

all of those on the front end. This is a model that has worked in all

those places.

“Our river is our asset that we’re so proud of. We want to see

the right development on the river. That also ties into when you

move off the river. It all has to connect in a smart way.”

So more Downtown development off the river, more than just

the Shipyards? “I would say yes. I think so. Based on what I saw.

Iguana will make those decisions. We were there together.”

He’s already thinking about transportation along a suddenly

booming Bay Street. “How do you move people, if there’s a convention

center, to the Sports Complex and from farther west, the

Landing? That will be part of the discussions.”

Okay, now are you getting excited about the first swing of that

wrecking ball on Bay Street?

Frank Denton was editor of The Florida Times-Union in

2008-16 and now is editor at large. He lives in Avondale.


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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.


HOW WALKABLE IS JACKSONVILLE? CONSIDERING WE RANK AS THE

FOURTH MOST DANGEROUS CITY IN THE COUNTRY FOR PEDESTRIAN

DEATHS, ‘TERRIBLE’ WOULD PROBABLY BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

NEAR WALK BOTTOM

BY MIKE CLARK // J MAGAZINE

10 INCHES LAB

40

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


10 Most Walkable

here are few things worse

than knowing how to solve

T a problem and people refusing

to take the advice. Rank City WALK Score

U.S. Cities of 2017

That’s what happened in 1 New York 89.2

2013 when urban planner Jeff Speck visited 2 San Francisco 86.0

Jacksonville and told city leaders how to save 3 Boston 80.9

lives and make our city more livable. 4 Miami 79.2

“I told you guys what to do in 2013. Why 5 Philadelphia 79.0

aren’t you doing it?” Speck said to the Times- 6 Chicago 77.8

Union in a telephone interview.

7 Washington D.C. 77.3

Speck is an author, consultant and expert 8 Seattle 73.1

on walkable cities. His TED Talk in 2013 produced

more than 1 million views.

10 Long Beach 69.9

9 Oakland 72.0

“The worst idea America ever had was

suburban sprawl,” Speck said in that TED 49 Jacksonville 27.0

talk. And Florida is Ground Zero for sprawl.

SOURCE: walkscore.com

Speck has consulted in cities similar to

Jacksonville like Oklahoma City, Fort Lauderdale

and West Palm Beach. But Jacksonville

is just now waking up to the importance

of walkability.

This is more than aesthetics. It involves

safety and the vitality of cities

themselves.

The fact is that Jacksonville

is one of the most dangerous cities in the

country for pedestrians, ranking No. 4 on the

pedestrian death index compiled by Smart

Growth America.

Jacksonville’s walkability ranking is so

low, 27 out of 100, that we officially rank as

unwalkable.

Downtown and nearby neighborhoods

like Springfield and Riverside-Avondale

ranked reasonably well in the mid-’70s, but

Speck said those rankings are overrated

since the walkability scale does not account

for safety.

The problem can be summed up this way:

• Our city, like most in Florida, has too

much sprawl.

• Our roads have been designed to move

cars quickly without enough regard for pedestrians.

“The reason Florida does so horribly in

these rankings,” Speck said, “is because so

many Florida streets were designed by the

DOT or so many local streets were designed

with standards set by the DOT. Now the DOT

is reforming itself slowly and surely. But the

DOT’s basic methodology has been to apply

highway-style design criteria to local streets.”

That is why the Forest and Park streets

intersection in Brooklyn looks like a highway

from the air.

This encourages speeding and discourages

walking and bicycling.

“You’ve created a landscape where people

rely on the automobile to accomplish the

most minor tasks,” Speck said.

Speck’s book, “Walkable City: How

Downtown Can Save America, One Step at

a Time,” has become a bible among urban

planners. It’s the logical successor to the

seminal Jane Jacobs book, “The Death and

Life of Great American Cities.”

The good news for cities like Jacksonville

is that major improvements Downtown can

be made fairly easily, Speck said.

Road diets, which are being studied in

several Jacksonville locations, involve reducing

lane widths, slowing traffic and providing

more space for pedestrians and bicyclists.

In many cases, lanes can be eliminated or

reduced without hurting traffic flow, which

local consultants have discovered in Brooklyn,

for instance. “Four-lane streets can be as

inefficient as they are deadly because the fast

lane is also the left turn lane, and maintaining

speed often means jockeying from lane

to lane,” Speck writes.

A road diet may take a four-lane street

and replace it with three lanes along with a

center lane for left turns. After changes were-

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 41


With two-way traffic and wide sidewalks, Laura Street

is one of the more walkable streets Downtown.

made to Orlando’s Edgewater Drive, crashes

fell by 34 percent. Since speeds were slower,

injuries fell by 68 percent.

Returning Downtown streets to two-way

streets can be done quickly, which produces

more safety, more business and even less

crime, Speck said. Think of Laura Street.

His plan for Oklahoma City led to most

downtown streets going two-ways with just

two lanes.

Another possibility for Jacksonville is to

tear down highway sections that dead-end

Downtown, like a portion of the Hart Bridge

ramp that ends at the sports complex. This

has been done with the Embarcadero in San

Francisco and the Westside Highway in New

York City.

“When you tear down a highway, the improvement

in property values is so great that

the increased tax revenue pays for that teardown

many times over,” Speck said. “If redevelopment

is happening, then tearing them

down will pay for it very quickly.”

Speck offers a general theory of walkability

as a good shortcut for a livable city.

“Get walkability right, and so much of the

rest will follow,” he writes.

Cities that simply created pedestrian

pathways failed because there is much more

involved. Speck lists four main conditions for

successful walkability, and each must work

in concert with the others.

The walk must be:

Useful. Most aspects of daily life are

close and organized. You need some place

to walk to.

Safe. The street has to be designed to

give pedestrians a fighting chance against

being hit by automobiles. People must feel

safe. Cars have a place but only in the proper

number and speed.

Comfortable. Urban streets feel like

outdoor living rooms with sensitive designs.

Interesting. Sidewalks are lined by

unique buildings that feel friendly.

Why hasn’t this happened already? Because

the people in charge in many cities are

thinking of their particular specialties, not

overall impact.

“The schools and parks departments will

push for fewer, larger facilities since these

are easier to maintain and show off,” Speck

writes.

“The public works department will insist

that new neighborhoods be designed principally

around snow and trash removal.

“The transportation department will

build new roads to ease traffic generated by

the very sprawl that they cause.

“Each of these approaches may seem correct

in a vacuum, but is wrong in a city.”

Making cities more walkable makes them

more wealthy, healthy and sustainable.

Walkability also fits into the trend of moving

back to lively, mixed uses that millennials

and empty-nesters increasingly prefer.

“For certain segments of the population,

chief among them young creatives, urban living

is simply more appealing; many wouldn’t

be caught dead anywhere else,” Speck writes.

“Massive demographic shifts occurring

right now mean that these pro-urban segments

of the population are becoming dominant,

creating a spike in demand that is expected

to last for decades.

“The choice to live the walkable life generates

considerable savings for these households,

and much of these savings are spent

locally.”

TRENDS ARE CLEAR

Walkability now is a key part of a national

trend back to urban cores.

Since the late 1990s, the share of auto

miles driven by Americans in their 20s has

dropped from 20.8 percent to 13.7 percent.

JEFF DAVIS

42

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


Teens who don’t have driver’s licenses

have almost tripled since the late 1970s from

8 percent to 23 percent.

Two-thirds of college-educated millennials

choose where they want to live and then

look for a job.

Three-quarters of them plan to live in urban

cores.

The typical working-class family pays

more for transportation than housing.

Meanwhile, senior citizens are abandoning

large lots for mixed-use urban centers.

Of 101 million new households expected

by 2025, 88 percent are expected to be childless.

In 1970, almost half of households included

children.

A scientific poll conducted for the National

Association of Realtors showed that only 1

in 10 respondents wanted to live in a suburb

with houses only.

“Urban Sprawl and Public Health,” a paper

by physician Howard Frumkin of Emory University,

documented how our built environment

is hurting our health.

Users of mass transit are three times more

likely as vehicle drivers to achieve their recommended

30 minutes of daily physical activity.

“Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the

American health care crisis is largely an urban

design crisis with walkability at the heart of

the cure,” Speck wrote.

Crashes far outweighed murders by

strangers in most locations.

One-third of Washington or San Francisco

residents take transit to work; just 2 percent of

Nashville and Jacksonville residents do.

Mass transit systems like streetcars, trolleys

or trams have slower speeds and frequent

stops.

As for bicycles, Jacksonville has too little

bicycle infrastructure. Where bicycle lanes

exist, the widths are too narrow, there is not

enough protection for bicyclists, and there

are too few bicyclists so drivers aren’t used

to seeing them.

Yet the benefits of bicycles are huge.

Ten bikes can park in the space of a single

car.

The typical bike lane handles five to 10

times the traffic volume of a car lane twice

its width.

Money spent on bike lanes generates

more than twice the jobs as car lanes.

If every American biked an hour a day instead

of driving, gas consumption would be

cut by 38 percent.

As bike lanes have been added to New

York City, pedestrian injuries have been cut

by one-third, Speck writes.

Back in 2013 when Speck made his presentations,

the Downtown Investment Authority

was in its infancy. CEO Aundra Wallace

took over in 2013.

The authority’s action plans include a

number of proposals to improve walkability.

A “road diet” plan in Brooklyn could lead to

narrower streets, more bicycle lanes, more

shade — in short, walkability.

Jacksonville for too long has had too

much planning and too little action. Downtown

finally is seeing some action, but urgency

is key.

Making more streets Downtown twoway,

for instance, shouldn’t be taking so

long.

“Downtown is the only part of the city

that belongs to everybody,” Speck writes.

But people need to feel safe and welcomed

Downtown.

Walkability is the key to success.

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.

Bring

Downtown

into your next

meeting.

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12 HOURS IN DOWNTOWN

By Denise M. Reagan

Carley Levy serves

a handpulled

unicorn raspberry

lollipop at Sweet

Pete’s candy shop.

The handpulled

lollipops are a

specialty of shop

owner, Peter

Behringer.

Walk this way for food,

shopping & entertainment

JEFF DAVIS

S

ince I moved back to Jacksonville

almost 12 years ago, I have spent several

days a week Downtown. When

I worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Jacksonville for three years, I spent almost every

day in the center of the city.

That adds up to a lot of hours in the urban core

— morning, noon and night. When you spend

that much time Downtown, you know it like

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 45


LEFT: The sculpture “Showing the Way” — a memorial to Tillie Fowler — lights up the Northbank riverwalk near the Winston Family YMCA.

RIGHT: Mosaic artwork by RouxArt can be found in a variety of locations in Hemming Park. This pillar is near the park’s north entrance.

the back of your hand. And yet I still find

surprises almost every week.

Put on your most comfortable shoes for

this walking tour of the core.

8 A.M. | The Riverwalks

1

Take a morning stroll or speed it up

and get your workout along the Southbank

and Northbank riverwalks and the Main

Street and Acosta bridges. The whole

circuit is about four miles. I always admire

the sails that cast shade along the Southbank

Riverwalk and the memorial to Tillie

Fowler titled “Showing the Way,” which depicts

the spirit of the former U.S. representative

and Jacksonville attorney as an oak

tree, the state tree of her native Georgia.

Along the way, you’ll see many regular

walkers and runners who usually greet you

with big smiles — unless they’re struggling

up the long incline of the Acosta.

9 A.M. | Urban Grind

2

Downtown’s premier coffee shop

has two locations — 45 W. Bay St. and 50

N. Laura St. I order a large iced honey latte

and an egg casserole stuffed with the day’s

fresh ingredients. I deserve it after a major

walk.

3

9:30 A.M. | Hemming Park

I enjoy my coffee during a stroll to

Hemming Park to check out a mosaic by

RouxArt. “Flight of the Butterfly” involved

the public in its construction — including

my sister — and is situated directly across

the street from City Hall in the old St.

James Building. Head back toward the St.

Johns River on Hogan Street to see Skyway

pillars, electrical box coverings and

streetscape artwork from the Art in Public

Places DIA Urban Arts Project.

10 A.M. | Jacksonville

4

Walking Tours

Head to the escalators at the Jacksonville

Landing to take a Top to Bottom

Walking Tour. Hear the stories of the River

City from the Great Fire to Jacksonville’s

time as the original Hollywood. Head to

the top of the tallest building in Jacksonville,

and explore secret underground

tunnels beneath Downtown. Tuesday’s

tour includes a stop inside The Florida

Theatre. Thursday’s tour features a behind-the-scenes

look at the Jacksonville

Symphony.

NOON | Wolf & Cub

5

Browse this boutique at 205 N. Laura

St. that celebrated its first anniversary in

Downtown in July. Owners Emily Moody

Rosete and Varick Rosete select independently

produced products, distinctive

goods for the home and funky wearables

for women and men. Wolf & Cub offers

one-of-a-kind jewelry, hand-screenprinted

clothing and vintage curiosities that

stand out in a crowd. I bought my father a

T-shirt that proudly states “Jacksonvillain,

Consolidated 1968.”

1 P.M. | Bellwether

6

Choosing a place for lunch in Downtown

Jacksonville is often excruciating.

Too many places compete for my taste

buds: NOLA MOCA, Super Food & Brew,

Olio, Indochine, The Court Urban Food

Park ... the list goes on. On this occasion,

I visit one of the newest spots, tucked into

the tower at 110 N. Laura St.: Bellwether,

created by the pioneers behind Orsay

and Black Sheep. Start with the boiled

peanuts and pimento cheese, then try the

Bellwether Salad or the shrimp and grits,

which is made with Jacksonville’s own

Congaree and Penn middlins. Follow it

with a cold brew and some soft serve ice

cream, because this is Florida.

2:30 P.M. | Main Library

7

The first floor of the Main Library

has been transformed into Jax Makerspace,

a collaborative space for artists,

musicians, hobbyists, techies, writers

and more. It’s a great place to explore,

JEFF DAVIS (4); MAP: JEFF DAVIS

46

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


LEFT: Marisa Yow’s painting “Lone Sparrow” is part of the art exhibit “Survive to Thrive: Life Beyond Sexual Violence” at the Main Library through Oct. 22.

