J Magazine Spring 2019

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THE MAGAZINE OF THE REBIRTH OF JACKSONVILLE’S DOWNTOWN

F u t u r e

I S S U E

MOSH 2.0

DISPLAY THROUGH MAY 2019

$6.50

MUSEUM OF SCIENCE & HISTORY

MAKES PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

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SPRING 2019


In 2018, we served 112,307 people and

provided $2,106,259 in financial assistance

to strengthen our First Coast community.

Join us in our efforts this year as we become one of the most military-friendly Ys in the country,

provide hunger relief for families experiencing food insecurity, make kids of all ages safe in the

water, and help teens become leaders. Your support is vital to the important work we are doing

across the First Coast. Thank you.

LEARN MORE AND DONATE TODAY AT

FCYMCA.org


WE’RE MAKING A GREAT PLACE TO WORK

EVEN BETTER.

Better Wages. Better Benefits. Better Work-Life Balance.

We value our employees and appreciate all that they do for our members. And we believe that our employees deserve the very

best when it comes to workplace satisfaction and personal benefits.

In addition to being eligible for excellent medical, dental, vision, life, disability and best-in-class company-matched 401(k)

benefits shortly after the first day of employment, our employees will now enjoy brand new benefits, including:

• Increased minimum wage of $15 per hour

• Childbirth and Family Care Leave

• Child adoption assistance

• Student loan payoff stipends

• A day off to celebrate your birthday

• Enhanced, up-front tuition reimbursement

• A day off to volunteer and a donation to the organization

• Free medical insurance options

• Fitness membership reimbursement

• New waterfront workspace with employee lounge, gym and more

If you have a passion for helping others and the desire to provide outstanding service

to the community, we encourage you to browse through our current career offerings

at vystarcu.org and consider joining our team.

Programs, services, rates, terms and conditions are subject

to change without notice. ©2018 VyStar Credit Union.

vystarcu.org


THE MAGAZINE OF THE REBIRTH

OF JACKSONVILLE’S DOWNTOWN

GREATER

TOGETHER

H

THE MAGAZINE OF

THE REBIRTH OF

JACKSONVILLE’S

DOWNTOWN

H

PUBLISHER

Bill Offill

GENERAL MANAGER/

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Jeff Davis

EDITOR

Frank Denton

ADVERTISING

Liz Borten

WRITERS

Michael P. Clark

Roger Brown

CONTRIBUTORS

Carole Hawkins, Charlie

Patton, Denise Reagan,

Lilla Ross, Marilyn Young

MAILING ADDRESS

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

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contents

Issue 1 // Volume 3 // SPRING 2019

40

A WAREHOUSE

OF CREATIVITY

BY FRANK DENTON

16 24 34 46 51

WHAT’S NEXT

FOR MOSH

BY FRANK DENTON

OKLAHOMA CITY

TRANSFORMED

BY MIKE CLARK

ACTIVATING

THE RIVER

BY LILLA ROSS

LURING ARTISTS

TO THE CORE

BY CAROLE HAWKINS

CULTURAL

REVOLUTION

BY CHARLIE PATTON

64 70 76 82 88

MYSTERY OF

MAXWELL HOUSE

BY MIKE CLARK

THE GREAT

HOtEL BOOM

BY FRANK DENTON

RISE AND

GRIND

BY CAROLE HAWKINS

THE URBAN

PIONEERS

BY ROGER BROWN

REMAPPING

DOWNTOWN

BY MARILYN YOUNG

BOB SELF

6

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


J MAGAZINE

PARTNERS

DEPARTMENTS

9 FROM THE PUBLISHER

11 BRIEFING

12 PROGRESS REPORT

14 RATING DOWNTOWN

32 THE BIG PICTURE

54 12 VIEWS DOWNTOWN

60 CORE EYESORE

93 QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

98 THE FINAL WORD

THE MAGAZINE OF THE REBIRTH OF JACKSONVILLE’S DOWNTOWN

F U T U R E

I S S U E

DISPLAY THROUGH MAY 2019

$6.50

MOSH 2.0

MUSEUM OF SCIENCE & HISTORY

MAKES PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

P16

SPRING 2019

ON THE COVER

The new master plan for the

Museum of Science and History

envisions a cutting-edge campus for

experiencing, learning, exploring

and family fun. // SEE PAGE 16

STORY BY FRANK DENTON

ILLUSTRATION BY GYROSCOPE


Excellence in motion.

Dames Point Bridge

today

yesterday

Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center at LaVilla

tomorrow

Ultimate Urban Circulator

autonomous vehicle

jtafla.com


FROM THE PUBLISHER

Jacksonville on

the threshold of a

great revitalization

Bill Offill

PHONE

(386) 681-2276

EMAIL

boffill@

gatehousemedia.com

n early January, my wife Stephanie

and I moved to Jacksonville.

I

As recent empty nesters (except

for our beloved 12-year-old puppy, Sammie),

we chose for the first time in our lives

to live in a high-rise. We have an incredible

view of the beautiful Downtown skyline

that seems to rise up out of the St. Johns

River. It’s a short walk to numerous excellent

restaurants.

We’ve attended shows at the Florida Theatre and

Daily’s Place. We’ve visited the amazing beaches on

Amelia Island and at Atlantic Beach. We’ve shopped

at the St. Johns Town Center. Almost daily, we walk the

Riverwalk. Maybe the greatest attribute of Jacksonville is

the people who are so friendly and welcoming.

Our introduction to Jacksonville could not have gone

better. We’re sold, we love Jacksonville.

I spent most of my career in Houston, where I

worked for the Houston Chronicle. During the 1980s

and ’90s, downtown Houston was not a great place

to visit. It was a place people worked. By 6 p.m., the

sidewalks could be rolled up because the place emptied

out. Today, downtown Houston is a vibrant place. Bars,

restaurants, shopping, entertainment — it’s a fun place

to visit.

Downtown Jacksonville seems to be on the verge of a

great revitalization. I’ve lived through it once, and I am

looking forward to living through this kind of resurgence

again. I believe that J Magazine contributes to that resurgence.

We will continue to chronicle the transformation

of Jacksonville’s Downtown and point out obstacles

and solutions.

J Magazine is a unique publication in that it is an

extension of the editorial page and not the newsroom.

This allows the staff and free-lancers to take a point

of view and be analytical in pushing for Downtown

revitalization. I am very appreciative of the sponsors

and advertisers who make this magazine possible. As

you flip the pages of this issue, please take notice of

these fine companies. They are not only supporting this

magazine, but they are huge cheerleaders of Downtown

Jacksonville.

When GateHouse Media bought The Florida Times-

Union, the Times-Union building was not a part of that

purchase, and a search was made for a new home. We

chose to be a part of the redevelopment of Downtown,

and in April we will be moving into the Wells Fargo

Center in the heart of Downtown. This move has our

employees energized. We can’t wait to move into our

new digs. Our reporters will be within walking distance

of City Hall, the Courthouse and other important

functions. All of our employees will be supporting the

numerous restaurants that serve lunch.

Being in the newspaper business these days is challenging,

but I love what we do. I felt the same way when

I started in this business 35 years ago, and all these years

later, I love and appreciate it even more. I can’t think of

anything that I’d rather do to earn a living.

For the past 5½ years, my wife and I lived in Daytona

Beach where I was the publisher of The Daytona

Beach News-Journal. In October, I was promoted to

group publisher overseeing Daytona, The St. Augustine

Record and The Florida Times-Union. With each visit to

Jacksonville, we became more intrigued by this city, so

much so that Stephanie and I decided that this would

be the place to be headquartered and to call home. We

have two boys, Matt and Austin. Matt is a senior at The

University of Texas, and Austin is a junior at Texas A&M.

Both have already visited us in Jacksonville and can’t

wait to come back to this “cool city.”

Thank you, Jacksonville, for the warm welcome.

Thank you to my new co-workers, the talented people at

the Times-Union. Thank you for supporting J magazine,

the Times-Union and journalism. Hello, Jacksonville!

Bill Offill is the publisher of The Florida Times-Union

and T-U Media. He is also group publisher overseeing

The St. Augustine Record and the Daytona Beach

News-Journal. He lives Downtown.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 9


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$516,060,000

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DIGITS

The amount of

ground coffee

sales Maxwell

House had in

2018, trailing

only Folgers who

sold $1.09 billion.

Starbucks was

the third largest

performer, selling

$448 million in

ground coffee

last year.

BRIEFING

By The Florida Times-Union Editorial Board

Thumbs down to the

Duval County

school district’s

relative lack of interest

in even looking into

moving its administrative

offices elsewhere

and putting its current

building, on prime

Southbank waterfront

property, on the market.

Thumbs up to the

partnership between the

City Hall, the JSO,

the Sulzbacher

Center and the

Mental Health

Resource Center

to create the Urban Rest

Stop, a facility inside the

Sulzbacher’s Downtown

campus that will provide

a welcoming daytime

location for the city’s

transient population.

Thumbs down to the

reality that it will be

a long time before

Downtown Jacksonville

will once again host a

Super Bowl. Jaguars

President Mark Lamping

said we’ll need to see

major Downtown

development projects

like Lot J, the District

and others come to life

first before the National

Football League would

consider our city as a

future Super Bowl site.

HITS & MISSES

Thumbs up to the

progress being made to

convert historic Brewster

Hospital in

LaVilla — once the

city’s hospital for African-American

citizens

and a school for black

nurses — into the new

headquarters for the

North Florida Land Trust.

Thumbs up to the

planned expansion of the

Winston Family

YMCA on Riverside Avenue.

Plans are to build

an 8,000-square-feet

rooftop addition to keep

up with the Winston

YMCA’s phenomenal

membership growth.

Thumbs up to another

great edition of The

Longest Table, the

annual Downtown event

that brings people from

all over the community

to sit, talk and eat together

at a table that extends

along Independent

Drive from Main Street

to Newman Street. Some

600 people took part in

the latest Longest Table,

which is sponsored by

the JAX Chamber.

