1 year ago

J Magazine Fall 2017

The magazine of the rebirth of Jacksonville's downtown


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