RIGHT: A steak taco with chips and salsa waits to be served at the original Burrito Gallery location in Downtown.

create, meet new people and access the

library’s many resources. “Survive to

Thrive: Life Beyond Sexual Violence”

features works by Margete Griffin, Hope

McMath, Princess Simpson Rashid, Jim

Smith and several others. The exhibition

is open through Oct. 22. Then head up to

the Lovett Courtyard on the second floor

and relax with a book while overlooking

the center of Downtown.

8

4 P.M. | Sweet Pete’s

No Downtown Jacksonville outing

is complete without an excursion to this

sweet spot. Peter and Allison Johns Behringer

opened the sweetest destination

on Earth at 400 N. Hogan St., catty-corner

from Hemming Park. The destination

attracts busloads of school children

Downtown for tours of the candy-making

empire. Do not miss the salted caramels,

or you will be sorry. Beyond the

candy store and The Candy Apple Café

on the first floor is a second floor with

even more retro candy offerings and an

old-fashioned ice cream shop.

12 HOURS IN DOWNTOWN

8

Monroe St.

Adams St.

Forsyth St.

Water St.

N

Bay St.

Hogan St.

THE LANDING

ST. JOHNS

RIVER

FRIENDSHIP

FOUNTAIN

San Marco

6

Laura St.

3

4

2

7

5

Main St.

MAIN STREET

BRIDGE

1

1

Coastline Dr.

Riverplace Blvd.

Mary St.

Flagler Ave.

Ocean St.

9

10

Newman St.

Prudential Dr.

Market St.

11

10

6:30 P.M. | Burrito Gallery

Play a round of Thursday trivia on

the back patio of this Downtown mainstay.

The original location has been open

on Adams Street for 13 years. It has since

added locations at Jacksonville Beach and

in Brooklyn. Order a margarita to wash

down a blackened shrimp burrito with

black beans and guacamole while you try

to answer questions on current events,

’80s culture, sports and more. Don’t miss

Shaun Thurston’s mural “Raccoon vs.

Armadillo Magic Taco Standoff” behind

the back wall of the patio.

11

8 P.M. | The Hourglass

PUB & Coffee House

Arrive at 345 E. Bay St. just in time for

the weekly Mad Cow Improv Comedy

show with high-energy, fast-paced improvisation

games reminiscent of “Whose

Line Is It Anyway?” Based on suggestions

from the audience, this talented group

of players provides an evening of entertainment

that is never dull and never the

same show twice.

Kipp Ave.

9

5 P.M. | Bold City Brewery

After nine years operating its

tasting room in Riverside, Jacksonville’s

original craft brewery opened

its Downtown location at 109 E. Bay

St. Taste one of several Jacksonville-themed

craft beers made in

the Rosselle Street brewery, or try a

specialty beer brewed on location in a

three-barrel system.

Denise M. Reagan is senior PR manager

at Brunet-García Advertising, a longtime

journalist and a frustrated Downtown

enthusiast.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 47


EYESORE

SELF REPORT

The Riverwalks are a

glorious (and healthy) way

to experience our majestic

St. Johns River ... well,

mostly.

On the Northbank, as the

westbound walker exits

the corkscrew just east

of the railroad bridge, the

river view is spoiled by

visual pollution.

First, you find yourself

walking on graffiti. “DVK,”

would your mother be

proud of that? Didn’t she

teach you anything?

Then, you look over the

elevated walk at the small

basin at the foot of the

Acosta Bridge and see

trash from up and down

the river brought in by the

changing currents. Much

of it was washed from

streets and yards during

rain storms, and some was

tossed by careless boaters.

When high tide recedes

to low tide, the unsightly

litter is left on the exposed

mud banks.

Discouraged, you walk a

few steps farther along,

and you’re looking not at

the river but over at the

industrial-looking building

to the right, where

there are ugly piles of old

shipping pallets and metal

contraptions that look

like worn-out newspaper

racks.

Oh! That’s The Florida

Times ...

Please turn to page 51

BOB SELF

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 49


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AFTER

CONTINUED

FROM PAGE 49

In the spirit of J and the

Times-Union’s commitment

to Downtown Now!

— and because what’s

good for the goose —

President Mark Nusbaum

ordered the clean-up of

the T-U’s own visual pollution,

so riverwalkers can

enjoy the magnificent St.

Johns and our cityscape.

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.

BOB SELF

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 51


U the

RA B NTI

ES

IN WHAT MAY BE JACKSONVILLE’S MOST

UNIQUE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIAtiON,

THE DOWNTOWN DWELLERS

ARE a DEDICATED GROUP OF

RESIDENTS WORKING TO

IMPROVE THE CORE.

BY ROGER BROWN

PHOTOGRAPHS

BY WILL DICKEY

J MAGAZINE

52

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


Downtown

Dwellers member

Thomas Dumas checks out

the view from the 38th

floor deck of

the Peninsula tower

along Jacksonville’s

Southbank.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 53


he motto of the

Downtown Dwellers

Association is simple

enough:

T

“Let the river

unite us. Let the

bridges bring us together.”

And its mission statement is also a

straight shot of prose — with no poetic

chaser.

‘The Jacksonville Downtown Dwellers

are north and south Riverbank residents

actively participating in the ongoing development

of the riverfront as an inviting, culturally

rich place to live.”

But don’t let the no-frills, low-hyperbole

language fool you.

The fact is the Downtown Dwellers Association

— a 100-plus strong collection of

residents living in various apartments and

condominiums across the city center — has

become an under-the-radar powerhouse

in its genuine quest to enhance and elevate

Downtown Jacksonville.

It has worked with the city’s Parks and

Recreation Department to strengthen Jacksonville’s

waterfront, including successful

collaborations that have led to dramatic improvements

to the Lone Sailor fountain area

and other sites along the riverwalks.

It has taken on its own beautification

projects — with some Downtown Dwellers

members even taking to regularly strolling

the riverwalks and picking up carelessly

discarded trash.

And it is actively helping to drive the local

dialogue on how Jacksonville can truly

fulfill the promise of the Southbank and

Northbank.

“Jacksonville is a growing mixture of

ideas, wants and opportunities,” said Sandra

Fradd, Downtown Dwellers’ feisty, witty

and charming president, in an email.

“We Downtown Dwellers are ... in places

where we can watch, see what’s happening

and in small ways maybe even influence it.”

Eric Smith — a beloved civic figure and

former city councilman who has his law

office Downtown and is playing a lead role

in helping Downtown Dwellers officially

incorporate as an organization — said one

reason Downtown still holds so much ap-

Downtown

Dwellers members

Sonia Vivian (seated,

from left) and Sandra

Fradd, with Gianni

Vivian (standing from

left), Thomas Dumas

and Howard Taylor,

pose on the pool deck

of the Peninsula.

54

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


peal is because each day, it’s easy to discover another of the “individual

pearls” that strung together, one by one, are making the

city center a much underrated work of art.

“I mean, Chamblin’s Book Store is a Downtown pearl,” Smith

said.

“Our library. Our river. Heck, the Desert Rider (on Hogan

Street) is a pearl — it’s got the best cheesy grits you will eat in a

restaurant.”

Added Smith: “There’s an untold number of these kinds of

pearls all across Downtown. And, to me, Downtown Dwellers is

one of those pearls because it‘s helping to unite the voice of the

residents who live in Downtown Jacksonville. And believe in it.”

It’s a voice that’s being heard in the corridors frequented by

Jacksonville’s leaders, decision-makers and influence-shapers.

For example, Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director

Daryl Joseph meets every month with Fradd and other

Downtown Dwellers members.

And they don’t travel to his turf for the sessions.

Rather, it’s Joseph who comes to the Peninsula of Jacksonville,

the Southbank luxury condominium complex where Fradd and

many other Downtown Dwellers live, for the meetings.

And he’s not the only one to make the monthly pilgrimage.

During a recent monthly meeting, Downtown Vision Inc.

CEO Jake Gordon also popped over to the Peninsula’s meeting

room to sit at a table with Fradd, Joseph and Tom Dumas, the

Downtown Dwellers’ treasurer.

“The best Downtown is one that has residents who love living

in it and want to make it a place that encourages others to live

there,” Gordon said.

“That’s exactly what the Downtown Dwellers Association is

doing. It really plays a valuable role.”

And when I reached out to City Hall for a statement or comment

on the work Downtown Dwellers is doing, it’s Mayor Lenny

Curry himself who provided an email response.

“Community partners like the Downtown Dwellers volunteer

their time supporting efforts at the Riverwalk, Hemming Park

and other downtown areas through a wide variety of roles,” Curry

said in his email.

“They not only help maintain the downtown area, but also

promote the vibrancy, strength and values of our city overall,”

added Curry, noting that he “truly (appreciates) the contributions

the Downtown Dwellers make to our city.”

Such glowing remarks — from Jacksonville’s most powerful

elected official — may explain why the Downtown Dwellers Association

doesn’t have a flowery motto or an extravagant mission

statement.

It doesn’t need them.

Its work and its growing status speak quite eloquently on their

own.

And it should and must inspire others who love Downtown

Jacksonville but question how they can make a footprint in improving

it to get up, get organized and get active.

GRADUAL STEPS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Downtown Dwellers’ influence has been particularly impressive

given its low-profile origin and the gradual transformation

into a sizable group.

Its seeds were sown some four years ago when Fradd — who

had recently retired, relocated to Jacksonville and settled in the

Peninsula after years as a distinguished professor and researcher

at two Florida universities — attended a Downtown Vision Inc.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 55


opening this fall

in riverside

LOCAL SEAFOOD

CRAFT COCKTAILS

BRUNCH • LUNCH • DINNER

riverandpostjax.com

meeting to learn more about her new city.

“What I had noticed is that people on one side of the river

Downtown didn’t seem to go much to the other side,” Fradd said in

an interview at the Peninsula.

With a smile, she added:

“I’ve always been someone who looks across the fence and

says, ‘Hey, what’s going on over there? And why we can’t bring

what’s going on over there and here together?’ That’s the feeling

that really came to life in me after I went to (the Downtown Vision)

meeting.”

Eventually, Fradd struck up a friendship with Dorothy Merrick,

who lived at the nearby Plaza One condominium complex at Berkman

Plaza and had a similar desire to bring Downtown residents

and interests together.

The two began to organize informal, occasional meetings with

other Downtown residents to discuss their issues, concerns, ideas

and hopes regarding the area.

The meetings gradually became more frequent and drew more

people — and they led to more interaction and dialogue with city

officials who grew to respect and admire the group’s genuine interest

in making Downtown better.

And though Merrick eventually moved to Atlanta, members

kept the group operating and thriving while also choosing “Downtown

Dwellers” as its name.

“The energy has just continued to grow and spread,” Fradd said.

Currently, the majority of Downtown Dwellers group members

are from five Downtown luxury condo and apartment properties

— the Peninsula, the Plaza One, San Marco Place, Churchwell Lofts

and the Strand.

“We all feel a real investment in our Downtown, not just because

we live here but because we love Jacksonville,” Fradd said.

“We can see the importance of what we’re doing, and that’s

what is inspiring us to keep finding avenues to make a contribution.”

And the Downtown Dwellers is putting together an ever-growing

list of ways to keep contributing.

It has now officially incorporated as a group, which will

strengthen its ability to influence the Downtown conversation.

It’s working with the city on plans to collect highly detailed statistics

on just how many people use and visit the riverwalks on a

daily basis — data that will be useful as city officials explore ways to

maximize the location’s potential.

And Downtown Dwellers will soon launch a campaign to raise

awareness about the group’s work and continue to get more Downtown

residents involved.

That’s an impressive list of tasks.

And there will be many more, to be sure.

But you can expect the Downtown Dwellers Association to take

on each task with the same motivating purpose that’s brought it

this far so quickly:

A passionate love for Downtown Jacksonville.

An equally passionate desire to make Downtown Jacksonville

better, richer and more vibrant.

“To me, Downtown is still a bit of a hidden jewel,” said Dumas,

the group’s treasurer.

“We’re just trying to do our part to help polish the jewel.”

And ensure that it is hidden no longer.

ROGER BROWN has been a Times-Union editorial writer since 2013.

He lives in Downtown Jacksonville.

56

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


UNCOVERING

The Emerald

N e c k l a c e

THE VISION TO CONNECT McCoys Creek, Hogans Creek

and the S-Line Trail STARTED MORE THAN A CENTURY AGO

BY RON LITTLEPAGE // J MAGAZINE

Craig O’Neal.

reating a vision is easy and often

fun.

C

Turning that vision into reality

can be damn hard.

A case in point is the Emerald

Necklace, the long talked about and

dreamed of string of parks, waterways and

greenways that would loop Downtown and

tie the surrounding neighborhoods to each

other, to the core city and to the St. Johns River.

Downtown advocates and aficionados are

very familiar with the concept, which is seen

as a key element to truly revitalizing Downtown.

It was a key part of the Downtown master

plan that the City Council approved in

2000 titled: “Celebrating the River: A Plan for

Downtown Jacksonville.”

And it highlighted a master plan update in

2010 titled: “Reuniting the City with its River.”

Many, however, including long-time residents,

know little about the Emerald Necklace

or are even aware of the existence of three key

elements vital to it — McCoys Creek, Hogans

Creek and the S-Line Trail.

The plan has been talked about for decades.

Talk is cheap. Implementing the plan

won’t be.

And until true leadership makes it a priority

— leadership that extends beyond the

short-term lifespan of our elected leaders —

it won’t get done.

The two creeks have been abused for

years, and in places they are hidden away

under roadways and overgrown vegetation. It

can be difficult to convince people they are a

jewel waiting to be polished.

But Henry J. Klutho, the famed architect

whose designs added beauty and uniqueness

during the rebuilding of Jacksonville after the

Great Fire of 1901, saw something different.