Thumbs up to DT10K,

an initiative being

undertaken by JAX

Chamber with the goal

FIRST PERSON

of having at least 10,000

residents living Downtown

in the next two

years. Now, according

to JAX Chamber CEO

Daniel Davis, there are

about 4,000 to 4,500

residents.

Thumbs down to the

fact that while there is

plenty of parking Downtown,

there isn’t enough

information that easily

points motorists to

where it is. The lack

of parking information

is part of the

disconnect that holds

Downtown back.

Thumbs up to the fact

that when VyStar

completes its process of

converting the SunTrust

Tower on South Laura

Street into its new headquarters,

it will bring

some 900 more workers

into Downtown.

Thumbs up to the

efforts by Axis

Hotels, a St. Augustine-based

development

company, that is working

to transform the

long-vacant Ambassador

Hotel on North Julia

Street into a site that

includes a 120-room

hotel and a 220-unit

apartment complex.

“(MOSH can be a) destination for learning unlike

anything in this region: hands-on learning, intergenerational

experiences, technology and ideation processes.”

MARIA HANE, MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND HISTORY PRESIDENT (PAGE 16)

WINTER SPRING 2018-19 2019 | | J J MAGAZINE XX 11


J MAGAZINE’S

PROGRESS REPORT

MONROE

BREWSTER

HOSPITAL

Jacksonville’s first

hospital for African-

Americans was built in 1885. The city

spent $2.3 million restoring and moving

the building to 843 W. Monroe St., then

leased it to North Florida Land Trust.

STATUS: DIA and DDRB approved

renovation plans costing $540,000, and

work has begun.

AMBASSADOR HOTEL

A St. Augustine developer is restoring

the historic Ambassador Hotel into

a La Quinta and, on the rest of the

block, plans to build 200 apartments and retail space.

STATUS: Work is underway and the hotel expects

to open in 12 months.

HEMMING

PARK

BEAVER

ASHLEY

CHURCH

DUVAL

ADAMS

HOUSTON

FORSYTH

LAVILLA

DAVIS

Laura Street Trio &

Barnett Bank Building

A $79 million renovation of the iconic

MADISON

JEFFERSON

BROAD

buildings into residences, offices, a Courtyard

by Marriott, commercial/retail and a UNF campus.

STATUS: UNF opened its space, and the entire building is to

be finished by the early second quarter. The Trio renovation

is still BAY getting permits but should begin by this summer.

CLAY

PEARL

JULIA

HOGAN

LAURA

MAIN

OCEAN

OAK

PARK

OAK

PRIME OSBORN

CONVENTION

CENTER

BROOKLYN

STATION

The “jughandle” that

allowed big trucks access

to the Times-Union will be removed,

and a land swap with the city at Leila

and May streets will allow expansion of

the shopping center anchored by the

Fresh Market.

STATUS: The redevelopment agreement

has cleared the DIA and City Council.

N

MAY

BROOKLYN

FOREST

MAGNOLIA

UNITY

PLAZA

RIVERSIDE

JACKSON

WATER

RIVERSIDE AVE.

RESIDENCE INN

A six-story, 135-room hotel

is planned for Oak Street

near Forest and Magnolia in

Brooklyn, across from Unity Plaza.

STATUS: The land has been purchased,

and DIA and DDRB have approved.

Construction pending.

HYATT PLACE hOTEL

Main Street LLC bought the parcel at Hogan

and Water and plans to build a nine-story

hotel with 128 rooms and a rooftop

restaurant and bar.

STATUS: The Downtown Development Review Board has

approved the design. The developer is now seeking an air

rights easement, as the balconies will extend over sidewalks.

MCCOYS CREEK

The city’s capital

improvement plan calls for

$15 million over five years to

restore and improve 2.8 miles of the creek

ending at the St. Johns, with greenways,

kayak launches and a new pedestrian bridge.

STATUS: Planners are contemplating a

partnership to include the Times-Union site.

ACOSTA

BRIDGE

TIMES-

UNION

CENTER

ST. JOHNS

RIVER

TIMES-UNION

As the T-U offices

move to the Wells Fargo

Center, the previous

owner is planning redevelopment

of the 19-acre site at 1 Riverside Ave.

Tentative thinking is for green space

along McCoys Creek, two 12-story

apartment buildings, retail, a hotel

and offices.

STATUS: Representatives are talking

to the city about infrastructure

issues, says the Daily Record.

PRUDENTIAL DR.

JACKSONVILLE

LANDING

MAIN STREET

BRIDGE

FRIENDSHIP

FOUNTAIN

SAN MARCO BLVD.

JACKSONVILLE LANDING

Finally! After years of sparring and suing, Sleiman Enterprises

agreed to give up its long-term lease to the city for $15 million.

The city plans to buy out tenants’ subleases for $1.5 million.

STATUS: City Council will be asked to approve that deal and another

$1.5 million to raze the copper-topped structure and prepare the site for

redevelopment, perhaps the park the mayor suggested last year.

RIVERPLACE

MARY

12

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

FULLER WARREN BRIDGE


JONES BROS. FURNITURE

An $11 million adaptive reuse of

the historic building would bring 28

apartments plus retail space and office

space to a block of Hogan Street near City Hall.

STATUS: The DIA approved almost $2.4 million in city

assistance, and City Council approved the development

agreement. The developer is going through permitting

and has started cleaning up the property.

SPRINGFIELD

PALMETTO

Lot J & Shipyards/METRO PARK

Shad Khan’s proposed Shipyards/Met Park development will

begin on Lot J next to the stadium with an entertainment

complex, office towers and a hotel.

STATUS: Work on taking down Hart Expressway ramps to make room

for the project may be delayed until after football season. The deadline for

Khan’s Iguana Investments to produce a redevelopment agreement for the

Shipyards was extended to June 30, 2020.

NEWNAN

MARKET

LIBERTY

NORTHBANK

HEMMING PLAZA APARTMENTS

Downtown pioneer Ron Chamblin plans to

renovate the building next door to his Chamblin’s

Book Mine into a ground-floor restaurant and four

apartments above, two with balconies overlooking Laura Street.

STATUS: DDRB approved. Work should start this month and

finish in about eight months.

WASHINGTON

BAY

CATHERINE

VETERANS

MEMORIAL

ARENA

ADAMS

Old city hall &

county courthouse

The city spent $8 million to raze the

empty buildings and clear the site for a

possible new convention center, though that has been

placed on hold.

STATUS: The old City Hall Annex was imploded, and

the old courthouse is being dismantled floor by floor.

A. PHILIP RANDOLPH

BASEBALL

GROUNDS

GEORGIA

FRANKLIN

SPORTS

COMPLEX

USS ADAMS

The Adams, a retired U.S. Navy

GATOR BOWL BLVD.

TIAA

BANK FIELD

DAILY’S

PLACE

guided-missile destroyer, was to be

anchored as a museum ship in the St.

Johns off Berkman II, connected to the proposed family

entertainment center.

STATUS: The Navy sank the donation of the Adams, and

proponents said they are looking elsewhere for another

ship, maybe one that another city no longer wants.

FLAGLER

BERKMAN PLAZA II

The new owners plan a $150 million

312-room hotel, 500-car parking garage

and a “family entertainment center.”

STATUS: A lawsuit has been settled and the skeletal

structure cleared for reuse. The redevelopment

agreement with the city is almost resolved.

KIPP

HENDRICKS

KINGS

SOUTHBANK

HOTEL INDIGO

A developer bought the old Life of the

South building at 100 W. Bay to convert

it into a seven-story, 89-room boutique

hotel with a rooftop restaurant and bar.

STATUS: The developer says he is finalizing design and

financing. The hotel is to open this year.

ONYX

MONTANA

ST. JOHNS RIVER NODES

City Council member Lori Boyer is leading the effort

to activate the river, including a nightly sound and light

show framed by Friendship Fountain, the Times-Union

Center and the Main Street and Acosta bridges, as well as live-stream

event projections of T-U Center events or movies on the CSX facade.

STATUS: The Moment Factory, which produces such shows, is

planning the sound-and-light program, but first the fountain and the

bulkhead next to the T-U Center have to be repaired.

The District

Peter Rummell’s community concept will have up

to 1,170 residences, 200 Marriott hotel rooms and

285,500 square feet of office space, with a marina

and public spaces along an extended Southbank Riverwalk.

STATUS: Engineering and design work is being done. The developers

are studying options for retailers and housing. They expect the

bonds for financing will be nailed down and construction started

late spring or early summer.

JEA HEADQUARTERS

JEA is planning to build a new HQ, and six Downtown

proposals have been reduced to three.

STATUS: Three companies are submitting final offers,

and the JEA board plans to pick the final site the week of April 8.

SAN MARCO

DOWNTOWN

JACKSONVILLE

TRACKING DEVELOPMENT IN THE URBAN CORE

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 13


POWER

RATING DOWNTOWN

By The Florida Times-Union Editorial Board

Downtown development drives

strong opening quarter of 2019

7

8

6 6

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

PUBLIC SAFETY

LEADERSHIP

HOUSING

INVESTMENT

Serious crime remains low, and

Hemming Park has virtually

eliminated even minor offenses

(at least until late night). Soon

all those new apartments will fill

up and put more and more solid

citizens on the streets.

PREVIOUS: 7

A search firm is looking for a new

DIA CEO, who will have a much

needed larger staff. Meanwhile, City

Council member Lori Boyer leads

on river activation and simplified

zoning. And Mayor Curry fulfilled

his promise to resolve the Landing.

PREVIOUS: 7

All those new apartment buildings,

open or under construction or

credibly planned, will close in

on the critical mass of 10,000

people we need living Downtown.

We want more of them to be

unsubsidized.

PREVIOUS: 6

Local investors are being joined

by long-distance money as

they perceive that Downtown

Jacksonville is finally on a fast

rise. Public subsidies are making

investment decisions easy.

