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J Magazine Fall 2017

The magazine of the rebirth of Jacksonville's downtown

opening this fall in

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