He envisioned parks and greenways along

the creeks that would become gathering

places and tie neighborhoods to Downtown

— yes, there’s that concept again — and for a

time that became reality along Hogans Creek.

The creek was notorious for flooding, as

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 59


was McCoys, and one proposed solution was

to put it underground.

Klutho and the city’s engineer, Charles

Imeson, came up with a better idea.

In 1929, the creek was channelized, and

two basins were created to retain water

during flooding.

But it wasn’t just an engineering exercise.

With it came a masterpiece of ornamental

balustrades, foot bridges and promenades

that ran along Hogans Creek from Downtown

to Springfield.

Christina Parrish Stone is the executive

director of the Springfield Preservation and

Revitalization Council.

“It was absolutely gorgeous,” Parrish Stone

said recently while walking through the park,

which is making strides to come back to full

life. “It was like Jacksonville’s Central Park. It

could be again, but it’s going to cost millions

of dollars.”

Keep that statement in mind along with

the fact that turning a vision into reality can

be damn hard.

As is often the case, the sins of the father

are visited upon the children.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think the city has

ever taken the steps to take care of the beautiful

project that resulted (from Klutho’s work),”

Parrish Stone said.

The creek became highly contaminated

with industrial wastes and fecal coliform.

Signs warn against fishing. The balustrades

and footbridges were allowed to fall into disrepair.

Buildings were plopped down in parts

of the park. Asphalt walkways were put in the

strangest places.

But it remains a magnificent piece of cityowned

parkland that once again can become

a masterpiece with effort and care.

That’s happening.

ity money has been found to

begin restoring the greenway

trails through the park with

the proper landscaping.

Parrish Stone talks excitedly

about a sculpture walk that will be added

C

JACKSONVILLE’S

EMERALD

S-LINE

RAIL TRAIL

NECKLACE BRENTWOOD

S-LINE

RAIL TRAIL

SPRINGFIELD

DURKEEVILLE

HOGAN’S CREEK

PARKWAY

NEW TOWN

SUGAR

HILL

NORTH

RIVERSIDE

LAVILLA

HOLLYBROOK

PARK

DOWNTOWN

CORE

FOREST ST

PARK

BROOKLYN

UNITY

NORTHBANK

RIVERWALK

MCCOY’S CREEK

GREENWAY

PLAZA

RIVERSIDE

N

SOUTHBANK

10

95

MLK PARKWAY

MAIN ST

MARKET ST

A. PHILIP

RANDOLPH

HERITAGE PARK

to the park soon.

The balustrades are not beyond repair.

Lighting will be improved.

The restoration of the park gets a big boost

from having a neighborhood as active as

Springfield.

The residents paid for and maintain a disc

golf course in the park. The annual “Springfield

Porchfest” brings crowds of people to

the neighborhood for live music on the inviting

porches of homes there and in the park.

“What my organization will continue to

do … is to bring as many people as we can to

this park,” Parrish Stone said.

“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve

brought here over the last seven years who

have lived in Jacksonville all of their lives or

most of their lives who had never seen it.

“I can say everyone who has walked

through here has been stunned that we have

something that has such tremendous potential

right here next to Downtown. Without exception,

everyone recognizes that this should

have been taken care of and that it has value

NORTHSHORE

SPORTS

COMPLEX

METROPOLITAN

PARK

ST. JOHNS RIVER

EASTSIDE

A. PHILIP

RANDOLPH

PUBLIC MARKET

LINDSAY MEYER


We want to partner with you. This vital initiative would not be possible if not for the generous support of

We want to partner with you. This vital initiative would not be possible if not for the generous support of

community partners and donors. To get involved, contact wanda.willis@fscj.edu or bill.allen@fscj.edu.

community partners and donors. To get involved, contact wanda.willis@fscj.edu or bill.allen@fscj.edu.


LEFT: McCoys Creek emerges in Murray Hill. It empties into the St. Johns River after emerging from a tunnel

beneath the Florida Times-Union property on Riverside Avenue.

and it should be corrected.”

The sins of the father are visited upon the

children.

The Hogans Creek corridor would form

the eastern leg of the Emerald Necklace from

where it flows into the St. Johns River at the

Maxwell Coffee plant and winds to the north

from there through the Springfield parks to

12th street.

McCoys Creek would form the western

leg of the necklace.

That creek reaches the St. Johns River after

flowing under the Times-Union building’s

parking lot.

Its path to there begins in a pond in Powers

Park in Murray Hill. Much of it is shrouded

in heavy vegetation.

Shannon Blankenship knows McCoys

Creek well. She is the outreach director for

the St. Johns Riverkeeper organization, and

in that position she has spearheaded monthly

cleanups of the creek for the past four years.

She is very familiar with the problems facing

the creek, starting with the most obvious:

trash.

“Most of the litter that we see out in the areas

where we have done maybe 12 cleanups

in the same exact spot over and over are plastic

bottles and tires and things that we see on

our roadsides all of the time and things that

come out of people’s yards and trash cans on

trash day,” Blankenship said in an interview.

“They have direct links to the waterway,

and it takes one storm so we are just cleaning

up what enters the creek almost every single

day at every cleanup.”

If McCoys Creek is to become a shining

part of the Emerald Necklace, infrastructure

changes will have to be made to stop

the deluge of rubbish.

And like Hogans, McCoys Creek is contaminated.

That is a big obstacle to the vision that

sees kayakers and other paddlers plying the

creek from the St. Johns River along developments

similar to the San Antonio River Walk

onward to the north where an abundance of

city-owned land paralleling the creek would

be turned into a greenway for walkers, bikers

and runners similar to the Atlanta Beltline.

There’s even talk of opening up the creek

to the daylight at the Times-Union parking

lot if the property, which is on the market, is

redeveloped.

“From the Riverkeeper’s perspective,”

Blankenship said, “what we’ve been trying

to do is to bring people to the water to see

the potential, to understand the recreational

benefit of it, because I think if more people

want to recreate on it, then we can have the

conversation about water quality.

“But if it’s just a ditch, just a place that

is collecting our storm water and our litter,

then we can’t begin to address those concerns.”

Having that long stretch of city-owned

property along the creek is a large advantage

for fulfilling the vision as the bones for the

greenway are already there.

The piece of the puzzle to connect the

Hogans Creek Greenway and the McCoys

Creek Greenway is the S-Line Trail.

The 4.8-mile rails-to-trails multiuse path

follows an abandoned length of CSX railroad

right-of-way.

The completed 14-mile loop would connect

both greenways to the Northbank Riverwalk.

The challenges to accomplish the goal

are difficult.

Both creeks are in floodplains. The contamination

is severe and will be costly to

mitigate. Money for such projects has been

scarce.

However, that could be changing as proposed

city budgets project spending for the

Emerald Necklace.

Other cities have done this. Why not Jacksonville?

Atlanta is one. The aforementioned Beltline

is described as “22 miles of unused railroad

tracks circling the core of the city’s intown

neighborhoods.

“From trails and walkways to open green

space and parks, the Atlanta Beltline works to

connect people throughout the city.”

Of course, there’s Boston, which has its

own Emerald Necklace that dates back to the

1860s and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

It is a chain of parks linked by parkways

and waterways in Boston and Brookline. In

the past decade, $60 million has been spent

in making improvements.

According to the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s

website, that historic park system

“serves as the backyard for city residents and

a destination for more than 1 million visitors

each year.”

Then there’s Yonkers, N.Y. Yes, Yonkers.

In the 1920s, engineers there decided to

bury the Saw Mill River in downtown to manage

sanitation and floods.

In 2011, after a decade of effort led by

Groundwork Hudson Valley, waters began to

flow above ground in downtown Yonkers for

the first time in 90 years.

BOB MACK (3)

62

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


CENTER: Hogans Creek runs through Klutho Park as seen from the Broad Street bridge. RIGHT: A pathway is being added to Klutho

Park creating a designated pedestrian/cycling greenway that will connect McCoys Creek and Hogans Creek and the parks in-between.

And with that revitalized river came commitments

to build housing, offices and commercial

space along it.

One of the drawbacks in Jacksonville’s

attempts to accomplish a long-term vision

has always been sustained commitment and

leadership.

Mayoral administrations change regularly

as do City Council members. Often they

bring their own priorities.

Who is going to guide Jacksonville’s Emerald

Necklace to reality over the years it will

take to accomplish the vision?

Groundwork Hudson Valley is part of the

Groundwork USA trusts that are connected

to the National Park Service and the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency. They are

local organizations “devoted to transforming

the natural and built environment of marginalized

communities.”

After a feasibility study was done in 2013,

Groundwork Jacksonville was established.

It’s a young organization whose mission is

now focused on the Emerald Necklace.

Alyssa Bourgoyne, Groundwork Jacksonville’s

interim executive director, explained,

“Long term, our role is to make sure the

health of the creeks in both the sediments

and the water and the land around them,

the greenways around them, are free of contamination.”

When asked who has to be the driver

behind Jacksonville’s effort, Bourgoyne was

quick with her answer: “Groundwork Jacksonville

has to lead it.”

She pointed to Yonkers as an example of

what a Groundwork trust can accomplish.

“It took them 10 years and $10 million to get

one segment of the Sawmill River completely

redeveloped,” she said.

“And I don’t mean we will put in a bike

trail, and we’ll deal with everything else later.

No, they spent 10 years and $10 million to

get one section fully taken care of, and they

have had huge success in that.

“But 10 years, right, it’s not for the weak

of heart, it’s not for people who aren’t willing

to remind themselves what the end game is.”

he vision for Jacksonville’s

Emerald Necklace continues

T to grow. There are proposals

to connect it to the Baldwin

Rail Trail and to the East Coast

Greenway — 3,000 miles of trails from Maine

to Key West that will cross the St. Johns River

using the Mayport ferry to tie A1A together.

So what do people see as the future of the

Emerald Necklace?

SPAR’s Parrish Stone sees neighborhoods

that are connected and thriving.

“Yes, all of our neighborhoods have different

names, but we are really all neighborhoods,”

she said.

“There is no wall between Springfield

and Durkeeville, between Durkeeville and

the Eastside, and connecting those neighborhoods

together is important for all of

them to succeed, and this trail can do that.”

Perhaps it comes from four years of picking

up the same trash over and over on Mc-

Coys Creek, but the Riverkeeper’s Blankenship

isn’t optimistic about major changes in

the next five to 10 years.

“I’ve been cleaning up on McCoys Creek

for years, and I can tell you the only difference

I have seen is that maybe 400 more

people know about it than when we started

four years ago,” she said.

“I know that doesn’t sound very hopeful.

I’m just not very hopeful on how fast this

could happen.”

But if the work proposed to be done is

comprehensive and not piecemeal, what

Blankenship sees is “the activity on the

Northbank Riverwalk and the activity on the

Baldwin Rail Trail being the same and actually

connecting and … just having it be a full

circle in downtown Jacksonville.”

Groundwork Jacksonville’s Bourgoyne’s

look into what she sees in the future for the

Emerald Necklace comes in a burst:

“Fully connected neighborhoods that

are engaged, and active living and healthy

spaces.

“Places that people want to go, and they

live at the beach, and they don’t need a

monthly bike ride with a group to come. It’s

going to look like green infrastructure and

art and a beautiful urban park.

“Trailheads, water fountains, restrooms,

bike racks. People kayaking. People swimming.

People fishing and eating the fish.

“The signs on Hogans Creek that say

don’t touch the water, that say don’t eat the

fish, will be gone.”

Creating a vision is easy and often fun.

Turning that vision into reality can be damn

hard.

Other cities have done it. There’s no reason

Jacksonville can’t do it as well.

Ron Littlepage has been with The

Florida Times-Union since 1978. He started

writing an opinion column in 1989. He lives

in Avondale.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 63


We know

Jacksonville.

Times-Union is a name you can trust.

We have built our business on a commitment to truth and

fair-dealing, and we take very seriously our role in the community

as the arbiter of truth, and the protector of our democracy.

The trust we have earned is a privilege and we work continuously

to keep and nurture that trust. We’re committed to pushing

the conversation of Jacksonville’s growth forward at every turn.

1 Riverside Avenue

Jacksonville, FL 32202

904.359.4318

jacksonville.com


AN URBAN REVIVAl

BY LILLA ROSS // ILLUSTRATION BY Torti Gallas + PARTNERS // FOR J MAGAZINE

66

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


A rendering of the Cathedral District

includes two-way streets along with a mix

of retail, residential and green space.

v

YOU MAY NOT KNOW MUCH ABOUT DOWNTOWN’S

CATHEDRAL DISTRICT. WHILE It doesn’t get the COVERAGE

of the FLASHY SHIPYARDS DISTRICT ALONG THE ST. JOHNS RIVER,

WHAT’S BEING PLANNED FOR THIS OVERLOOKED AREA

IS BOTH AMBITIOUS AND POTENTIALLY MIRACULOUS.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 67


v

TODAY’S CATHEDRAL DISTRICT

The Parks at Cathedral | 333 E. Church St.

St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral | 256 E. Church ST.

First Presbyterian Church | 118 E. Monroe St.

preserved residential HOMES | 100 block E. ChurcH ST.

First United Methodist Church | 225 E. Duval St.

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception | 11 E. Duval St.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFF DAVIS // J MAGAZINE

68

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


v v

It’s still in the vision phase, but what a vision:

a neighborhood in the heart of the city with a heart for the city.

While most of the Downtown attention has been focused on Jacksonville’s

riverfront, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral has been quietly working on its

own redevelopment initiative to make the environs around the church

a vibrant, walkable, multigenerational residential community.

STEVE NELSON

It’s an opportunity for private investors to invigorate an overlooked

part of the Downtown core with tax-generating residential

and retail developments.

It will need at least a little help from the city.

The vision is modeled on the medieval cathedral, which was

the center of village life, the

source of education, art and

worship.

It’s also the answer to a

problem that the Cathedral

helped create.