PREVIOUS: 6

5 5 5

4

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

DEVELOPMENT

EVENTS & CULTURE

TRANSPORTATION

CONVENTION CENTER

Retail? Keep an eye on

Brooklyn Station. On one side,

the 10-story Vista Brooklyn

will include 14,000 square

feet of retail. On the other,

more retailing will replace the

“jughandle” at Leila.

PREVIOUS: 4

We lost the USS Adams to

Navy nervousness, and the Landing

restaurants soon will be gone.

Top acts still fill Downtown venues,

but we’re looking forward to

Lot J and the family entertainment

center planned for Berkman II.

PREVIOUS: 6

A road diet will make the

Southbank more walkable and

bikeable, while the North Florida

Smart Region Coalition is pushing

forward on what it calls the

BayJax Innovation Corridor to

revolutionize Northbank traffic.

PREVIOUS: 4

The old City Hall and courthouse

are down and being

cleared, but the city has put the

whole idea of a convention

center on hold, whether there

or at the Shipyards.

PREVIOUS: 4

OVERALL RATING

It’s really 6.5, but we’re rounding up in honor of

the soon-to-be complete Barnett Bank, the

ubiquitous construction cranes and those new

apartment complexes everywhere. Demolition

of the Landing will be a great symbol.

PREVIOUS: 6

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

JEFF DAVIS

14

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


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16 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


FIRST LOOK:

What’s next

for MOSH

The Museum of Science and History

has grand plans to transform itself into

a cutting-edge museum of the future

BY FRANK DENTON

ILLUSTRATIONS BY Gyroscope

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 17


magine the Southbank blooming and booming,

from the stolid, almost waste of a riverfront whose best appeal might be its view

of the Northbank, into a grand campus teeming with people of all ages exploring,

experiencing and learning.

Imagine that big concrete monolith of the Museum of Science and History

expanding, opening up to the park surrounding Friendship Fountain and

creatively embracing the grand river that virtually defines this city.

Imagine that place, as the new MOSH master plan does, becoming “an ideas

lab that nurtures innovation, as a dynamic platform for learning, a center of

Icommunity and a champion of social and environmental stewardship.”

18

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


Imagine … Well, first imagine for a moment

being a child in Jacksonville in the 1930s when there

was no MOSH. You couldn’t conceive of anything

like television, and there was not even a sciencefiction

notion of an internet. You learned what you

could about your world from stale textbooks and

word of mouth.

All else you had was looking forward to going

Downtown once a month and experiencing

the displays in the windows of the Barnett Bank

building, produced by three school teachers

dedicated to finding a new way to stimulate

children’s learning.

Creating a real museum

Even for the time, it was very limited and static,

so the teachers interested a group of people who

created the Jacksonville Children’s Museum in a

small space on the second floor of the Duval County

Armory.

After World War II broadened Americans’

horizons, the Jacksonville Journal reported that “the

museum had grown to such an extent and attracted

so much community interest (that) it was able to

open its own building,” taking over a 44-year-old

former private home in Riverside. By the early 1960s,

the museum was drawing 80,000 visitors a year.

So, again, the community responded and raised

$1 million to build a much larger and modern

museum on MOSH’s current site overlooking

Friendship Fountain on the Southbank.

At the opening in 1969, one national authority

called it “the finest, most modern, beautifully

equipped children’s museum in the entire United

States.”

Quickly, its community appeal broadened to

include all ages, so in 1977 its name was changed

to the Museum of Arts & Science, then in 1988 to

MOSH, reflecting that Jacksonville already had two

art museums nearby and really needed a museum

dedicated to helping us understand where we came

from and the world we live in.

MOSH had a major expansion in 1988, including

the planetarium, and various renovations, and

today the museum stands as ... an awkward

building offering exhibits and experiences that are

interesting, educational and fun, even fascinating

and important, but collectively fall short of

appropriately stimulating a major 21st century city

and a Downtown with our ambitions.

Now the community is being asked to buy into

a vision worthy of those ambitions. The new master

plan envisions MOSH transforming into a campus of

experiencing, learning, exploring and family fun that

will cost $80-90 million.

Consider some context

Before you roll your eyes at that price tag and

change the subject, think about how museums have

changed since the first one you visited, at a time

when, according to the Association of Children’s

Museums, “exhibits were only static displays, not

interactive engagements; education meant exposure

to edifying examples and occasional curios, not

the sparking of true learning and the introduction

to wonder; the display of the collections was more

important than the experience of the visitors.”

Today, among national trends identified

by museum consultant Jeanne Vergeront,

museums are finding new ways to engage visitors;

accommodating informal learning; collaborating

with others; utilizing technology throughout;

displaying real-world, authentic objects and

developing “maker spaces” in which visitors can

create their own learning.

Vergeront emphasized the power of place:

“As daily life becomes more global, museums are

recognizing that being local is increasingly valued.

Experiences grounded in place connect with what

an audience finds distinctive and meaningful,

build on local knowledge and deepen a sense of

connection and identity.”

MOSH, in hindsight astoundingly, was designed

as a virtual fortress, with its entrance off a side street

“As daily

life becomes

more global,

museums are

recognizing

that being

local is

increasingly

valued.

Experiences

grounded in

place connect

with what

an audience

finds

distinctive

and

meaningful,

build on local

knowledge

and deepen

a sense of

connection

and identity.”

JEANNE

VERGERONT

MUSEUM

CONSULTANT

WINTER SPRING 2018-19 2019 | J MAGAZINE 19 57


and its massive concrete walls isolating it from the

city. Though they are contiguous, you can barely

see the fountain, the park and the river from the

museum, and vice versa. You pretty much have to

walk around MOSH to find the riverfront park and

fountain, and not that many people do.

As for the museum itself, “MOSH has outgrown

its facilities, limiting its capacity to serve,” the master

plan says. “But even more important, the museum

has outgrown its service model. Today’s audiences

demand something different than visitors of

previous generations.

“Those who have grown up with social media

expect to be actively engaged in shaping their own

learning. The old model of museum as textbook

will no longer suffice. The new model envisions the

museum as the center of a community of lifelong

learners that reaches from the museum’s youngest

visitors through the region’s amateur naturalists to

its professional scientists and engineers.”

Developing a

strategic plan

Over the past five years, recognizing that MOSH

was falling short of its opportunities, its leaders

worked through a series of analyses and plans,

including community workshops. As a whole,

they recommend: integrating MOSH, the park,

the fountain and the river; expanding MOSH

into a cultural anchor to increase and broaden

its audience; making MOSH a “visual beacon”

“MOSH has

outgrown

its facilities

... Today’s

audiences

demand

something

different

than visitors

of previous

generations.”

MOSH

MASTER PLAN

and activating the park with programming and

amenities to draw people.

“MOSH has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

to develop Friendship park with family-oriented,

fun, educational experiences, and in doing so, will

increase its own visibility and attendance,” the

master plan says.

By expanding its building and programming

and integrating the park and riverfront, the plan

says, “MOSH will draw a broad local and regional

audience that will benefit Jacksonville culturally and

economically. With careful planning and financial

resources, MOSH can become a world-class

destination.”

Here are the six strategies the master plan

proposes to transform MOSH:

Place-based learning. MOSH would

use the river to develop “authentic, place-based

environments and experiences,” including an

outdoor/indoor “river” into the museum.

Indoor and outdoor connectivity.

Complete integration of the museum, the park,

the river and the fountain would provide “multiple

perspectives” and create “an emotional connection”

to the 15-acre site.

Making as a way of knowing. MOSH

would join the Maker Movement and provide tools

and space as a learning environment for people

to participate in “open-ended problem-solving

through the process of creating something original

with one’s own hands.”

20

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


Platforms for change. The museum

would develop physical platforms that are flexible

to allow different uses for different experiences at

different times — for example, a river platform to

offer “many different types of experiences such

as experimenting with buoyancy, fluid dynamics,

board design, river currents and many others.”

Human-centered design. Museums

are learning to offer what visitors need and want

as opposed to what curators think they need to

know (such as those Barnett Bank windows). It

means listening to visitors and offering “a wide

range of experiences from traditional, collectionsbased

displays to demonstrations, immersive

environments, full-body activities, hands-on

exhibits” and art installations that integrate music,

popular culture and technology to connect to young

people.

Partnerships. MOSH would expand

its collaboration with other public and private

organizations to create a “community of learners”

around subjects of common interest.

Especially, MOSH says the expansion will

“amplify service to schools, teachers and students

through a dynamic range of new educational

programs and interactive learning environments.”

To accomplish all that, the master plan proposes

an ambitious and dramatic development of MOSH

into a true campus with an expansion, renovation

and reorientation of its building, integrating it with

the parking surrounding Friendship Fountain.

“With careful

planning

and financial

resources,

MOSH can

become a

world-class

destination.”

MOSH

MASTER PLAN

Now the city is giving MOSH a leg up by its

own plans to repair, upgrade and transform

St. Johns River Park, the real name of the park

commonly known as Friendship Park because of the

prominence of the fountain. (See the story on page

34.)

For its part, MOSH proposes a redesign, a

three-story expansion and renovation of the current

building, from 78,000 square feet now to 120,000-

125,000 square feet with a “glass building” addition

fronting the park and an imposing new public

entrance.

A visit to the

envisioned MOSH

Museum visitors now find the front door off

the corner at Museum Circle. After the expansion,

visitors would enter the newly integrated campus

via an outdoor “river zone” that leads to a grand

new entrance with a large curved façade facing the

park and the river. They’d be greeted by “vibrant

signage, landscaped public way, highly visible art

installations, wayfinding and landmark architecture.”

Whereas now MOSH is an incognito building, the

new, three-story façade would stand proud of itself,

with “monument signage” visible from the Main

Street bridge and a “large LED video sphere with

programmable graphics visible from the Northbank.”

The envisioned museum would be designed

around ecosystems. Visitors would enter through the

natural ecosystem, with the river and experiences

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 21


around the interdependence of water, plants,

animals and people.

The expanded second floor would house the

innovation ecosystem, featuring the “Makerspace”

and Jacksonville’s entrepreneurial culture, and

major traveling exhibits.

