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J Magazine Fall 2017

The magazine of the rebirth of Jacksonville's downtown

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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 72 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