In the 1960s, the core city

was in serious decline as people

moved to the suburbs, a

crisis that eventually led to the

consolidation of Jacksonville

and Duval County in 1968.

“People were leaving the

core, but the Cathedral felt

called to stay,” said the Rev.

Kate Moorehead, dean of the

Cathedral. “So we surrounded

ourselves with ministries.”

Federal funding for urban

MAIN

N

OCEAN

E. STATE

E. UNION

E. BEAVER

E. ASHLEY

E. CHURCH

E. DUVAL

E. MONROE

E. ADAMS

LIBERTY

renewal was available, and before it dried up the Cathedral built

three high-rises for retirees and a nursing home, establishing one

of the city’s first nonprofits, the Cathedral Foundation, to manage

them. More than 600 people live in the high-rises, now managed

by Aging True, formed in 2011 by the merger of the Cathedral

Foundation and Urban Jacksonville.

The Cathedral got into education, establishing the Episcopal

School and a Downtown preschool. The congregation also was

active in Downtown Ecumenical Services and the Clara White

Mission. The Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless and Volunteers

in Medicine were started by Cathedral parishioners.

“When I came seven years ago, we realized that we had inadvertently

done ‘toxic charity,’” Moorehead said. “We had created

urban blight by creating all these nonprofits to minister to the

poor.”

So for five years they discussed and prayed about what they

should do next. They kept coming back to the idea of the medieval

cathedral.

“We started thinking, what if we had a vision to create a neighborhood,”

Moorehead said. “Not to displace the poor or discontinue

ministries, but to get people to move back in with us, into

the gritty exciting life of urban core.”

Moorehead wants to build

a community of people who

CATHEDRAL

DISTRICT

HOGAN’S

CREEK

want to live, work and play

Downtown but who are also

comfortable with diversity,

including the poor and elderly.

The goal is not gentrification

but ministry through a

supportive community.

So the congregation set up

Cathedral District-Jax, a nonprofit

with the goal of being

a catalyst for development

in the 33 blocks around the

church known to city planners

as the Cathedral District.

The project director of Cathedral

District-Jax is Ginny

Myrick, a former City Council

member with expertise in business development and government

relations. She will help brand and market opportunities in

the district.

“We’ve been likened to a preservation group, but we’re the

exact opposite,” Myrick said. “We’re about changing our neighborhood.”

And that means creating an identity and a sense of place.

A highway runs through it

But where to begin.

Moorehead and Myrick enlisted the support of the district’s

four other churches: First Presbyterian, First Methodist, Immaculate

Conception Catholic and Historic Mount Zion AME.

They also reached out to area businesses and the multitude of

nonprofits, many of which provide services to the homeless and

low-income residents in the area.

Last year, the Cathedral commissioned an Urban Land Insti-

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 69


tute (ULI) study of the area bordered on

the north by State Street, on the east by

Hogans Creek, on the south by Adams

Street and on the west by Main Street.

Armed with ULI’s 34 recommendations,

it hired Torti Gallas + Partners of

Washington to develop a master plan

in partnership with Genesis Partners, a

Jacksonville urban planning firm. The

plan was unveiled in August.

An analysis of the 33-block area concluded

that the Cathedral District is a

great place to live — if you’re a car.

More than half of the property in the

district is devoted to parking. That and a

lack of green space gives the impression

that many of the surrounding buildings

are vacant. They’re not. Occupancy is

quite high, said Erik Aulestia of Torti

Gallas.

The district also is a maze of one-way

streets, which make the area difficult to

navigate. And many of the streets are designed

to move traffic quickly with rapid-cycle

stoplights and wide lanes. This

encourages motorists to speed through

the area without giving the neighborhood

— or pedestrians — a second

thought.

Conversations with stakeholders in

the district yielded a host of ideas for

what they would like to see happen in

the district. What emerged was the idea

of an ecumenical village with the five

churches at its core and with leafy residential

streets and strong education, arts

and retail components.

The vision statement: “The Cathedral

District is a leafy Downtown historic

neighborhood where you can live work,

learn, play, serve and pray together with

your neighbors.”

But how to make that happen?

“One of the impediments is that people

can’t envision it being different,” Aulestia

said.

An ecumenical village

Torti Gallas came up with recommendations

for the Cathedral District

that include brick-and-mortar projects,

changes in traffic patterns and a flock of

angels.

The plan calls for a core of residential

between Ashley and Duval streets. To

preserve the character of the neighborhood,

Aulestia recommended playing

off the architecture in the area, especially

the double-porch style of architecture

found in the older single-family homes

on the eastern edge of the district. Tree/

“We started thinking,

what if we had a vision to

create a neighborhood.

Not to displace the poor

or discontinue ministries,

but to get people to move

back in with us, into the

gritty exciting life of

urban core.”

Rev. Kate Moorehead

dean of the St. John’s

Episcopal Cathedral

grass medians along the street would

create a neighborhood feel.

The most obvious first project is the

redevelopment of the Community Connections

property east of the Cathedral.

The property has deed restrictions that

need to be changed, and a portion of it is

in the process of being declared an historic

landmark by the city, Myrick said.

But Chase Properties is interested in

building residential units that could be

ready in two years.

A vacant lot to the northwest of the

Cathedral also is suited to residential,

possibly mirroring the adjacent 51-unit

Parks at the Cathedral townhomes built

on land donated by the Cathedral. It

would surprise many people to learn

that the modern townhomes include internal

parking, a swimming pool and a

park-like courtyard and are individually

owned or fully rented at market rates.

A second component is a mixed-use

gateway on North Market Street with

street-level retail topped with two or

three stories of residential and an open

street plan with public art and green

space. The gateway would link the Cathedral

District to Springfield and be

appealing to employees at Florida State

College at Jacksonville and UF Health.

“With market-rate residential, you

could have critical mass that changes the

complete profile of the neighborhood,”

Myrick said. “And retail follows rooftops.”

The district already has a Harvey’s

supermarket and a Family Dollar within

walking distance and several fast-food

restaurants. Additional businesses like

salons, dry cleaners and a pharmacy are

needed to support a residential neighborhood.

But a school is what would really

make the Cathedral District a place to

call home. The Cathedral already operates

a preschool in the district with a

waiting list of 100. Many of the parents

work Downtown.

A University of North Florida survey

of employees at major Downtown companies,

commissioned by Cathedral District-Jax,

found parents of 7,000 children

who said they would be willing to send

their children to a Downtown school.

Myrick is in conversations with several

charter school companies about starting

a K-8 school of the arts that would be

a feeder to nearby LaVilla School of the

Arts. It could open as soon as next year.

One site that is being considered is a

four-story building owned by First Pres-

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J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


yterian Church that was designed in the

1960s to be a school, but never opened

because Riverside Presbyterian Day

School opened at the same time.

The building would need a sprinkler

system and some other upgrades, but it

already has a cafeteria and auditorium,

Myrick said. The playground could be on

the roof.

The flock of angels would descend in

the form of public art in the parks that

are badly needed in the district. Currently,

there is a pocket park at Duval and

Monroe streets that could be enlarged

and landscaped. Aulestia also suggested

putting in a large park in the northeast

corner of the district against the overpass.

Wherever the parks go, he said, they

should have an identity — targeted to

young children, dogs or activities like

chess or table tennis.

A diet for Downtown

And that brings the conversation

back to cars. If you want a residential

neighborhood with people walking their

dogs and kids playing, you don’t want

a highway running through it, Aulestia

said. That means putting Downtown on

a “road diet.”

Reconfiguring the streets to make

them two-way and restriping them to

make the lanes narrower slows down

drivers, Aulestia said. It’s being done on

Riverside Avenue and Forest Street in

Brooklyn and on Riverplace Boulevard

on the Southbank. It also will allow for

bike lanes and make sidewalks safer for

pedestrians. Urban planner Jeff Speck

has a lot to say about that in a story on

walkability on page 40.

It means that the decisions about

Downtown transportation need to focus

on people instead of vehicles, people

who prefer to travel on foot, by bicycle,

trolley or Skyway.

Safe passage needs to be provided by

maintaining sidewalks, slowing down

traffic signals and maybe getting creative

with intersections and crosswalks.

Painting designs on the pavement not

only can brighten up the area, especially

at gateway points but also make drivers

pay attention, Aulestia said.

Street art can also help create a sense

of place and link the Cathedral District

to the Sports complex and Elbow District

to the south and east, the business

district to the west and Springfield and

Hogans Creek to the north.

“There is momentum,

and this is a first-time

initiative being driven by

faith-based stakeholders.

It will take several years

to bear fruit, and I’ve

always been a big fan

of ripe fruit.”

Ginny Myrick

Cathedral District-Jax

project director

Parking is the tricky — and expensive

— part of the puzzle.

The way parking lots are scattered

around the district is a poor use of real

estate, but building more residential will

increase the demand for parking, at least

in the short-term, Aulestia said. In the

long term, demand for parking might

actually decline because fewer people

will be driving personal cars, opting instead

of ride-for-hire services like Uber

or public transportation.

But parking doesn’t come cheap.

Aulestia said a surface parking lot costs

$3,500 a space while a parking structure

costs $30,000 a space. Part of the solution

might be to add a layer of parking

to existing lots by using modular parking

decks, which are less expensive and can

be easily removed.

Restoring the balance

Neither Myrick nor Moorehead expects

any of this to happen quickly, but

they expect it to happen.

“This is a large, multi-year project

which I believe has hit the right time

in the history of our city,” Myrick said.

“There is momentum, and this is a firsttime

initiative being driven by faith-based

stakeholders. It will take several years to

bear fruit, and I’ve always been a big fan

of ripe fruit.”

To make it happen, the city needs to

step up and address the traffic and infrastructure

piece of the equation, as well as

provide incentives for the catalytic projects.

Aundra Wallace, chief executive officer

of the Downtown Investment Authority,

said the “road diet” for Downtown “is

very realistic.” However, funding must be

identified to address the one-way-to-twoway

street conversions and restriping.

“The overall development strategy is

very sound and practical,” Wallace said.

“The development of the Community

Connections location can serve as a catalytic

development project provided it’s financeable.

The charter school concept is

a component that would help residential

development in the urban core.”

As a nonprofit, Cathedral District-Jax

is in a position to attract money from

foundations, and there are several church

funds dedicated to urban renewal, Myrick

said.

It needs to happen, Moorehead said,

to restore the balance to Downtown.

“To really minister to the poor, you

have to live with them,” the dean said.

FLORIDA TIMES-UNION

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J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


“That’s what we’re understanding now. In

an urban desert, they’re all by themselves.

People come in from the suburbs, do ministry

and then leave. That leaves them alone

without any real understanding and without

all their needs met. By keeping the ministries

but encouraging people to move back

in, we’re doing a much better job of serving

the poor.”

It’s a new style of ministry — and urban

renewal — that Moorehead thinks will resonate

with millennials, who are interested in

living in a diverse neighborhood.

“The inclination of many people is to

run away to gated communities or resorts,”

Moorehead said. “It’s scary to live and work

among people who are different, but it’s a

richer way of life.”

Redeveloping the Cathedral District is

not just about constructing housing and

retail. It’s about building community, too,

and that requires a safe environment where

people can start building relationships and

trust, she said.

Aulestia said he has worked on a lot of

plans to help revitalize struggling cities. He

thinks the Cathedral District is different.

“You have the commitment of a few individuals

to see it through, to take it every step

of the way,” he said.

“I love this city,” Moorehead said. “It’s an

extraordinary canvas for Downtown development.”

Lilla Ross was a reporter and editor for

The Florida Times-Union for more than

30 years and now is a freelance writer. She

lives in San Marco.

VOICES FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Wiatt Bowers

Career: Senior planning manager, Florida

Transportation Planning

Age: 45

Residence: Parks at the Cathedral, 333 E.

Church St.

How long: 11 years

What do you like:

I moved to Jacksonville in 2006. I’m an urban

planner, and it’s important to me to be in the

urban core. I looked at San Marco and Riverside,

but what I love about my townhouse

is that it’s a relatively new unit with decent

square footage with a lot of the benefits you’d

find in a suburban neighborhood. I have a

garage, a deck and terrace, a pool. There’s a

grass side yard with trees. And I have all the

advantages of being in the heart of a city. I

can walk or bike places like the Arena, the

Stadium, the Landing. I don’t live a car-free life,

but I don’t drive as much as I would if I lived

in the suburbs.

What would you like to see:

More people. Everything else comes when

more people come, whether they are

residents or people coming to do something

to church on Sunday, or brunch. The other

thing I would like to see us have is more

multimodal transportation — bicycle facilities

with better transit connections to other

parts of the urban core.

Louise Henry

Retired

Age: 95

Residence: Cathedral Towers, 601 N.

Newnan St.

How long: 13 years

What do you like:

It’s wonderful living downtown. We have

24-hour security. Before I was living alone,

but now I have so many friends and people

looking in on me. I can go to church right

across the street at the AME Church. The

supermarket is a little over a block away. If I

feel like walking six or seven blocks, I can go

sit on the river and watch the boats and enjoy

the fresh air. There are all kinds of things

going on — bingo and Bible studies. There’s

a bus that takes us shopping. We’re not far

from the hospitals.

What would you like to see:

I’m not a complainer. I think it’s wonderful.

If you want to have a good life, this is the

place.

Jessica Olberding

Career: Energy trading company

Age: 31

Residence: The Strand on the Southbank

How long: 6 months

What do you like:

My husband and I are urban people. We enjoy

the atmosphere of the city. We have two

children, 5 and 16 months. We moved to the

Southbank because it’s as close as we could

be to Downtown and still be in the Hendricks

Avenue Elementary school district. Before

that we lived at the Parks at the Cathedral for

five years and really loved it. I love it that I had

great entertainment options for the kids. We

could walk to MOSH or the Main Library or

MOCA for the kids room or the kids zone

at Hemming Park. And I could go jogging over

the bridges with the stroller. I really like that I

don’t have a 45-minute commute.