The third floor would offer the cultural

ecosystem, which includes history, diversity and

pop culture and more makerspace. Recognizing

the size of Jacksonville, “250 neighborhoods”

would be “an ongoing visitor-contributed display

that showcases the unique qualities of each

neighborhood — the people, cultures, foods,

festivals and ceremonies that shape each area.”

The third floor also would open out onto a “green

roof event space” overlooking the park, the fountain

and the river.

Of course, the expanded MOSH would maintain

its planetarium, which it bills as “one of the largest

single-lens digital dome planetariums” in the U.S.

The expansion would double the space available

for exhibits, quadruple the outdoor program area

and increase the areas for school groups by 185

percent.

The price of progress

All that would cost between $80 million and $90

million. Museum President Maria Hane believes

$60-70 million of that can be raised from federal

“The

museum

experience

will be

transformed

into the

way we’re

going to use

museums in

the future.”

MARIA HANE

MOSH PRESIDENT

grants, state and city grants and appropriations, and

perhaps revenue bonds.

That leaves $20 million to be raised from

donations, and MOSH is powering up its fundraising

capability.

If you kick in, she says, you’ll be helping build

“a new museum destination for learning unlike

anything in this region: hands-on learning,

intergenerational experiences, technology and

ideation processes … The museum experience will

be transformed into the way we’re going to use

museums in the future.”

She said the larger benefits of the new MOSH

will be to help develop the 21st century workforce,

add another major “complementary” component

to Downtown development and enhance tourism

and our own quality of life.

“This will be an iconic symbol of Jacksonville’s

aspirations.”

Or the symbol can remain the city’s last major

public building project, the $350 million Duval

County Courthouse whose function is to deal with

the downside of life — criminal justice and civil

disputes.

Are we willing to invest a fourth of that into an

institution of learning for our future?

Frank Denton, retired editor of The Florida Times-Union, is

editor of J. He lives in Riverside.

22

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


24 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019 TRANSFORMED

DOWNTOWNS

If Oklahoma City

can be revived,

it can happen

anywhere


Meet Mick Cornett, the former mayor of

Oklahoma City, who, with leadership,

determination and vision, transformed his

midsize city into a thriving community

BY MIKE CLARK

CHRIS LANDSBERGER

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 25


During Mick Cornett’s 15 years as Oklahoma City mayor, the city was transformed into a vibrant, growing community.

If Oklahoma City can be revived, it can happen anywhere.

That’s the message of Mick Cornett, mayor of Oklahoma City from 2004 to 2018.

In his book “The Next American City: The Big Promise of our Midsize Metros,” Cornett

tells the Oklahoma City story as well as success stories of other mid-size metros.

Cornett makes a convincing case. Oklahoma City was little more than a truck stop,

battered by an oil recession with the locals feeling pretty bad about themselves.

A series of mayors persuaded the citizens to vote for temporary sales taxes to start

making visible improvements to the city’s facilities and schools. Cornett, however, took

Ithe local improvements to a new level.

THINKSTOCK

26

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


extend image

CHRIS LANDSBERGER

Listening to a local activist, he agreed to turn

a dry creek bed into a canoeing, sculling and

kayaking hotbed. Suddenly a place that once

was being mowed was playing host to national

activities. And then it became a magnet for

redevelopment.

This isn’t an accident. Cornett sees great

opportunities for midsize cities to attract the smart

young people who are turned off by the high cost of

living in cities like New York and Los Angeles. Give

them some amenities, and they will come.

A Brookings Institution study showed that from

2010 to 2016, New York City lost 900,000 people,

Los Angeles lost 375,000 and Chicago lost 400,000.

Richard Florida, the proponent of attracting

the creative class, describes this in a forward to

Cornett’s book.

“The 20th Century was the century of suburbanization:

the flight from cities of people and industry,

commerce and jobs as far from downtowns as

our cars and highways could take us.

“But now, shockingly, the 21st Century has been

deemed the ‘century of the city.’ The creative class has

streamed back to cities in ways no one anticipated.

And even start-up companies are abandoning their

tech-driven ‘nerdistans’ in suburban office parks for

the vibrancy and hubbub of urban centers.

“And as our largest urban centers become

increasingly expensive, unaffordable and divided,

they price out and drive away the very diversity that

powered their innovativeness and growth to begin

with. … Smaller places that cultivate innovation and

creativity, have abundant natural or urban amenities

and connect to larger centers in the United States

and the world are thriving.”

Successful cities must mobilize, of course, but

Cornett’s point is that every city has something to

work with, you just need to find it.

“Large and small, they create a genuine quality

of place that all can see and feel,” Cornett writes of

cities on the move.

“This is a story about finding a hidden asset

and unleashing its potential. … Sometimes the

missing link is the passion of the person with the

idea. Take another look at the most recent crazy

idea to emerge in your community. Maybe it’s not

so crazy.”

“Old-fashioned buildings, eyesores and oldfashioned

industries can be refreshed to make your

city great again. Sometimes traditions are the best

foundations to build on. Your city has its untold

stories that need to be told. … And believe it or not,

the world is listening.”

One of the things former

Oklahoma City mayor Mick

Cornett will be remembered

for is the arrival of the National

Basketball Association’s Thunder.

“When (the NBA) selected us for

a permanent franchise, it sent a

message to the rest of the country

that something special was going

on here,” Cornett said.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 27


Just a short walk from downtown

Oklahoma City, Bricktown is a

former warehouse district filled

with restaurants hotels, event

venues and attractions.

Here is how Cornett describes Oklahoma City:

“What was once a hopeless place on the brink of

collapse has become a vibrant, growing, diverse

American city. … The reinvention of Oklahoma

City has been nothing short of a miracle. We rebuilt

every school in the inner city. We revived the

‘downtown ditch the grownups called the river.’ We

redesigned our city and downtown around people

rather than the automobile, constructing enough

sidewalks and trails to walk to Dallas. We changed

in a matter of years from a wounded city with no

national brand to a truly big league city.”

It took determination first, then a vision, then

activation.

“When times are tough, good places with great

people dig deep and find a way to blaze a trail to the

future.”

Oklahoma City, like Jacksonville and so many

others, had been built with the automobile in mind.

It was a great place if you were a car, Cornett wrote.

“Downtown was dead. People got in their cars

and flew down the one-way streets to the onramps

and the interstate highways, and made the

20-minute ride to their homes.”

So Oklahoma City deliberately started changing

its one-way streets to two-ways in order to make

people the priority, not their cars. Jacksonville

has plans for converting one-way streets, but little

action.

The people of Oklahoma City are conservative,

but they agreed to a series of temporary sales tax

increases that invested over $5 billion in public

and private money in a new baseball park, rebuilt

every school, built a new main library, rebuilt the

performing arts center, built a convention center

and fairground and produced the Bricktown

entertainment district.

During his 14 years as mayor, Cornett helped

lure the Oklahoma City Thunder pro basketball

team, created a world class venue for canoeing,

First, it takes leadership.

Built in the Boathouse District,

RiverSport Rapids is Oklahoma

City’s whitewater rafting and

kayaking center. The area features

an abundance of outdoor fun

including whitewater rafting and

kayaking, adventure courses, zip

lines, rock walls, cycling, high speed

slides, flatwater kayaking and stand

up paddle boarding.

28 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

enticed 20 hotels downtown, expanded corporate

headquarters and attracted nearly $6 billion in

private money.

Oklahoma City has a tradition of pragmatism.

After all, the shopping cart and parking meter were

invented there.

But the energy crisis hit hard. Then the bombing

of the Murrah federal building in 1995 seemed to

put a tombstone on the city.

Marketers studied the Oklahoma City image

and discovered that outsiders really didn’t have one

but the people of Oklahoma City did — and it was

negative.

“Brands are great for cities but personalities are

better,” Cornett wrote. “And the personality of a

place grows from a city’s history and informs a city’s

posture toward the present and future.”

When Cornett looked around, he discovered

that every city has a story, it just needs to be told.

“I see a great future for this country and for the

millions of Americans who call fast-growing cities

like mine home.”

“The middle is where the action is.”

“Our country’s middle class is moving from

megametros to smaller, more livable and manageable

places. … The pragmatic, productive, visionary

politics in smaller cities like my own is getting things

done and raising standards for millions of public

servants at the local level.”

“Better housing prices, lighter traffic and the

ASASASASASAS Oklahoma City Convention & Visitor Bureau (TOP); CHRIS LANDSBERGER (BOTTOM)


Oklahoma City Convention & Visitor Bureau

proliferation of top-tier restaurants are all part of

the story.”

Cornett also realized that the people had to be

energized, too. When Oklahoma City was named

the fattest city in America, he began a weight loss

campaign for residents to lose 1 million pounds. It

took about four years, but it worked.

Honesty is one of the keys to urban

redevelopment. Cornett and his constituents had

to lose some pounds, so they admitted it and went

to work.

Sounding like a civic evangelist, Cornett

preaches that any city can be reinvented. He has

seen it elsewhere.

“I assure you the reinvention of Middle America

is real,” Cornett writes. “We are in the early days of

a new golden age for the American city, where 100

cities, maybe more, will find their way to a future

brighter than they could have imagined. How it

works, who’s in charge and where it is happening

fastest may surprise you just as much as it has

surprised me.”

What are the lessons for

Jacksonville? We have been

preaching them in our eight

editions of J magazine as well as

the Sunday Reason section.

Jacksonville has been great at planning but

poor at execution since the Better Jacksonville Plan

of 2000. Peer cities like Charlotte, Nashville and

Oklahoma City have passed us in redeveloping

their downtowns.

Cornett’s book offers obvious prescriptions

Bricktown has become Oklahoma

City’s premiere entertainment

district with the Bricktown Canal

serving as the area’s focal point.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 29


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Oklahoma City Convention & Visitor Bureau

for Downtown redevelopment that relate to

Jacksonville:

• Tell our story, honestly: Jacksonville has a great

story to tell but we have been too shy or ashamed

to admit that it has not always been Chamber of

Commerce material. Much of it involves race.