What would you like to see:

I would love a charter school! Expanding

the Skyway to the stadium, San Marco and

Five Points is a great step. There needs to be

a drug store. Better grocery store options

would be good as Harvey’s has some notable

security issues. There is also a significant

presence of loitering vagrants and mentally

ill homeless which is really different from the

homeless presence I’ve seen in other cities

where I lived.

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 73


Float

TRIPS

BY PAULA HORVATH // PHOTOGRAPH BY JEFF DAVIS // J MAGAZINE

74

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


AS DOWNTOWN CONTINUES TO GROW

WITH A STRING OF NEW RESIDENCES,

BUSINESSES AND ACTIVITIES, FINDING

MORE WAYS TO GET PEOPLE ONTO AND

ACROSS THE ST. JOHNS RIVER IS ESSENTIAL

As the sun set

on Downtown

Jacksonville, the

St. Johns River

Taxi carried a

load of passengers

under the Main

Street Bridge

from Friendship

Fountain to

Metropolitan Park.

s Downtown edges toward its future

as a more vibrant city center,

the network of waterways that define

it will become an ever more

A

important part of what will be a

lively urban scene.

Just imagine: sails skimming

across the St. Johns, the whir of motors as boats slip

under Downtown bridges, myriad docks extending into

the river at the Shipyards marina, and a flurry of activity

around the two creeks that form the extensions on

Downtown’s Emerald Necklace.

These waterways will give Jacksonville’s heart a vitality

matched by few other cities. Water is the fuel that will

animate its future.

A focal point in that reimagining of Downtown is a

lively crew of water taxis that will transport visitors and

residents alike to various points along the river as a way

of ensuring they experience the magic of the mighty St.

Johns.

Much of that is already in place with the service operated

by St. Johns River Taxi LLC. Since the company

took over management of the taxi flotilla in 2014, the

service has undergone an amazing transformation.

Today’s aquatic cabs not only transport people

across and up and down the river, they serve as river-based

entertainment venues for special tours allowing

riders to explore facets of the river not readily seen

from its banks.

Riders pay varying amounts for the taxi service. An

adult daily pass, for example, is $10 and allows riders to

travel all day; children and seniors pay $8. In comparison,

the sunset cruises, history and science cruises are

$15 for adults and $12 for children.

That’s historically not been enough to sustain the

service, but operators are faced with a Catch 22 when

they consider price increases. Hiking the ticket price

will cost the taxi’s customers, and decreasing the prices

will increase ridership to such an extent that it costs

more to run the service than it brings in.

To balance the books and keep the taxis afloat, the

city kicks in $120,000 each year, and various private

sponsors who see the River Taxis as vital to Downtown

contribute more.

Even with that, the service continually struggles to

make sure it remains viable. St. Johns River Taxi partner

Heather Surface admits that the support it receives “allows

us to break even. It’s very lean and mean.”

So the question now — as Downtown moves toward

its future — is how do the city and its business partners

ensure the survival of the River Taxi? And just as

important, what do we want the service to eventually

become as Downtown blossoms?

The first question can’t be answered until the city

collectively recognizes the service as an absolutely crucial

part of Downtown’s future. We can’t brand Downtown

as a unique waterway-defined segment of the city

without giving people a way to get onto and across the

water.

And increasingly, as Downtown is built out with hotels,

residences and other businesses, the taxis will contribute

enormously to a healthy economy.

Indeed, Savannah has recognized the importance

of its river taxi system. There, the Savannah Belles are a

vital part of Chatham Area Transit.

“At the end of the day, everyone realizes (the water

taxis) are in our best interests,” explains Nick Helmhold,

who formerly helped to direct the Savannah Belles and

now serves as an urban planner in Savannah. “In my

opinion, they’re very important to our economy.”

That’s the kind of attitude that must be adopted

here. It seems the city has signaled its belief in the importance

of the taxis, but local businesses haven’t been

as supportive.

In fact, after the city, the next biggest contributor to

the service isn’t a business at all — it’s the Riverkeeper,

which has given the St. Johns River Taxis $55,000 each

of the last two years to offer a fantastic program that introduces

underprivileged children to the river.

The next largest sponsor, at $30,000, is the Jacksonville

Jaguars, who rightly recognize the taxis provide an

essential service for football fans on game days. There

are other smaller sponsors as well, including The Florida

Times-Union’s in-kind sponsorship.

But few of those sponsors are assured for next year.

“Our approach was to hopefully prime the pump

with the hopes that other stakeholders Downtown will

join our commitment to protect this community asset,”

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 75


says Mark Lamping, president of the Jaguars.

“But we shouldn’t have to do it alone. It’s

important that those who care about Downtown

Jacksonville consider a commitment

no matter how small.”

9

6

8

95

12

11

1

Shipyards

10

2 7

3

Friendship 4

Fountain 13

THE FUTURE OF THE RIVER TAXI?

City Councilwoman Lori Boyer’s vision for expanding the routes of the

St. Johns River Taxi, would eventually include eight more Downtown taxi stops.

EXISTING TAXI STOPS

FUTURE STOPS

The Landing

The

District

Baseball

Grounds

1 Jacksonville Landing 6 Riverside Arts Market 11

2 Friendship Fountain 7 Sports Complex

12

3 Doubletree Hotel 8 Brooklyn neighborhood 13

4 Lexington Hotel 9 Cummer Museum/Five Points 14

5 Metropolitan Park 10 USS Adams

5

EverBank

Field

Metropolitan

Park

St. Johns River

hat’s perhaps most remarkable

looking at

the relatively short list

W of taxi supporters is

the absence of many

Downtown stakeholders,

including the

names of some hoteliers whose guests could

benefit from the service.

This kind of shortsightedness is the attitude

that could limit the revitalization of

Downtown.

Surface has over the past couple of years

put together a hefty packet of the ways supporters

could contribute, ranging from inkind

donations to cash donations that would

allow a business to hand out free taxi tickets

to all its employees. She’s been dedicated in

pitching her ideas to Downtown businesses

— obviously with widely varying results.

The second question — what should the

River Taxi become — is a bit harder to answer.

There is, however, at least a groundswell

of belief that the service should offer

free rides for at least some of its trips.

There are several ways — with planning

— this could happen.

In Savannah, for example, the service is

free from 7 a.m. to midnight, seven days a

week. It’s paid for with a nightly $1 per occupied

hotel room tax, also called a bed tax, all

of which is funneled to the taxis.

Jacksonville currently has such a bed tax,

but much of it goes to the Jaguars for stadium

improvements and maintenance, effectively

supporting and recognizing the impact the

team and owner Shad Khan’s other ventures

have on the local economy. The remainder

is targeted for other visitor-related city projects.

Capt. Cap Fendig, who years ago helped

start the St. Johns River Taxi then managed

the Savannah Belles before opening his own

tour business on St. Simons Island, believes

another way to support partially free services

would be through a fee that Downtown hotels

voluntarily agree to charge each guest.

Called folio charges, these fees could then

go directly to the River Taxis to support some

free services, especially for hotel guests. Such

a plan would require that hotels strongly buy

into the service as a valuable partner.

“Jacksonville really needs (the water taxis)

to promote and stimulate the economy,”

Fendig says. “This is a very doable thing.”

Neither Surface nor Fendig see such support

as substantial enough to make all River

Taxi services free, but free weekday service is

a definite possibility. The cost of more specialized

services — such as the various special

cruises — would still have to be borne by

the rider.

That’s precisely the model chosen by

Baltimore, which has a private partner that

operates its water taxis. The Baltimore Water

Taxis operate both specialized tours and

14

N

Fuller Warren Bridge

Times-Union property

The District

Possible future park

cruises, but also a free water taxi called the

Harbor Connector.

The Connector is a free water-based

shuttle service that transports its downtown

commuters around the harbor Mondays

through Fridays. It’s funded by a city parking

tax charged to motorists using city-owned

parking garages from which the taxis get a

share.

For Baltimore riders, the service is essential.

“It’s absolutely beloved,” says Colby

McFarland, transit services administrator for

the Baltimore City Department of Transportation.

Why? “Because we have a lot of congestion

in the inner city, so why not take advantage

of our waterways,” he says. “Jacksonville

is congested too, so such a service would

work there.”

hatever system is ultimately

chosen for the

river taxis, most agree

W

that keeping the aquatic

service running is

crucial.

City Councilwoman

Lori Boyer, for example, who champions

using the river as a way to enhance Downtown,

says resources such as the water taxis

are crucial to attracting visitors and tourists.

Jake Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision,

also sees the taxi as “a great amenity. I definitely

would not want it to go away.

“As a river city, we’d love a vibrant Downtown,

and that means people interacting

with the river.”

And as far as the Jaguars’ Lamping is concerned,

“We believe that one of the greatest

assets of Downtown Jacksonville is the St.

Johns River. And … it should be similarly

important for everyone who’s interested in a

vibrant, thriving Downtown.”

So, come on, Jacksonville, it’s time we

recognize and support the value the St.

Johns River Taxis bring to Downtown. As the

city center grows and morphs into the destination

we know it can be, it’s time everyone

pledges to ensure the taxis are an integral

part of that future.

Downtown’s identity as a destination for

visitors and locals depends upon how well

it can leverage all the components that will

make it a distinctive attraction. And water is

one of the primary ingredients.

Paula Horvath is an editorial writer and

editorial board member at The Florida Times-

Union and teaches multimedia journalism at the

University of North Florida.

STEVE NELSON AND JEFF DAVIS

76 J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


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John A. Graham, 67, an

Army Veteran who served

in Korea and was originally

from Philadelphia has been in

Jacksonville for 12 years and

homeless for the last year.

78

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


DOWN

TOWN

HOME

LESS

NESS

WHILE THE

DOWNTOWN

HOMELESS PROBLEM

HAS BEEN AROUND

FOR YEARS, SOLUTIONS

HAVE NOT COME

EASILY

BY PAULA HORVATH

PHOTOGRAPHS BY BOB SELF

J MAGAZINE


There‘s

not much worse for a downtown trying to

revitalize its image than being cast as someplace

where transients loiter, waiting to accost

visitors or simply sprawling on the sidewalks.

For years, that’s been the picture of Jacksonville’s

Downtown: Shabbily dressed

people drinking beer out of paper bags. Panhandlers

roaming the blocks of Downtown,

asking people for money and drugs. People

sleeping on broken-down cardboard boxes

under Downtown bridges.

Some are homeless. Some are mentally

ill. Others are simply out of work. They all depend

upon Downtown as a place to socialize

and access services.

Make no mistake, the vast majority are

not dangerous, but they can frighten. More

than one person admits it’s a little scary

braving the streets of Downtown in search of

restaurants and entertainment.

For some people, it’s also a reason to just

stay away. Why even go Downtown, one

woman reasoned, “There’s nothing there except

drunks and bums.”

The challenge Downtown movers and

shakers are faced with today is how to shed

that image. It’s absolutely clear that Downtown

is never going to become a destination

for sightseers or fun-seekers or a healthy environment

for businesses to grow when it’s

dominated by people perceived as alarming.

It’s not a problem that hasn’t been tackled.

For decades, Jacksonville’s collection of

wonderful nonprofits and humanitarians

have worked hard to help the poor, homeless

and disadvantaged in the city center

and elsewhere. These generous individuals

Scenes in and around Hemming

Park and the Main Library.

80

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


possessed compassionate hearts and toiled diligently to

make a difference.

But they can’t find solutions alone.

The real trouble in Jacksonville is that city leaders have

stubbornly refused to step forward to help solve the problem.

Business leaders have bemoaned the fact that Downtown

has an image problem. City

government leaders have contributed

resolutions and dire words.

It hasn’t been nearly enough.

And it’s not that we don’t know

some of the steps that need to be

made. Cities like Orlando, Cleveland

and Salt Lake City have made

enormous strides toward solving

not only their problems with their

city centers, but in solving their

homeless problem in general.

The key to all these efforts has

been that everyone in the community

must be deeply involved

in seeking solutions — together.

The hearts of the nonprofits and

humanitarians aren’t enough.

Faith leaders are required to join

the effort, as are those from government

and business sectors.

Everyone who sees Downtown

as a diamond in the rough must

be on board to polish its image.

That has begun to happen

here. As J magazine went to press,

a diverse group of community

leaders from all walks of life began to talk, brought together

by Dawn Gilman, the executive director of Jacksonville’s

Changing Homelessness.

This kind of collaboration will be essential if Downtown’s

to progress.

“Agencies talking among themselves doesn’t move the

needle,” Gilman says. “The more (everyone) starts talking

about how we truly change homelessness in our community,

the better it will be.”

Indeed, that was the approach taken by Orlando several

years in Central Florida with the formation of an extremely

dedicated working group of homeless advocates and faith

leaders as well as city and business representatives. They

decided their goal would be to decrease the population of

homeless people who used city center streets as their beds

each night.

Much like in Jacksonville, city planners and others

were nervous that their strategies to pump up the vibrancy

of Orlando’s center would be hampered by the number of

people who hung out on urban corners and in parks.

The city had already spent millions of dollars to improve

and build downtown entertainment venues, and

businesses were ready to come in with millions more

in retail stores, offices and restaurants. But would there

be anyone to patronize these establishments if they felt

threatened?

The charge to decrease transience on Orlando’s downtown

streets was led in part by Andrae Bailey, then-CEO

U.S. CITIES WITH the

largest homeless

populations IN 2016

While the total homeless population has

fallen almost 14% since 2010, there are still

close to 550,000 people in the U.S. who

don’t have a fixed abode.

of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. He

gathered together leaders and compiled volumes of data,

then guided the group toward a discussion of solutions

and population targets.

The target seemed obvious: The city’s urban center

needed to be able to become a destination, so the group

decided their focus would be on

HOMELESS

CITY

POPULATION

1. New York 73,523

2. Los Angeles 43,854

(includes Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County)

3. Seattle 10,730

(includes all of King County)

4. San Diego 8,669

(includes San Diego City and San Diego County)

5. District of Columbia 8,350

6. San Francisco 6,996

7. San Jose and Santa Clara, California 6,524

(includes San Jose and Santa Clara City & County)

8. Boston 6,240

9. Las Vegas 6,208

(includes Clark County)

10. Philadelphia 6,112

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

downtown for both humanitarian

and economic reasons.