Other Southern cities have turned their civil rights

histories into tourist attractions. Jacksonville has

great nationally known civil rights leaders. All we

need to do is embrace their history.

• Turn from cars to people: Planning for urban

trails is underway by Groundwork Jacksonville.

That should be impetus to create more twoway

streets Downtown to foster more retail and

services.

• Cut red tape: Redevelopment is underway

Downtown, but developers must slog through a

swamp of regulatory hurdles. We need to bring a

group of agencies into one room and work out the

regulations in a more efficient manner. It’s mystifying

that a Republican-dominated city still is hampered

by regulations.

Cornett is convinced that if Oklahoma City

can redefine and rebuild itself, any city can do it.

Jacksonville, a similar city, should be making more

progress than it is.

Mike Clark has been reporting and editing Downtown for

the Jacksonville newspapers since 1973. He and his family lived

in San Marco for most of that time and now live in Nocatee.

The Oklahoma City National

Memorial honors the victims,

survivors, rescuers and all who

were affected by the Oklahoma

City bombing on April 19, 1995.

“We have taken a city that had

been branded by tragedy and

built it into a cosmopolitan,

job-creating powerhouse, that is

also known for its compassion,”

former mayor Mick Cornett said.

LOWCOUNTRY

CHOW DOWN

A brand new community designed for playful living

in the heart of the Florida Lowcountry

wildlight.com

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 31

RAY-025a_chow_down_ad_7.25x4.875.indd 1

2/14/19 12:24 PM


THE BIG

PICTURE

FORMER CITY

HALL ANNEX

IMPLODED

PHOTO BY WILL DICKEY

At 8 a.m. on a cloudy morning

on Jan. 20, Jacksonville’s 15-story

former City Hall Annex building was

reduced to a pile of rubble in less

than 10 seconds. The mid-century

modern building at 220 E. Bay St.

opened in 1960, a time when it was

the fifth-tallest building in Jacksonville.

That site along with the one

next door, the former Duval County

Courthouse, are being cleared for

eventual Downtown redevelopment

along the riverfront.

TIMES-UNION ARCHIVE

Construction of the City Hall Annex ]

was completed in 1960.

32

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 33


From Montreal’s colorful Jacques Cartier Bridge

to breathtaking outdoor ‘wallcasts’ in Miami

Beach, Jacksonville is looking at similar ways

to invigorate the Downtown river experience

ACTIVATING

THE RIVER

BY LILLA ROSS // PHOTO BY julien perron-gagné

34 XX J J MAGAZINE | | SPRING 2019


Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge,

is illuminated each evening with

lighting that changes with the

season and how often Montreal is

mentioned on Twitter.

SPRING 2019 | | J J MAGAZINE XX 35


There’s been a

lot of talk in

recent years

about making the St.

Johns River central to

the city’s identity and

brand, developing its

recreational

and economic opportunities and valuing it as

a natural resource that needs to be protected.

And now, we’re starting to see some action.

Much of the focus has been on multimillion-dollar

developments to add

residential and retail establishments like The

District on the Southbank and Shad Khan’s

vision for the Shipyards on the Northbank.

But another effort — low-budget in comparison — has been

in the works, spearheaded by City Councilwoman Lori Boyer, to

rethink the ways existing components are used. Rather than brickand-mortar,

these projects are about structural creativity.

Starting this spring and for the next two years, work will be underway

on the Northbank and Southbank Riverwalks and McCoys

Creek to help people connect with the river. Some of the work —

bulkheads and plumbing, for instance — isn’t very sexy, but it will

set the stage for the creation of a multimedia entertainment zone

between of the Acosta and Main Street bridges.

Think of it as a Wow! Zone.

It will be part of Boyer’s legacy. The two-term District 5

councilwoman, who represents San Marco, has championed the

activation of the river as chair of the Jacksonville Waterways Commission,

chair of Waterway/Waterfront Activation, member of the

Tourist Development Council and council liaison to the Downtown

Investment Authority.

Her goal has been to make the river easier to get to and to give

people — residents and tourists — more reasons to get there. Boyer’s

term on the City Council ends in June, but she leaves knowing

that her efforts to activate the river are bearing fruit.

Better access to the river

To improve access, a new shared-use path is under construction

on the Fuller Warren Bridge. When it is completed by the fall

of 2020, pedestrians and cyclists will be able to cross the river via a

12-foot-wide path with ramps at the Riverside Arts Market on the

Northbank and Nemours Children’s Hospital on the Southbank.

NEW WORLD SYMPHONY

36

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


SoundScape Park in Miami Beach broadcasts movies and live concerts — including this one by the New World Symphony — on a 7,000-square-foot projection wall.

It’s a major piece of a loop that is planned to meander through

San Marco, linking the Northbank and Southbank Riverwalks.

There are some gaps in the path — notably The District on the

Southbank that will eventually include a Riverwalk extension —

but it will give walkers and cyclists better and safer access.

Cross-river transportation also will improve with the addition

of docks at Jackson Street in Brooklyn and Post Street in Riverside

and a kayak launch at Ed Gefen Park. Finger docks also are going

in on the Southbank near the Riverplace Tower.

This spring, wayfinding signs are being installed along the Riverwalks.

These will provide “you are here” type information, Boyer

said, but they will include the necessary wiring so that interactive

signage with more information can be added later.

Riverplace Boulevard on the Southbank is undergoing a road

diet to slow down traffic, create more green space and improve

access to the Southbank Riverwalk. The $6 million project will

reduce the street from five lanes to three and add bike lanes,

crosswalks and wider sidewalks and 36 on-street parking spaces.

And 200 parking spaces will soon be available under the Acosta

Bridge.

All of those projects will make the Riverwalks easier to find and

navigate, and soon people will have new reasons to come.

But first things first. The aging Northbank bulkhead, which

was further weakened by Hurricane Irma, will be repaired and

upgraded starting this summer. The $3 million project is expected

to be completed in 2021.

As that project winds down, work will begin on a new riverfront

Visit Jacksonville welcome center in the southeast corner of

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 37


“Friendship

Fountain is

in our front

yard, and

the way our

building embraces

the

park creates

connectivity

both visually

and

programmatically

to

Downtown.”

MARIA HANE

PRESIDENT OF

THE MUSEUM

OF SCIENCE

AND HISTORY

the Times-Union Performing Arts Center, paid

for with $850,000 from the Tourist Development

Council.

‘Wallcasting’ on

the Northbank

Visitors to the welcome center will have reason

to linger. Just outside will be a sensory garden and

children’s space highlighting Northeast Florida’s

diverse musical heritage. The various components

of the musical garden will develop over time, as

funding is available, Boyer said, but the plan is

to make it interactive. Visitors might hear music

by Frederick Delius, whose “Florida Suite” was

inspired by his time in North Florida; James Weldon

and John Rosamond Johnson, composers of

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” and Southern rockers

Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The TDC has allocated $1.2 million to create

a “wallcast” venue. Never heard of a “wallcast?”

Think of a more sophisticated version of a drive-in

movie with the facade of the CSX building serving

as a livestream screen. It’s being done in Sound-

Scape Park in Miami Beach where the New World

Symphony broadcasts live concerts and movies

on an outdoor 7,000-square-foot projection wall.

Boyer envisions people watching movies or

concerts from lawn chairs or boats and ordering

food and drinks from food trucks or a proposed

café in the Performing Arts Center.

Activating Friendship

Fountain

That’s the plan for the Northbank. The plan for

the Southbank will begin shortly on plumbing and

wiring repairs and upgrades to Friendship Fountain,

which already are in the city budget.

The fountain has needed repairing for years,

but Boyer wants to use the opportunity to make

the fountain and surrounding St. Johns River Park

more of a destination.

The fountain will become an entertainment

venue for synchronized light, music and projection

shows. Fluidity Design of Los Angeles, which

specializes in water and music projects, is designing

the fountain upgrades. Boyer said work should

begin in late spring and be done by fall.

The area around the fountain will be transformed

into a garden echoing naturalist William

Bartram’s exploration of Florida in the 18th century.

Expect landscaping with native plants and a

picnic area.

A play area will harken to the 16th century and

the adventures of French colonizer Jean Ribault,

who explored the St. Johns River and established

Fort Caroline. The centerpiece of the playground

will be a 16th century French galleon, a Timucuan

hut and a splash pad.

Some of the inspiration for the park comes from

the new Gathering Place in Tulsa, Okla., a 100-acre

riverfront park that was voted USA Today’s Best

New Attraction. Funded by philanthropist George

Kaiser, the park is billed as a playground for all

ages with trails, a concert venue, restaurants and a

European-style playground that engages children

of all ability levels.

The funding is in place for the garden and picnic

area, and work on those elements could begin

this spring, Boyer said. The playground design is in

the bidding process.

Maria Hane, president of the adjoining Museum

of Science and History (MOSH), said the

plans for the Friendship Fountain will enhance the

museum’s plans for expansion. See story page 16)

“Friendship Fountain is in our front yard, and

the way our building embraces the park creates

connectivity both visually and programmatically to

Downtown,” Hane said. “Synergy is happening at

the site. The city’s investment and our investment

are so cohesive, and they will create a seamless

experience whether you start in the museum and

go to the park or start in the park and come to the

museum.”

Sound and light show

But that’s only two sides of the quadrangle. Miller

Electric and the Moment Factory, a multimedia

studio based in Montreal, are working on developing

a light and music show using the Acosta

and Main Street bridges, the fountain and the T-U

Performing Arts Center.

The Moment Factory has developed productions

all over the world but none more spectacular

than the one it did in its own backyard — the

Jacques Cartier Bridge. The iconic bridge, which

opened in 1930, is illuminated each evening

with lighting that changes with the season. The

intensity, speed and density of the light changes

depending on how often Montreal is mentioned on

Twitter.

The Downtown Investment Authority has contracted

with Miller Electric and the Moment Factory

to develop a concept for a multimedia show

highlighting Jacksonville’s unique history, culture

and ecology. The design proposal and estimate

of operating costs are expected this spring, but an

early estimate puts the annual operating costs at

between $250,000 and $500,000. For Downtown

that’s a pretty affordable wow!

The Performing Arts Center and Friendship

Fountain projects are the first of about a dozen

“nodes” that are proposed along the Riverwalks

that will serve as green space, activity zones and

transportation access points. They are envisioned

from the Sports Complex to Riverside and will be

developed as plans for new development firm up.

Jewel in the

Emerald Necklace

Another element of the river activation is the

restoration of McCoys Creek. What it lacks in glitz, it

more than makes up for in impact both social and

environmental.

McCoys Creek is a neglected waterway that

38

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


Don Burk

empties at the St. Johns River under the Florida

Times-Union building and meanders for almost

three miles through the Lackawanna, North Riverside

and Brooklyn neighborhoods to Hollybrook

Park. Once upon a time, it was a place to fish and

swim, but then industry took over the area and the

creek was bulkheaded and channelized, cutting off

its natural flow. The creek is polluted, overgrown

and prone to flooding.

Shannon Blankinship of the St. Johns Riverkeeper

said they are hoping the McCoys Creek

project will help improve water quality, enhance

the natural environment and provide recreational

opportunities.

“This is a tremendous opportunity. That whole

area will look different and there could be real ecological

benefits,” she said. “There would be better

public access. You could put a kayak in at Stockton

Street and paddle to the river.”

Groundwork Jacksonville has partnered with

the city to spearhead the redevelopment of McCoys

Creek as part of its Emerald Necklace project that

will connect the S-Line, Hogans Creek and the Riverwalks.

Groundwork recently received a $250,000

grant for the project.

Groundwork’s goal is to clean up and naturalize

the creek and create bike and walking trails while

the city focuses on infrastructure improvements to

reduce flooding.

McCoys Creek restoration has been on the

city’s agenda for at least a decade. The stormwater

management and flood mitigation plan divides

the project into two phases east and west of Myrtle

Avenue.

The work would include demolishing two bridges,

raising the Stockton and King street bridges,

restoring the bulkhead and reshaping the banks to

improve water flow, removing McCoys Creek Boulevard,

performing ash remediation and providing

economic incentives for development.

The entire project is expected to cost about $60

million. The funding is in place for the design of

Phase 1, demolishing the bridges and doing the

ash remediation. Work is expected to begin before

summer.

The one unknown is plans by Morris Communications

for the Times-Union property. Organizers

of the McCoys Creek restoration are hoping the

company is open to “daylighting” the creek so that it

can be restored as a waterway that will help activate

the river.

Lilla Ross was a reporter and editor at The Florida Times-

Union for 35 years. She lives in San Marco.

Plumbing and wiring upgrades

to Friendship Fountain on

Downtown’s southbank are

already in the city’s budget.

Other enhancements call for a

synchronized light and music show

along with a landscaped garden and

play area.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 39


Built in 1912, the Union Terminal

Warehouse was for decades,

Jacksonville’s largest industrial

building. The warehouse originally

supplied service to Jacksonville’s 32

wholesale grocery firms.

40

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


Tucked away in a little-visited industrial corner of Downtown, a

massive warehouse is undergoing a transformation that developers

hope leads to a thriving live-work-play community of creators

BY FRANK DENTON // PHOTOS BY BOB SELF

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 41


Byron Caplan works on his piece, “Venus No.4,” in his fourth-floor studio space inside the Union Terminal building.

Driving out East Union Street from the

Downtown core, you have to be careful to

take the Union exit, or you’ll find yourself

on the Mathews Bridge into Arlington. So

take the exit, then an unmarked left and a

right to stay on what’s left of Union.

There, in a gritty, grimy, obscure

industrial corner of Downtown

cattycorner from the rundown Old

City Cemetery with all its Confederate

graves, you’ll find the massive Union

Terminal Warehouse, a piece of

Jacksonville industrial history that

could become part of its creative future.

42 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

In 1986, the 320,000-square-foot Union Terminal building was on the market for $2.7 million.

TIMES-UNION ARCHIVES


IONIA ST.

JEFF DAVIS (MAP)

Behind its aged steel doors, scores of pioneer

artists and makers have carved out their own

studios in creating the third piece of what one

called the “golden triangle” of arts districts, joining

CORK in Riverside

and the Phoenix Arts

PIPPIN ST.

UNION ST.

Hogans Creek

District in Springfield.

Now they’re waiting,

with a mixture

of eagerness and

nervousness, as new

owners envision the

warehouse as the next

piece in Downtown

revitalization, on the

eight acres alongside

Hogans Creek between

the Cathedral District

to the west and the

Sports Complex to the

east, within walking

distance of Veterans

Memorial Arena and

even TIAA Bank Field.

Despite those neighbors,

the warehouse is just outside the official

Downtown boundary.

The century-long link between the warehouse

and its planned adaptive reuse into a live-workplay

community of artists, crafts people and other

creators is the powerful concept of authenticity.

As you read in the fall issue of J, urban centers

that have authentic charm and sense of place are

especially effective at attracting new residents,

particularly millennials. Richard Florida, in his

2012 update to his important book The Rise of

the Creative Class, said people in his research defined

authentic as the opposite of generic. “They

equate authentic with being real, as in a place

that has real buildings, real people, real history. A

place that’s full of chain stores, chain restaurants

and chain nightclubs is seen as inauthentic. Not

only do those venues look pretty much the same

everywhere, they offer the same experiences you

could have anywhere.”

“Places are … valued for their authenticity and

uniqueness,” Florida wrote. “Authenticity comes

from several aspects of a community — historic

buildings, established neighborhoods, a distinctive

music scene or specific cultural attributes.

It especially comes from the mix — urban grit

alongside freshly renovated buildings …”

A piece of

industrial history

While many of Jacksonville’s historic buildings

were lost to the Great Fire of 1901 and to 20th

century “urban renewal,” the Union Terminal

Warehouse is a living part of local history. Highway

signs now proclaim Jacksonville as “America’s

Logistics Center,” and that may have had roots in

this warehouse that was innovative in its time and,

N

ARLINGTON EXPRESSWAY

PALMETTO ST.

Veterans

Memorial

Arena

UNION

TERMINAL

WAREHOUSE

700 E. Union St.

Baseball

Grounds

DUVAL ST.

A Philip RANDOLPH BLVD.

for decades, the city’s largest industrial building.

The warehouse was built in 1912 by C.B. Gay as

a supply service to the city’s 32 wholesale grocery

firms, Kristen Pickrell wrote for metrojacksonville.

com in 2014. Before the

invention of the tractor-trailer,

groceries —

and, later, other goods

— were shipped to this

central warehouse on

adjacent rail lines and

via water on Hogans

Creek connecting to the

St. Johns River.

Gay’s facility saved

its tenants money by

reducing their insurance,

shipping and

distribution costs.

The building, Pickrell

wrote, featured more

than 3,000 feet of rail

siding, two subways, a

sprinkler system, freight

elevators, an internal

phone system and the Union Terminal Lunch

Room for employees.

“In its glory days,” she wrote, “the Union Terminal

Warehouse Company originally offered a

plethora of amenities to railway users,” including a

“pool car distribution system” allowing shippers to

save money through efficient sharing of cars.

Today, the rail sidings are gone, and the aged

building is reduced to simple warehouse space,

occupied by a number of diverse small businesses

— Hof’s Printing, A&B Asphalt Repair, Jacksonville

Reclaimed Wood — and those eager and nervous

artists.

There are about 10 large art studios in the

building, each subdivided for individual artists,

plus individual studios for another 10 independent

artists and craftspeople, making a total of

“The idea

of the loft

would be

to do what

you want

so long as

you’re not

bothering

your

neighbor.”

DILLON BAYNES

DEVELOPER

Artist Nathan Eckenrode works

inside his studio space on the

third floor of the Union Terminal

complex. Eckenrode enclosed a

space inside a larger space used by

a number of artists in the historic

commercial building.


Artist Nathan Eckenrode inside perhaps 100 creative people occupying about 45

his studio on the third floor of percent of the warehouse space.

the Union Terminal complex.

The building now houses rental

A renaissance,

offices, warehouses and artists’

minor or major

studio space. The owners plan

It is the authentic combination of the historic

to develop it into retail, dining

and entertainment location for building, the almost-Downtown location and the

creatives.

native energy of the creators already staking a claim

that has led to a plan by an Atlanta-based developer

to redevelop the warehouse for residences,

commercial, retail and maybe dining and entertainment.

Columbia Ventures, which calls itself “the

Southeast’s premier social impact developer,”

bought the building in December, using a $4.5

million loan from the Jacksonville branch of LISC,

the Local Initiatives Support Corp., and may invest

more than $30 million in the project, with federal

Historic Tax Credits.

Dillon Baynes, managing partner, said Columbia,

with a local architect, will spend the first six

months of this year planning, including studying

the venerable building and its considerable deferred

maintenance to determine whether to do a

minor or major renovation.

44 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

If the latter, he said there could be three floors

of residential, probably workforce apartments, one

floor of “makerspace” and one of commercial. “But

we would be agnostic as to the use; we wouldn’t

ban anyone from a certain floor. The idea of the loft

would be to do what you want so long as you’re not

bothering your neighbor.”

A loft is different from an apartment in that it has

an open floor plan with a bathroom and a kitchen

but otherwise open space for the occupant to organize

and use as he or she wishes, for living or work

or both. Think of a section of a warehouse, with the

original big windows restored.

“For people who are merely looking for a new

apartment, there are lots of places in Jacksonville,”

Baynes said. “We will create a loft experience.”

For a comparable project, he pointed to Studioplex

in Atlanta, where Columbia renovated an old

industrial building into rental lofts, with commercial

and restaurants. (www.studioplexlofts.com)

“In Studioplex today, we have restaurants, we

have artists, we have doctors and lawyers, we have

an entire creative class of people. We just finished

adding 30,000 square feet of retail to the community,

and we’ll continue to add over time. We have


three separate buildings with different identities.”