Using that logic, Bailey’s

group decided to target one

group of people who seemed to

be the most problematic. These

were the individuals who often

attracted much of the public

criticism — the chronically

homeless who often also have

mental and physical health

problems.

It wasn’t hard to find them,

Bailey says. A survey at one

downtown Orlando shelter

showed that of the 36,000 nightly

stays over the previous year, a

mere 111 people had accounted

for 18,000 — or half — of those

stays.

Certainly not all these people

presented a problem for

downtown visitors, but many

did.

“Not everyone is created

equal when it comes to their

impact on others,” Bailey says. “What we found was that

these chronically homeless folks didn’t have the capacity

to get a job. These folks were the ones who needed (help).”

In Jacksonville, and especially Downtown, the same

thinking may hold. Bailey lauds the city for decreasing its

homeless-veteran problem by 75 percent during a concerted

effort and believes it’s a good sign.

“So far, Jacksonville has done a great job helping its

homeless veterans,” he says. “The next step is to get the

chronically homeless into housing. You’d be taking out

the scariest people. That would make a huge difference.”

The Orlando team funded its effort by cobbling together

state and federal programs and grants and private donations,

including $6 million from Florida Hospital, after

the group gathered data showing that rapid re-housing

could make a difference.

In the three years Bailey led the effort to tidy up Orlando’s

streets, homelessness in the city was reduced by 50

percent. He now leads a national initiative, Lead Homelessness,

focused on recreating nationally the approach

that worked so well in Orlando.

Key to the success of Orlando’s approach was the active

involvement of the entire community, he stresses.

“Good intentions don’t cut it when you have a complex

problem. You have to work through partners. You have

to get people to work with you or you can never push the

CONTINUED ON PAGE 91

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 81


Born and raised in Jacksonville, Sylvester

Black was homeless for years after getting

out of prison on a variety of charges. After

getting his life together with the help of City

Rescue Mission, Black got a job mentoring

youth with the Public Defenders Office.

82

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


OFF

THE

STR

EET

FOR SYLVESTER

BLACK, the lessons

he learned LIVING

DOWNTOWN

ON A PIECE OF

CARDBOARD ARE

ONES HE’LL NEVER

FORGET

BY PAULA HORVATH

PHOTOGRAPHS BY BOB SELF

J MAGAZINE

FOR THE

homeless, anonymity is protection against

a world constantly confirming how little

you’re worth. In fact, the less a person knew

about you, the better, the tall man figured.

“Black,” they called him on the streets of

Downtown Jacksonville. Just that one word

— Black — a moniker based upon his dark

skin. He was taciturn and cautious, he talked

with few people and called even fewer

his friends.

For 27 years, a period that accounted for

most of his life at that time, Black had been

in prison. He’d been convicted of burglary

when he was 21, and a Jacksonville judge

sent him to prison for the first time. To

guards, he was Inmate No. 275956 and not

much else. Inside those walls, behind those

bars, he’d seen the fires of hell. It had hardened

him.

Finally set free, he wanted nothing to do

with four walls after he found his childhood

home on West 22nd Street had been condemned

and demolished by the city. There

isn’t anything here for me, he figured, so

that first night he made his way to sleep near

Downtown under the stars.

For the next 2½ years Black spent most

nights under those same stars curled up on

a piece of cardboard to keep the early-morning

damp away from his skin. Black and other

homeless men and women called home

an empty lot behind the City Rescue Mission,

a place they called Cardboard City.

Today the 58-year-old Black is neither

homeless nor alone. About 10 years ago, he

left Cardboard City, determined to make a

better life for himself. He has done that with

the help of City Rescue Mission programs,

which he said helped him find God, and a

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 83


“People need to stop looking down at these

people and reach out to see if there’s anything

we can do to help them.” SYLVESTER BLACK

job with the Public Defender’s Office. He met

his wife, Francine, and they married seven

years ago. The couple now live in an apartment

and have applied through Habitat for

Humanity for a house.

He’ll even tell people his name now —

proudly. Sylvester Black, he says chuckling.

He sees humor in the fact his fellow homeless

people invented a name for him without even

knowing it was his real name. Although most

of his time is spent at the Public Defender’s

Office, where he mentors youngsters who’ve

gotten into trouble, Black still makes a point

to go for walks in the community he used to

call “home,” Hemming Park and the area behind

the Main Public Library.

But back then he was just one of the some

400 homeless men and women who sleep

outside somewhere in Downtown Jacksonville

every night. In addition to those, another

1,600 or so homeless people across Northeast

Florida find some place other than the

streets to rest their heads. It might be within

a homeless shelter or another facility, but

when dawn breaks, they’re often out on the

streets again.

Now that Black has found his own shelter

off the streets, he’s determined that other

Jacksonville residents get a clearer picture of

the people with whom he once shared his

space under the stars Downtown. He’s aware

that there’s much criticism of homeless and

transients who frequent parks in the city’s

heart, but says much of that is based upon

misunderstanding.

In particular, Black is adamant that, in

many ways, homeless people are little different

from the business people who blindly

brush past them while crossing Hemming

Park. People encounter difficulties in their

lives, but sometimes, because of a lack of

money, ability or status, those difficulties

consume them. For a small number of people,

the struggles leave them without a home

to call their own.

It’s the discrepancy between who the

homeless really are and who they’re thought

to be that really concerns Black. They’re not

people to be feared or people to be ignored.

They are instead people who, like everyone

else in this city, sometimes need help. And

although Black is no longer one of them, he’s

adamant that his job is to help “introduce”

them to the non-homeless people of Jacksonville.

These days Black is greeted warmly by

both those seated on the walls beneath Hemming’s

big trees and walking along its bricked

pathways. Men in suits and women in office

attire hail him and shake his hand. Others

Eddie McNeal,

57, has medical

issues that

make it difficult

to work

because of the

pain. He lost

both his job

and his home

seven months

ago because of

health issues.

clad in humbler attire shout his name, “Hey,

Black,” as they see him step into the square.

But it wasn’t always that way.

“Back then people would give you a look

like you’re the lowest thing on the Earth,”

he says, remembering his homeless days.

“They’d be scared of you so they’d cross the

street or grab their purse closer. You ain’t gotta

worry about getting your space when you’re

homeless.” He shakes his head slowly.

While his work with young people in trouble

through the Public Defender’s Office is

84

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


“Everybody isn’t bad. Sometimes you

have unforeseen circumstances that

happen in a person’s life.” TODD WASHINGTON

rewarding, it’s not really where his heart lies.

He’d love to be back on the streets, not in

residence but as a guide to help those he left

behind find their own paths out of homelessness.

He’s aware of the controversy surrounding

the homeless, especially those who

frequent Hemming, with businesses and City

Hall searching for ways to clear them from the

plaza to make way for more well-to-do visitors.

Black says many of those living on Jacksonville’s

streets are people with few other

choices. “Many have lost jobs or lost their

loved ones. Or they just leave their homes because

they don’t feel like nobody loves them

anymore. Yet we don’t look at them as someone

who’s down and out; we look at them as

somebody we don’t want around.”

They’re people such as Eddie McNeal, 57,

who’s had little choice but to make the streets

his home. He’d been a furniture mover most

of his life, hoisting other people’s belongings

from one home into another. At least he’d

done that until he found out that seven discs

in his back had been injured by the work after

his hands and feet starting losing feeling. The

injuries were so severe, in fact, that he was in

the hospital for weeks, only to get out and find

out he’d not only lost his job but been evicted

from his apartment. He’s been on the street

ever since.

And they’re people such as the extremely

articulate Todd Washington, a 48-year-old

who spent his time in Hemming after he

moved here from up north to make a new

start. When he and his wife got off at the Amtrak

station in Jacksonville, they were routed

to Downtown streets, which they made their

home for the next six months, sleeping wherever

they could. An Army veteran who says he

graduated from Howard University, Washington

now has a job at a Jacksonville hotel.

“I USED

to frequent this park,” Washington says, glancing

around him. “I had a backpack with all my

clothes and belongings.” What would he like

others to know about the homeless? “That

everybody isn’t bad. Sometimes you have unforeseen

circumstances that happen in a person’s

life.”

Black would also like people to know that

most of the people who haunt Hemming aren’t

even homeless. “You see those cats with

the backpacks?” Black says, motioning toward

a dozen or so people waiting for the main library

to open. “That’s how you can pick the

homeless out.”

The majority — without backpacks — are

people who have homes to go to at night, so

they aren’t forced to carry their entire world

on their back. His comment is borne out by a

Changing Homelessness survey conducted in

Hemming that shows as many as 80 percent of

Hemming’s inhabitants aren’t homeless.

They filter into the plaza every morning

because they have nothing else to do. They’re

retired, they’re disabled or they’re out of work.

They want to use the free services offered by

the library, and, probably most importantly,

they’re looking for social contact. Nearly every

day, informal groups form, playing dominoes

or chess, offering daytime respite for people

who’d otherwise find themselves alone. You

can spot them easily, Black again points out,

because they lack the backpacks of the homeless.

Black is adamant that it’s often these present-but-not-homeless

Hemming Park residents

who cause the problems with panhandling

and drinking so often noted by outsiders.

He suggests that perhaps a Downtown social

center where they could meet, use computers,

play chess and dominoes and simply socialize

would be an important addition to the city.

One that would be utilized frequently by many

while emptying Hemming of the people simply

there to hang out.

Such a center could be either separate

or part of the kind of day resource center for

the homeless envisioned by the Interfaith

Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment,

or ICARE. In addition to the

social spaces and technology utilized by the

non-homeless denizens of Hemming, such

a center could also offers services that cater

specifically to the homeless, such as shower

facilities and access to service providers. That

may be a long time in coming as the city has

declined to fund such a project.

But the needs of the homeless are more

expansive than just a social center. They range

CONTINUED ON PAGE 91

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 85


WITH THE OPENING OF THE UPSCALE COWFORD CHOPHOUSE

EXPECTED LATER THIS YEAR, THE ELBOW DISTRICT IS ABOUT

TO GET A MUCH NEEDED SHOT OF ADRENALINE

Elbow

BOOM

BY JASMINE MARSHALL // ILLUSTRATION BY JEFF DAVIS // J MAGAZINE

I

t’s no secret to young folks that Downtown

Jacksonville is entering its Renaissance.

We come in search of a good time, local grub

and a good backdrop for shots worthy of Instagram,

bringing with us a sense of exploration that’s duly

rewarded with land yet uncharted in the city we call

home. Even a once-monthly visit yields spoils in the

ANATOMY OF THE ELBOW

1 Indochine • 21 E. Adams St. #200

2 Burrito Gallery • 21 E. Adams St.

3 THE 5 & DIME THEATRE CO. • 112 E. Adams St.

4 Super Food & Brew • 11 E. Forsyth St.

5 Dos Gatos • 123 E. Forsyth St.

6 Azucena Corner Deli • 100 E. Forsyth St.

7 Casa Dora Italian • 108 E. Forsyth St.

8 THE SPACE GALLERY • 120 E. Forsyth St.

9 Florida Theatre • 128 E. Forsyth St.

10 1904 Music Hall • 19 N. Ocean St.

11 Downtown Cigar Lounge • 11 N. Ocean St.

12 Spliff’s Gastropub • 15 N. Ocean St.

13 Cowford Chophouse • 110 E. Bay St.

14 Bold City Brewery • 109 E. Bay St.

15 Bay Street Bar & Grill • 119 E. Bay St.

16 D & G Deli and Grille • 223 E. Bay St.

17 Olio • 301 E. Bay St.

18 Live Bar • 331 E. Bay St.

19 Myth Nightclub • 333 E. Bay St.

20 Element Bistro + Bar • 335 E. Bay St.

21 The Hourglass Pub • 345 E. Bay St.

22 STUDIO ZSA ZSA Lapree • 223 E. Bay St.

FOOD | DRINKS | LIVE ENTERTAINMENT

ART | COMING SOON

86 J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017 RE

SOURCE: theelbowjax.com


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form of new businesses, music and art.

It’s about time intergenerational crowds,

to use a polite term for you older folks, took

notice, too.

Leading that charge is “The Elbow,” the

L-shaped stretch greeting visitors just off

the Main Street Bridge that aims to continually

cultivate the growing nightlife Downtown.

The independent collection of more

than 20 local establishments is responsible

for much of Downtown’s weekend

buzz, bolstered by the monthly art walks,

lounges, local fare and gallery space.

Its pickings — a smattering of bar, food

and entertainment venues — have the

propensity to become a second home for

young locals and retirees alike, supplying

experiences that run the gamut from

rave-style bashes at nightclubs to prohibition-era

themed bars and a historic

theater hosting everything from stand-up

comedy to ballet troupes. And though

its appeal draws a relatively millennial

crowd, The Elbow is wholly dedicated to

showing every generation what fun there

is to be had Downtown.

It’s as unique as it is rare: a concentrated

group of businesses owned and operated

by River City natives that was once only

a pipe dream to anyone who had borne

witness to the dilapidated collection of

buildings lining the streets of Downtown

as recently as 2011.

Today The Elbow hums with life.

The goal of the business owners in the

area isn’t just monetary; they know their

pursuits are bigger than they are, with

many forefronting the movement Downtown

and determined to revive the creative

and social energy that roused the city

in its heyday.

An eclectic mixture of restaurants,

pubs and after-hours establishments, The

Elbow is essentially a geographic area that

extends a few blocks north and east from

the intersection of Ocean and Bay streets.

At its heart is the Florida Theatre, and it

includes such longtime favorites as Dos

Gatos and Indochine as well as newcomers

like the soon-to-be-opened Cowford

Chophouse and Myth Nightclub and Element

Bistro. The last venue embodies

the young hybrid spirit of a 2-in-1 with

offerings that run the gamut from live DJ

sets housed under Jacksonville’s only LED

video ceiling to organic, locally sourced

cuisine and craft cocktails.