Studioplex was rental from its redevelopment in

1998 until 2007, when the units were converted to

condominium ownership. “Our vision for the Jacksonville

project is rental,” Baynes said. “Perhaps that

could change in a decade, perhaps not. All of the

renovated spaces we’ll refer to as ‘lofts,’ and yes, if

we add residential, we’ll target workforce incomes.”

The artists now

in residence

You can understand the artists already working

at the Union Terminal Warehouse having mixed

emotions about such grand plans.

Nathan Eckenrode, who works on large abstract

“motion paintings” via splatter techniques

(akin to Jackson Pollock), found the loft idea

compelling. “I hope we get to stay here,” he said.

“I’d love to live here and create, have raw space,

with a bedroom and a kitchen and a little bitty

space to sleep.”

He said the warehouse is ideal because what

artists need is “space. And some place to wash

your brushes. Space is a really big thing for an

artist. You got to have space. You have to create

separation from the messy creative stuff and

home.”

Eckenrode earns his living as a union stagehand

and thinks all the creators in the warehouse

have regular jobs to support themselves and

afford the rent, commonly $75-150 a month for

their parts of the space.

One floor above, Byron Kaplan does cut-out

“dazzle painting,” derived from a technique to

camouflage British and American ships during

the world wars (look it up; it’s fascinating). He

makes his living as a TV news videographer and

said, “Most people here have regular jobs. They’re

here mostly weekends and nights.”

Kaplan said he values the working arrangement

because of the creative environment and

opportunity to collaborate. “Other artists and I

can bounce ideas off each other.”

His hope for the new owners: “Not raise rent.

And I hope our group can get air-conditioning,”

the lack of which can stifle summertime creativity.

Eckenrode’s studio landlord is Tammy McKinley,

a real-estate agent as well as a photographer

who rents one of the large studios then sublets

spaces to 12 other artists, with a waiting list of 35.

She said the artists and other creative people

who have settled in the warehouse have established

a real arts district. “We are Jacksonville’s

dirty little secret. Everybody has been there, but

no one wants to admit it.

“We love it, we absolutely love it.”

McKinley said she has discussed Columbia’s

plans with Dillon Baynes, and “I’m keeping my

fingers crossed he’ll make it possible for us to stay

there. I’m absolutely keeping my fingers crossed.”

Investment in the warehouse could lead to

a rent increase. “I am a little concerned about

that. Artists, we don’t make a lot of money. What

attracted us to the building in the first place was a

large amount of square footage for low rent. But if

the property becomes more of a cultural destination,

that would increase our profits and help pay

for any rent increases.”

As for Baynes himself, he is careful about being

too firm, until Columbia’s study over the next

few months shows what needs to be done and can

be done with the warehouse.

But he said, “We recognize the importance of

having artists and craftspeople in the community.

They’re already there. And this is an era where

people focus on artisanal products.”

Not a new idea

It must be said that the Union Terminal Warehouse

project is not a new idea. Other companies

proposed very similar developments for the big

building in 2015 and 2017, only to have them fall

apart.

And Columbia Ventures itself looked at the

property five years ago but decided it and Jacksonville

weren’t ready then.

Now, both are. “Jacksonville’s Downtown and

in-town neighborhoods have had amazing growth

over the past few years,” Baynes told the Times-

Union. “We … wanted to get in and be part of

Jacksonville’s growth path.”

“We love what’s happening next door in Springfield

on Main Street and love the quality of emerging

businesses there,” Baynes told J. “We would

want to target a restaurant or café.”

Asked for his degree of certainty that the project

will happen this time, Baynes said: “Highly likely.”

Union Terminal Warehouse is a tired, deteriorated

structure in a rundown, forgotten subsection

of town, but it is filled with creative and caring

people and now with ideas and, apparently, capital.

Underneath the big projects like The District and

the Shipyards, it is focused projects like this that will

bring Downtown to life.

Frank Denton, retired editor of The Florida Times-Union,

is editor of J. He lives in Riverside.

“I hope

we get to

stay here.

I’d love to

live here

and create,

have raw

space, with

a bedroom

and a

kitchen and

a little bitty

space to

sleep.”

NATHAN

ECKENRODE

JACKSONVILLE

ARTIST

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 45


George Saoud outside the Bryan

Building at Hogan and Monroe

streets he is transforming into an

artist’s collective called The Lark.

46

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


Local real estate investor George Saoud

wants to see art studios in the heart of

Downtown. That’s exactly what his latest

venture – The Lark – aims to accomplish.

Drawing

artists

to the

heart of

the core

By CAROLE HAWKINS // PHOTOS BY BOB SELF

Take one look at Five Points, Riverside,

with its bohemian cluster of

vintage shops and eclectic eateries,

and you’ll know you’re in a creative

urban neighborhood. Punctuating

that point is CORK on Riverside’s King Street, with

its 80,000 square feet of warehouse space converted

into artist studios.

Take one look at Downtown Jacksonville, and

you’ll see public art — ground-to-rooftop murals

painted on parking garages and high-rise buildings

— showing off the urban core’s own unique

character.

Soon, that street art will be joined by an enclave

of artists working in studio space just off Hemming

Park. Punctuating the core as a creative urban

district too.

Owner George Saoud is undertaking a $120,000

renovation of the second floor of the historic Bryan

Building at the corner of Hogan and Monroe streets

for a collective studio space for a dozen working

artists. The Downtown Investment Authority contributed

a $55,000 grant to the effort.

“There’s not been a city that I’ve worked in that

didn’t have an arts community that helped to drive

its downtown revival,” former CEO Aundra Wallace

said prior to the DIA grant last September. “I think

this particular project is about as creative as you

could probably get.”

The renovation will open up the second floor’s

bricked-in windows and refurbish the building’s

antique elevator. Movable walls will create individual

as well as collaborative workplaces, easily

reconfigured for exhibitions. The downstairs lobby

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 47


will offer temporary display space for featured

artists.

“There’s

Construction began early this year, and Saoud

hopes to finish by April. The new venue will be

a grilled

called The Lark, and under an agreement with the

city, it will open for public events twice a month.

cheese shop

Saoud, a musician, real estate investor and

Jacksonville native, said he can’t imagine a better

beneath

place for a Jacksonville artist to make the leap from

hobbyist to professional.

me and a

“It gives you a Downtown address,” he said.

“You’ll be right there at Hemming Park and have

bar around your name attached to a space that’s tied to Art

Walk. I don’t think you could beat that anywhere.”

the corner.

The Bryan building has been used by artists

before, albeit less formally.

There’s a

In 2013 at the first One Spark festival, the same

229 Hogan Street storefront and second floor

museum,

became exhibition space for a random collection

of local artworks that meandered up the stairs and

there’s a

tumbled into a dozen or so partitioned rooms.

After One Spark fizzled, most of the artists scattered.

Two stayed.

library.

Rob Middleton and Meleese Bremer have been

People say

quietly using the second floor as a studio. Middleton

opens the doors to Art Walk each month, just to

Downtown keep the venue active.

Both Middleton and Bremer said getting a larger

Jacksonville community of artists to join them will be a way

of keeping a little piece of One Spark alive. One

is lame,

Spark brought the community together, and it also

brought others into the community, Bremer said.

but there’s

She met one artist who moved from Pennsylvania

to Jacksonville because of the event.

something

“It was a stage for everyone, and it worked,” she

said. “The innovations were real things, not just

going on

someone trying to sell you. It was real, and I miss it.”

from 5 a.m. Bremer is a mixed-media abstract artist,

definitely a professional, but with

until 2 or 3

a day job. Her hope is for her artwork

to come to occupy a more central

a.m. most of

place in her life.

Having a studio settles a lot of problems that

the time.”

artists face, she said. It’s a place to concentrate, a

dedicated space she doesn’t have to set up and

ROB MIDDLETON break down every time she wants to work. And

DOWNTOWN

connecting with other artists raises her professionalism.

ARTIST

“It pushes you outside of yourself,” Bremer said.

“I’m very introverted, and I tend to get closed off if

I’m too busy. You need other people to stay sharp,

for that inspiration.”

Middleton is a lifelong artist who’s built a local

following for his emotive abstract expressionist

paintings. There are other studios he could work

out of: CORK, the Union Terminal Warehouse,

Springfield’s Phoenix Arts District. But the Hogan

Street studio fits his style.

“It’s where I like to make artwork,” he said.

“There’s a grilled cheese shop beneath me and a

bar around the corner. There’s a museum, there’s a

48 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

library. People say Downtown Jacksonville is lame,

but there’s something going on from 5 a.m. until 2

or 3 a.m. most of the time.”

One day Middleton would like his work to be

known outside Jacksonville, selling in South Florida,

Atlanta and other places. These days, getting

that outside reach no longer means having to leave

Jacksonville.

“I think things have changed here. I am constantly

meeting young creative people, connecting

through Instagram and in person too,” he said.

“Jacksonville is a place that’s becoming strong

enough to retain all of those young creative people

who in the past all moved away without question.”

It’s a place that’s accumulated an impressive

collection of unique public art. And now too, a

place strong enough to support local artists who are

working to define Downtown’s emerging culture.

Carole Hawkins is a freelance writer

who lives in Murray Hill.


Artist Rob Middleton adjusts a

painting in his studio on the second

floor of the Bryan Building. To keep

the venue active, Middleton has

been opening the doors to Art Walk

each month.

Mixed-media, abstract artist Meleese

Bremer stands in her Bryan Building

studio space. “I’m very introverted,

“ she said. “And I tend to get

closed off if I’m too busy. You need

other people to stay sharp, for that

inspiration.”

J MAGAZINE 49


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Joy Young is the new executive director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. Young spent the past 14 years with the South Carolina Arts Commission.

CULTURAL

REVOLUTION

WILL DICKEY

The Cultural

Council’s new

leader takes

on role of arts

ambassador

BY CHARLIE PATTON

Joy Young, who began her new job as executive director of the Cultural

Council of Greater Jacksonville last month, is the first person chosen to

head the organization who wasn’t a Jacksonville resident before being

chosen.