The Elbow’s draw is just as varied.

While many of the dining establishments

and, of course, the Florida Theatre cater to

patrons of all ages, many of the after-hours

lounges and pubs attract a somewhat

younger crowd. Some feature live music

while others highlight specialty drinks and

tasty grub.

he district’s businesses

are owned by

Downtown pioneers

T who were able to

look past the area’s

run-down buildings

and see a diamond

in the rough. Cases in point are friends

and business partners Duane DeCastro,

Jason Hunnicutt and Brian Eisele, who

saw something different — something

worth salvaging in between what Downtown

was and what it could be. Now,

they’re an integral part of what it’s becoming.

Together, the three helm 1904 Music

Hall, the premier music venue and bar at

what is arguably the forefront of The Elbow.

Flanked by the historic Florida Theatre

and the 1904 team’s second venture,

Spliff’s Gastropub, the music hall is one

of the first Elbow tenants that visitors see

from the bridge.

Outside, it’s deceptively unassuming.

With curtains blocking light from windows

of its Ocean Street storefront, the

venue opens to a dimly lit standing-room

concert space of stripped rafters; bare,

warehouse-style floors; paper lanterns

and an open bar. Large-scale murals,

equal parts unusual and beguiling, cover

the walls from floor to ceiling in the space

leading to a stage with all the works.

The lounge-turned-music venue

didn’t always carry with it the narrow

focus of fostering Jacksonville’s growing

music scene, but five years into its opening,

it’s become a premier haunt for patrons

and musicians.

“From the beginning, it was just our

intention to offer a destination Downtown

for everyone, from performers all

the way down to the patrons,” says Eisele.

“We wanted to offer the whole nine, from

the sound systems to the light rigs, just

to make 1904 an exciting place to see a

show.”

The trio met through music, food and a

mutual friend, with DeCastro and Hunnicutt

forming a band together that would

later influence a love of Jacksonville’s

budding music scene. In 2010, following

DeCastro’s move back to Jacksonville

after a short stint in South Florida, the

friends began to explore ventures in food

and drink — organic sandwich shops and

Located in the century old

Bostwick Building at the corner of Bay

and Ocean Streets, this rendering shows

what Cowford Chophouse is

expected to look like when complete.

The newest addition to The Elbow will

feature two floors of tables, private

dining rooms and a rooftop bar.

a kava bar among them — before they realized

it wasn’t what they wanted. Moreover,

it wasn’t what Downtown needed.

The partners tapped into the bonds

formed through craft beer and live music,

leveraging their knowledge and connections

in both realms and following a

hunch to the venue that would later become

1904.

“Opening (a music venue) up in the

heart of the city ... we’d looked in Springfield,

Riverside and all over the city, but

Downtown was kind of calling our name,”

Hunnicutt explains. “At the time there

were others around Jacksonville, but we

felt it was a really good asset to have one

Downtown. It felt like a good opportunity

to bring a new wave of nightlife to the

area.”

The urge was compounded by the

need to address what was sorely missed

Downtown, DeCastro says, noting how

courtesy of the Cowford Chophouse.

88

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


different the area looked just six years

ago, well before the city at large began

to funnel a trickle of interest back into

its heart. When the music hall reached

capacity for the first time during a New

Year’s Eve party headlined by Greenhouse

Lounge, they realized they needed

to focus their business around live music.

“There’s so many great artists in this

town, and there weren’t nearly enough

venues,” DeCastro recalls. “So we saw

kind of a niche there. And reaching capacity

for the first time that night was the

first time we realized, hey, maybe we’ve

got something here.”

The artists realized it, too. Among

1904’s regulars are the Parker Urban

Band, whose vocalist, John Parkerurban,

says the experience offered by the music

hall is like no other.

Parkerurban remembered taking the

1904 stage for the first time as a warm experience

not unlike the full-scale festivals

he and his band have performed at, citing

the quality of production and the hospitality

of the owners as components of a

“great experience.”

“The vibe of a venue is so important

because as an artist, you draw inspiration

from your crowd and your surroundings,”

he says. “And at 1904, everything adds to

the flavor of the vibe — the artwork on the

walls, the sound production and the light

system all (have) the same quality of a

large stage or a festival. It’s an experience

... every musician should have.”

The music hall’s role in quenching the

city’s growing thirst for live music experiences

wasn’t lost on the band, either.

“It’s definitely a key venue because

they’re offering a place where musicians

who aren’t usually heard can go,”

he says. “Phenomenal local bands who

are so much better than what the radio

has to offer, international and national

touring bands go there. Them getting that

chance, and 1904 giving them that opportunity,

has really enriched the music

scene Downtown.”

ostering that niche

in more ways than

one, 1904 keeps its

F

appeal broad; the

music hall acts as

an event space and

gallery in just as

great a capacity as a music spot and a bar.

DeCastro says that variety has afforded

them a crowd of new and returning faces,

occasionally pulling in families while

dutifully supplying a millennial demographic

with artists like Universal Green

and PVRIS. It’s with pride that the owners

offer something that patrons young and

old alike feel comfortable with, whether

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 89


their space plays host to weddings and

wrestling matches or sees an electronic

dance music, hip hop or death metal set

within the span of a week.

Whatever the offering, the business

calls to memory the same refuge as a

speakeasy: a stylish, well-stocked

“hole in the wall” that readily provides

entertainment for a crowd

of all ages and genres.

Having cemented a place

in The Elbow, 1904 feeds

into what Hunnicutt describes

as the symbiotic

nature of Downtown businesses

with the shared

goal of bringing people

back to the area, filling the

void where local artistry

often falls.

“I think what we really

contribute is the music,” he

says. “But I also think that

as a part of The Elbow, we’re

working to make Downtown a

destination. We’re playing a role

in consistently bringing people from

around the city — not just to our venue,

but to a place where they can view murals,

see the river, the architecture Downtown

and all of the things that make this

city special.”

The trio recently acquired a grant

through the Downtown Investment Authority’s

Retail Enhancement Grant Program

that enabled them to add 80 seats

to 1904’s newly renovated courtyard patio

for an outdoor bar and beer garden open

seven days a week.

With the loftier goal of franchising

Spliff’s, they hope to add yet another

notch to their contributions to the

Downtown area. In the meanwhile,

though, they just want

to see more people return for

Downtown’s renaissance.

“It’s taken time for us to

build a reputation, and it’s

been nice to see such a warm

reception from the city,” De-

Castro said. “And hopefully

we’ve helped in showing people

what Downtown is like.”

JASMINE MARSHALL is a Jacksonville-based

journalist and creative writer.

She graduated from the University of North

Florida in 2015. In her spare time, she can

be found trekking the First Coast with her

camera.

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J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


DOWNTOWN HOMELESSNESS

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 81

boulder up the hill.”

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Like Bailey, Poppe has made solving

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Assistant Andrew Obstetrics Scott Lind, M. MD

Radiation Andrew Obstetrics Professor

and MD Kaunitz, Gynecology

Oncology M. Kaunitz, and Gynecology MD

MD

Professor Alice Hematology Fauzia

Pathology

Fauzia Hematology Rhoton-Vlasak, N.

N.

& Rana,

Rana,

Chair

and

and Oncology MD Oncology MD

MD

Radiology Martha

Assistant Martha Lara Radiology Zuberi, C.

Surgical C. Wasserman, Oncology

Professor Wasserman, MD MD

MD

Assistant

Surgery

Radiation Professor

Reproductive

& Chair

Endocrinology

Hematology and Oncology

Professor Professor & Oncology Associate Chair & Associate

Chair

Chair Pathology Associate Professor

Professor Professor

Assistant Surgical Assistant Professor Oncology Professor

Radiation For more information or RSVP, call 904.244.6069 by Sept. 28. Seating is limited.

Obstetrics

Scott Lind,

Surgery Obstetrics Oncology and

MD

Gynecology

and Gynecology Pathology

Alice

Hematology

Rhoton-Vlasak,

This event is Reproductive open only to adults and 18 Endocrinology

and Oncology

MD

older.

Radiology Surgical Lara

Hematology Radiology

Zuberi, Oncology MD

For more information or to RSVP, call 904.244.6069 by Sept. 28. Seating is limited. and Oncology

Professor & Chair

Associate Professor

Assistant Professor

This Scott Lind, Scott MD Lind, MD

Alice Rhoton-Vlasak, MD MD Lara Zuberi, Lara Zuberi, MD MD

Brian

Surgery

event is open only to adults 18

G. Professor Celso, PhD & Chair

Reproductive

and older.

John D. Murray, Endocrinology

MD

Assistant Smita

Hematology Professor Sharma,

and

MD

Oncology

Brian

Professor

Brian

Assistant

G. Surgery Celso,

& Chair

G. Scott Celso,

Professor

PhD

John

Associate

Lind, PhD MD

John

Assistant Reproductive D. Murray,

Professor

D. Murray,

Professor Endocrinology MD

Hematology Smita

Assistant

MD MD

Lara Smita

Assistant and Sharma,

Professor

Oncology

Zuberi, Sharma, MD Professor

MD

Assistant Scott Surgery Lind, MD

Psychology

Professor MD

Assistant

Reproductive Alice Rhoton-Vlasak,

Professor & Chair

Plastic Surgery

Professor

Endocrinology

UFHealthJax.org

MD Assistant

Hematology Lara Zuberi,

Assistant Professor

Assistant Assistant Radiology

Professor

and MD Oncology

Professor

Psychology

Professor & Chair

Plastic Associate Surgery Professor

Surgery

Reproductive Endocrinology

UFHealthJax.org Radiology

Assistant For more information or to RSVP, call 904.244.6069 by Sept. 28. Seating

Professor

Hematology is limited. and Oncology

Psychology

Surgery

Plastic Reproductive SurgeryEndocrinology

Radiology

This event is open only to adults 18 and older.

Hematology and Oncology

For more information or to RSVP, call 904.244.6069 by Sept. 28. Seating is limited.

This Andrew event M. Kaunitz, MD

Fauzia N. Rana, MD

Martha C. Wasserman, MD

Andrew For is

Andrew

Professor

M. more open

M. Associate

Kaunitz, information only to adults

MD or to RSVP, 18

Kaunitz, MD

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Fauzia call and older.

For more information to RSVP, call 904.244.6069

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N. Rana, by MD by Sept. Sept. 28. Seating 28. Seating is limited. Martha is limited.

N. Rana, MD

Martha

Assistant

C.

C.

Professor

Wasserman, MD

This event is open only to adults 18 and UFHealthJax.org

This Professor event Wasserman, MD

Professor

Obstetrics

& is

&

and

Associate open only

Associate

Gynecology

Chair to adults 18 Professor and older.

Chair Professor

Hematology and Oncology

Assistant

Assistant

Radiology

Professor

For more information or to RSVP, call 904.244.6069 by Sept. 28. Seating limited.

Obstetrics and Gynecology Hematology and Oncology Radiology Professor

This Obstetrics event For more

and is open information

Gynecology only to or adults to RSVP, 18 Hematology

call and 904.244.6069 older. and

by

Oncology

Sept. 28. Seating is

Radiology

limited.

This event is open only to adults 18 and older.

For more information or to RSVP, call 904.244.6069 by Sept. 28. Seating is limited.

UFHealthJax.org

“You can’t revitalize your

downtown when there

are (homeless) people

on the sidewalks who’ve

been there for years.”

Andrae BAILEY

UFHealthJax.org UFHealthJax.org

OFF THE STREET

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 85

For more information For more information to RSVP, call or 904.244.6069 to For RSVP, more call information by 904.244.6069 Sept. 28. or Seating to by RSVP, Sept. is call limited. 28. 904.244.6069 Seating is limited. by Sept. 28. Seating is limited.

This event is open This only event to is adults open 18 only and to This older. adults event 18 is and open older. only to adults 18 and older.

have to have an organized community response

to homelessness to get something

done.”

So, what will it be, Jacksonville?

Certainly this is at its heart a humanitarian

issue. How do we find homes quickly for

those who have none?

But it’s also an economic issue. Repairing

Downtown’s image is inextricably intertwined

with solving the homeless issue.

“Jacksonville and Orlando are so similar

when it comes to homelessness. We’re governed

by the same sort of economic principles,”

Orlando’s Bailey says. “You can’t

revitalize your downtown when there are

(homeless) people on the sidewalks who’ve

been there for years.”

The time is ripe for changes to occur but

not one group can do it alone.

It’s up to all of us.

Paula Horvath is an editorial writer and

editorial board member at The Florida Times-

Union and teaches multimedia journalism at the

University of North Florida.

from the obvious need for a job and housing to health care. Black believes,

however, that the only way Downtown can make a dent in the

homeless who daily make their way into the plaza is by providing them

with services that will help them.

“Half of these people here who are homeless have issues,” Black

says, adding that mental health and medical outreach services are particularly

needed. Although there are currently a few care providers who

venture out to meet the homeless on the streets, there aren’t enough to

make sure that every homeless person takes prescribed medications or

gets the care needed.

John S. Graham, 67, who moved to Jacksonville from Philadelphia

12 years ago, agrees with Black. A year ago, he too became homeless —

the first time in his life. Like many of the other homeless in Jacksonville,

Graham is a veteran. He spent six years in the Army and served in the

Korean War. After returning from the battle zone, he worked as a trash

collector for decades before moving to Florida. Graham feels abandoned

now by the country he served.

“People think that all the homeless people are the same, but they’re

not. A lot of them are mentally ill,” he says.

But the real solution, according to Black, lies in changing the hearts

of others. “People need to stop looking down at these people and reach

out to see if there’s anything we can do to help them,” he says emphatically.

“You know we talk about people, but what do we do to help them?

Sometimes they just need to make a phone call or have someone listen

to what they have to say. I think we need to stop looking at people and

being so judgmental.”

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 91


92

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


The BIG

PICTURE

SUPERSIZED

CULTURE IN

DOWNTOWN

After a wildly

successful inaugural

year in 2016 that

brought a dozen

internationally

recognized mural

artists to Downtown

Jacksonville (including

Barcelona artist

Kenor, who painted

this vibrant mural

in the 300 block of

West Adams Street),

ArtRepublic

returns in November.

Under the guidance of

founder and curator

Jessica Santiago,

the 2017 edition of

ArtRepublic, will

feature 19 artists

during an extended

12-day exhibition from

Nov. 1 to Nov. 12 with

public art exhibits, a

fashion design gala, a

lecture series and an

immersive digital art

exhibit. ArtRepublic is a

privately funded, public

art organization that

helps artists create

boundary-pushing

work that inspires

communities globally.

MORE INFO:

artrepublicjax.org

PHOTOGRAPH BY

JEFF DAVIS

J MAGAZINE


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No view is promised. Views may also be altered by subsequent development, construction and landscaping growth. Seller does not represent/guarantee that the project will be

serviced No view is by promised. any particular Views public may also school/school be altered district by subsequent or, once serviced development, by particular construction school/school and landscaping district, growth. that the Seller same does school/school not represent/guarantee district will service that the the project project for will any be

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serviced more particular information by period any particular of about time. the Eligibility public school school/school requirements district’s boundary district (including change or, once geographical) process serviced prior by may a to particular change executing over school/school purchase time. You contract. should district, independently that Persons the same photos school/school confirm do not which reflect district schools/districts racial will preference service serve the and project the housing project for any and is open learn to

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notice. Depictions of homes or other features are artist conceptions. 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 Florida Realty Corporation CQ268118. Standard Pacific of Florida (CQ1038741). Standard Pacific of Tampa (CQ1038743). CAJAX196


QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

By Mike Clark

Unlocking the core’s

unrealized potential

Alex Coley on the remarkable

growth of Brooklyn to becoming

a ‘walkable urban place’ to

moving people Downtown

with ‘pedestrian accelerators’

he introduction of the apartments at

T 220 Riverside caused a wonderful

revival of the Brooklyn neighborhood.

The momentum from that development — and

Unity Plaza — ignited a retail flurry anchored by

a Fresh Market and

ALEX COLEY

LIVES IN:

Jacksonville Beach

WORK:

Principal and co-founder

of NAI Hallmark Partners.

a handful of restaurants

and shops. At

the center of the Unity

Plaza/Riverside

220 project has been

Alex Coley, principal

and co-founder of NAI

Hallmark Partners, the developers of the project.

Coley, who has lived in Jacksonville since 1979, was

interviewed by Times-Union Editorial Page Editor

Mike Clark.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being a ghost town and 10 being

a tourist attraction, what grade would you give to Downtown?

I love Jacksonville, it’s been very good to me, I want to be kind and

loving to Jacksonville, so I’m giving it a 5.

What are the best assets of Downtown?

It’s trite to say the river. I’ve been so fortunate to visit each of the

Rouse festival marketplaces back when our marketplace (the Landing)

was under construction. I met with the managers of each one of them.

I’ve been to San Antonio and Portland. I’ve been blessed to really

FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 95


study great spaces and great cities in the U.S. and around the world.

Maybe the best attribute we have is unrealized potential and good

infrastructure to start with.

That’s a good point.

It’s not a blank canvas, but we haven’t made colossal mistakes that

are irreparable. Good solid building blocks are in place for a real cultural

renaissance. We haven’t made some of the cataclysmic mistakes.

What sort of mistakes have we avoided?

Infrastructure mistakes, highways right through the middle.

Washington, D.C., took a lot of grief for building one-way streets right

through urban neighborhoods so that suburbanites could come and

go through downtown. We had Jeff Speck come to town a few years

ago. He wrote the book “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save

America, One Step at a Time.” Particularly with Brooklyn and Five

Points, he noticed the walkability of those little small streets. Maybe

the greatest attribute is truly unlimited potential. And I’ll go one step

further and say we’ve made a really good start, what’s been done in

Brooklyn and what’s happening in Five Points and Riverside and to

some extent on the Southbank is a good down payment.

You have mentioned Bryant Park in New York City and Pioneer

Courthouse Square in Portland. Not everything can relate

to Jacksonville, but are there particular urban role models that

could work here?

Absolutely. There are lots of examples. Highlands Park in Atlanta,

a lot of places have little pockets of wonder. It requires density, livability,

walkability. The Urban Land Institute has embraced it with open

arms. They call them WUPS - Walkable Urban Places. And if you look

at what a Walkable Urban Place is and you take Jeff Speck’s work, you

create pods of livability and walkability, you connect them through

pedestrian accelerators, it makes life wonderful. You have people in

Five Points-Riverside accelerating to Brooklyn. The distance between

Unity Plaza and the Times-Union building is the same distance from

the Times-Union building to the Landing. I’ve walked them both. A

pedestrian accelerator would make that fun. The Downtown Investment

Authority is working on a road diet (reducing, altering roads for

pedestrians) so there will be more pedestrian-friendly assets coming.

What exactly would a pedestrian accelerator look like?

It could be a rapid transit bus. Cleveland has a good example of

a bus system that could augment our Skyway Express at grade level.

Elevated transportation is expensive, and since the streets are there

already, the buses can get around quickly and people can walk out

of their buildings and walk on and walk off. In Speck’s book, he talked

about how the big auto companies bought up trolley systems.

We had one on Main Street.

They bought them up and destroyed them so we would use our

cars. So back to the future, the grid is still there and you could use

some of the same infrastructure. JTA has been good partners with us

at 220 Riverside. They are working on plans for the Ultimate Urban

Circulator that follows this line of thinking.

So what’s your assessment of 220 Riverside? How has it gone?

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It took a little longer to get it delivered. The apartments were

leasing up quicker than we imagined. We planned a three-year

lease-up and we were done in eight months, which is borderline

historic in the industry. It has stayed occupied. Our partners bought

our interest last year.

It’s like 96 percent occupied.

I understand that it goes between 96 and 98 percent. The rents

they are achieving are above pro forma rents, and they’re escalating:

We think the market’s proven. Everybody said it couldn’t be done,

Jacksonville wouldn’t pay for quality. We theorized that nobody

had ever offered quality, and if we did, people would be excited to

have it. There wasn’t a good urban project that presented a sense

of community. The previous projects didn’t have the scale and the

fresh look and the smaller unit sizes that allowed us to deliver the

competitive monthly rent number. When we delivered the product,

the market just loved it. We’re fast and furious on the second phase.

The images are beautiful; it will be another step up.

What’s your assessment of Unity Plaza?

It took a little longer. I think the community needs to develop

around it. It will evolve into a vibrant community as the residences

continue to develop.

What are some of the difficulties of getting development

approved, especially Downtown? I’m talking about systems, not

people. Do we have too many hoops?

We don’t have the most streamlined process. There are places

around the country with streamlined permitting that will facilitate

development. We’re competing with every place in the world for

capital, both monetary and intellectual, and for people. Projects like

Brooklyn create a positive frame of reference. People decide where

they want to live, and then they figure out how to make a living. It’s

critical that these projects get done. We could do more to create a

sense of urgency to facilitate that process.

Orlando has a neat little district, called Creative Village. They

have a lot of exciting new development activity there. If you’re a

business and locate there, they will turn themselves inside out to

make you comfortable, to make it easy for you. It would be interesting

to see a comparison of five or six peer cities and how they do the

permitting process. Orlando, Austin, Phoenix, Nashville, Charlotte,

cities that are in our peer group, do things that make them competitive.

There is an overarching mission that they are dead-set on

completing. It may be 10,000 housing units Downtown or absolutely

walkable, livable kind of a place and we’re not going to stop until

we get there. And we’re going to build the infrastructure required

to make that happen. We started the Brooklyn projects without

that in place. Our partners in Brooklyn were the master developers

of The Gulch in Nashville, and they have a fabulously streamlined

permitting process there. So have the vision, build the infrastructure,

streamline the process, and recognize that until critical mass

is achieved, you may have to discount the price. I’m talking about

incentives. There are very few Downtown projects that can operate

without some kind of incentive, a clearly defined, easy-to-accomplish

incentive package that a developer sitting at his desk in Boston

could grasp and expect to realize. This would facilitate the process.

I recall 220 Riverside had some kind of tax incentive, right?

A REV grant, Revenue Enhancement Valuation Grant.

What did that mean financially?

It works like project-specific tax increment financing. The

additional tax revenue is shared back with the project. There is a

little bit of a real estate tax rebate.

That seems fair in return for having a breakthrough.

It’s easy to turn on and off. If it’s creating problems, stop doing it,

but until it reaches that critical mass, double down on it.

Where is Downtown Jacksonville headed? Where is Jacksonville

in five or 10 years now that it looks like we have this

positive momentum?

That’s a big question, but we can take it in bite-size pieces. I see

3,000 or more people living in Brooklyn in five to seven years. The

Times-Union site will sell, other sites in the neighborhood are either

sold or are selling, so property is getting in the hands of people who

can’t afford to sit on it. They have to do something with it. Wonderful infrastructure

is in place. Walkable streets will add to that. Additional development

will happen pretty quickly. It’s to our peril not to accelerate

this. There is a cycle, if we miss this, we’ll be sitting for a decade waiting

for another cycle to come around. I see Brooklyn as a fait accompli.

Then what’s happening over in the stadium area is a similar kind of

renaissance. As a pilot, it’s hard to get a plane in the air, but once it’s in

the air, it’s hard to stop it. There’s been lift-off over there with Daily’s

Place and all the development around it and Shad Khan’s backing and

significance. I’m pretty sure there’s a convention center in the offing,

probably another hotel. Then when we have those pedestrian accelerators

to make it easy to get from place to place, it all becomes part of a

single big amenity package that helps us answer that first question.

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.

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FALL 2017 | J MAGAZINE 97


THE FINAL WORD

Public and private

investments fueling

Downtown progress

LENNY

CURRY

PHONE

(904) 630-1776

EMAIL

MayorLennyCurry

@coj.net

here is great momentum in Jacksonville.

With strong economic

T

growth, a vibrant business environment

and thousands of new jobs across

a variety of sectors, these are exciting times

for the city we love.

This is especially true of Downtown Jacksonville.

Progress in our urban core includes increased public and

private investment, infrastructure improvements, major

commercial projects and attractive new opportunities for

living and playing Downtown.

Downtown is the heart of a community. An attractive,

stimulating and thriving city center communicates a city’s

unique character. That’s because a great downtown is a

center of activity for culture, entertainment commerce

and living. It showcases a city’s strengths and values.

That’s why I’m determined to transform Downtown Jacksonville

into a place that shows the world what a dynamic

city we are.

Over the last two years, approximately $30 million

in public investment has been devoted to improving

downtown. The Downtown Investment Authority (DIA),

a key partner with the City of Jacksonville on urban core

revitalization, uses public dollars generated through the

Downtown Development Trust Fund and Community

Redevelopment Area resources to create incentives

designed to spur economic growth in the central city. I

work closely with the DIA to ensure that projects achieve

the highest possible return on our investments of taxpayer

resources. These investments are guided by two main

principles: smart and responsible fiscal management,

and leveraging public dollars to attract private dollars.

Government can’t do it alone. Many have heard me

repeat an adage often used, stating that “you can’t be

a suburb of nowhere.” Downtown is important to our

city, requiring all of Jacksonville to share and support its

success. Success demands collaboration. Private sector

investment is the real key to achieving truly big, bold and

innovative things downtown. It is a City priority to create

a business climate that supports and engages private

investors, as well as other stakeholders.

Since my election more than two years ago, I have kept

Downtown development as a top priority and maintained

my commitment to getting things done. I’m happy to

report that the results validate our strategies, and I can

proudly say Downtown Jacksonville is beginning to thrive.

That $30 million public commitment has sparked private

capital investment resulting in more than $250 million of

Downtown development. Economic development projects

have added 950 jobs downtown. Major infrastructure

enhancements include street lighting and parking

improvements. A free Wi-Fi network is allowing citizens,

visitors and downtown workers to access the Internet on

their computers and mobile devices.

Several major residential projects currently under

construction will breathe more life and energy into our

downtown core. Investments in commercial, residential

and retail projects will result in more than 1,000 new

apartment units, a 131-room hotel, and 82,000 square feet

of renovated commercial, office and retail space.

Expanded entertainment offerings include the

growing Elbow entertainment district. The new state-ofthe-art

amphitheater at EverBank Field will attract more

visitors and premium events to the area. New restaurants

and shopping venues, the new Winston Family YMCA

and colorful displays of public art throughout downtown

add to a growing list of diverse attractions for all ages and

interests.

Want more proof that Jacksonville’s city center is becoming

a premier destination? National media are taking

notice of downtown’s evolution. We’ve ranked high in

several national lists in recent years including Huffington

Post’s “5 Secretly Cool Cities,” Forbes’ “Cities with the

Most Vibrant Employment Scene” and Global Trade’s

“Cities for Logistics Infrastructure.” Additionally, the

American Planning Association named Laura Street one

of the top five best thoroughfares in the U.S., highlighting

the street’s use as a hub for community activities, like the

monthly Art Walk.

Of course, there is much work to be done, but I am

excited about our progress so far and see great potential

for the future. From riverfront improvements, to the restoration

of the Laura Street Trio and the development of the

Shipyards, I look forward to many more big and bold projects

that reshape and reinvigorate the heart of our city.

Continuing Downtown Jacksonville’s transformation

into a showcase for residents and visitors alike, and an

attractive space for commercial growth and innovation,

remains a top priority of my administration. We will continue

to commit to projects and partnerships that involve

visionary ideas, attract private investment and encourage

economic growth. We are building a Downtown Jacksonville

that every citizen can enjoy with pride.

LENNY CURRY has been the 44th mayor of Jacksonville

since 2015. He and his wife Molly and their three children

live in San Marco.

98

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2017


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