“I love that she is an outsider,” said Ryan Ali, who spent three years as

the Cultural Council’s director of development and is currently a mayoral

appointee to the council’s board of directors. “She is coming in with a fresh eye and

a fresh perspective.”

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 51


“She’s a great people person, a great

communicator,” said Ann Carey, chair of the

“I’m here

Cultural Council board.

Young comes to Jacksonville from the South

because I

Carolina Arts Commission, where she served

14 years as director of administration, human

want to be

resources and operations.

“I accepted the position for the opportunity

challenged

to actively contribute to enriching the quality

of life in Northeast Florida,” she said. “I’m here

and I

because I want to be challenged and I embrace

change. And let’s be honest, the weather, a

embrace

growing city and a vibrant arts scene add to a

great quality of life here.”

change.

And let’s be

honest, the

weather, a

growing city

and a vibrant

arts scene

add to a

great quality

of life here.”

JOY YOUNG

EXECUTIVE

DIRECTOR OF

THE CULTURAL

COUNCIL

52 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

The Cultural Council

The Cultural Council, founded in 1973 as

the Arts Assembly, is not a city agency. It is an

independent nonprofit. But it administers two

important city programs and is paid with city

funds to run those programs.

One is the Cultural Services Capital Program.

Since 2001, the city has been providing a lump

sum to fund arts organizations in the city,

and the Cultural Council has administered

the program and made decisions about what

funding will be given to each participating arts

organization.

Since 2006, the Cultural Council also has

administered the city’s Art in Public Places

program. Under an ordinance first passed in

1997, the city can set aside 0.75 percent of the

cost of any project costing more than $100,000

to spend for public art.

The Better Jacksonville Plan, approved

by voters during Mayor John Delaney’s

administration, generated about $2.5 million

for public art. Funds for Art in Public Places

can also come from other sources such

as discretionary funds from City Council

members.

The Cultural Council currently has about

$1.45 million in unspent Art in Public Places

funds; $866,667 is money that resulted from

construction of the Duval County Courthouse.

That money has remain unspent in part because

the vast overruns in the cost of the courthouse

made spending funds for public art at the

project controversial.

But in recent years city officials have been

critical of the Cultural Council for not spending

enough on public art.

Young acknowledge she was aware of the

issue.

“The board made it clear there were

challenges in programs [such as] public

perception related to Art in Public Places,” she

said. “But we know perception can change for

the better when information is provided and

results are evident.”

Carey, whom Ali praised for her “incredible

vision,” said the issue has already been

addressed. Plans are underway for five public

art projects budgeted at about $663,000 over

the next couple of years, and planning on how

to spend the courthouse money will begin this

year.

Besides administering the Cultural Services

Capital Program and Art in Public Places, the

Cultural Council’s other most visible project is

giving arts awards each spring during its annual

fundraising dinner, formerly a luncheon.

The Cultural Council also runs a number of

less visible projects including arts advocacy.

Carey said the Cultural Council needs to

evaluate what other roles it should play, a task

she is looking to Young for assistance.

“I saw this organization as one that knew its

mission and was eager to explore possibilities

above and beyond its present standing,” Young

said.

Young, who in addition to being the first

Jacksonville outsider chosen to lead the Cultural

Council is also the first African American to lead

the Cultural Council, succeeds Tony Allegretti

as executive director.

Allegretti, who had taken the job in 2014,

made a surprise announcement last June that

he would resign. Originally the plan was that he

would stay on the job until his replacement was

hired. But eventually it was decided he would

leave when the fiscal year ended in September

30. Carey, the board chair, has been filling the

role since Allegretti left.

The council board of directors and other

community leaders unanimously chose Young,

one of 22 people who applied who for the job, in

November and announced the decision in early

December.

Artist from the start

Young grew up a self-described “Army brat,”

who was born in Oklahoma and lived on three

different Army bases in Germany. Since her

father was usually stationed at Fort Jackson in

Columbia, S.C., between overseas duty stations,

she said she considered South Carolina home.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree

from Columbia College, Young enrolled in the

Manhattan School of Music with the goal of

becoming a “grand opera diva.” When she saw

a performance by soprano Leontyne Price, she

was inspired.

Then she learned what it took to be Leontyne

Price. It required “expert language proficiency

in Italian, German and French, skills in music

theory to identify augmented sixth chords from

those same countries, and full dedication to the

practice room,” she said.

She adjusted her goals.

“Although I completed my masters in

Voice Performance, I graduated with a clear

understanding that the realities of life in

performance were not for me,” she said. “I’m


confident I made the right choice to move into

administration rather than performance.”

David Engdahl, a sculptor who retired as

chief architect of The Haskell Co., recently left

the Cultural Council board. But he was involved

in the search for the new executive director.

“I have a lot of confidence in Joy’s ability,” he

said. “I felt like she had the right background to

really be a leader.”

City Council member John Crescimbeni,

who has been City Council liaison to the

Cultural Council in recent years, said Young

impressed him as “very articulate and

intelligent.”

“I think she is going to be a good fit,” he said.

Robert Arleigh White, who was executive

director of the Cultural Council from 2000 to

2013, said he and Young have many mutual

friends and he believes she is “very, very sharp.”

Money always the issue

The greatest challenge she faces “continues

to be adequate funding,” White said.

That’s a view shared by Allegretti.

During his tenure “we didn’t have increased

funding but we had increased demand,”

Allegretti said.

In 2002-2003, the City Council put slightly

more than $4 million into the Cultural Services

Capital Program. It hasn’t matched that total

since. During last fiscal year the Cultural

Council sought slightly less than $4 million but

received $2.89 million.

That’s just not adequate arts funding for

a city Jacksonville’s size, a city on which the

arts has an estimated economic impact of $80

million annually.

Preston Haskell, one of Jacksonville’s most

generous supporter of the arts, said last year the

city should be giving $8 to $10 million a year to

arts organizations.

Retiring Baptist Health CEO Hugh Greene

said about the lack of city funding for the arts:

“Really progressive cities are not letting that

happen.”

The lack of adequate city funding has been

compounded by the fact that the state, once a

generous supporter of the arts, has eliminated

almost all arts funding.

Allegretti said that convincing the City

Council to be more generous with arts funding

was something at which he just wasn’t very

successful.

Based on her track record, Young might be

the person to convince City Council it needs to

increase funding for the arts in Jacksonville.

“She knows how to develop relationships,”

Carey said.

Allegretti said he hasn’t met or spoken with

Young but has “heard she’s a coalition builder.”

Allegretti faulted himself for failing to bring

“people together like I wanted.”

Crescimbeni, who is leaving the City Council

and running for tax collector this spring, was

critical of Allegretti’s performance as executive

director.

“I don’t feel like the executive director was

as passionate as I would have liked him to be,”

Crescimbeni said.

Asked how she’ll deal with City Council

members on whom the Cultural Council is

dependent for a large portion of its funding,

Young quoted Stephen Covey, author of

the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective

People.” Covey, she said, “talks about

engaging in active communication, which

supports synergy. Synergy rises above conflict,

surpasses compromises. It leads to new ideas,

approaches and perspectives. I look forward to

communicating with City Council on behalf of

the arts from a place of synergy.”

Young said what she enjoys about being an

arts administrator is “collaborating to create

programs or inviting people to experience the

arts … I enjoy seeing how the arts can be used

for good in the lives of individuals as well as a

collective benefit.”

As for the challenges her new job will pose,

Young noted that “any new job requires time to

adjust to the realities of the environment and

culture. However, right now, I just don’t know

what I don’t know.”

As for opportunities, she said “the Cultural

Council is ripe for change … It appears to

me that arts organizations seem to want

to collaborate around a unified voice. The

Cultural Council has an opportunity to provide

leadership in developing the city’s overall arts

and cultural landscape.”

Young still sings on occasion, including

performing in “Porgy and Bess” during the

Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C., in 2016.

“Prior to that, I occasionally performed

classical recitals,” she said. “I paid my dues over

the course of 20-plus years as a church soloist

and wedding singer. Every now and again, I will

take a gig as a soul, R&B background vocalist.

It was fun. In 2017 I enjoyed a short season

with a professional choir called the Sandlapper

Singers.”

As for hobbies, she considers herself a

“foodie” and plans to check out Jacksonville’s

restaurants. She’s also completing work on a

doctorate in organizational leadership.

“So when I’m not with family or at work, I’m

reading, researching and writing,” she said. “I

stay busy doing what I love and loving what I

do.”

Charlie Patton retired in September after

more than 41 years with The Florida Times-Union,

spending his last nine years covering the arts.

He lives in Riverside.

JOY YOUNG

Director of the Cultural Council of

Greater Jacksonville

Age: 51

Hometown: An Army brat,

she lived in many places growing

up but considers Columbia, S.C.,

her home town.

Education: Bachelor’s

degree from Columbia College;

studied voice performance at

the Manhattan School of Music;

earned a master’s degree in

voice performance from the City

University of New York’s Hunter

College.

Work experience: Taught

music as an adjunct professor

at Benedict College; opened

her own music studio; served

as AmeriCorps Promise Fellow

with Communities in Resources/

Employee Law Relations; was

director of training and technical

assistance with the South

Carolina Association of Nonprofit

Organizations; spent the last 14

years with the South Carolina

Arts Commission as director of

administrative services, human

resources and operations.

Family: Three children aged 25,

24 and 20; one grandchild.

Quote: “I opened my own

music studio. This entrepreneurial

endeavor is how I learned

the ins-and-outs of small

business administration. In

retrospect, I don’t know that

arts administration became a

focus until I gained quite a bit

of experience in non-profit

administration and governance.

I found my sweet spot in arts

administration as a nexus of

education, business and the nonprofit

sector.”

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 53


After Downtown’s historic Bostwick

Building was saved from the wrecking

ball by Jacques Klempf in 2014, he turned

it into the upscale Cowford Chophouse,

complete with a swanky rooftop bar.

54

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


TWELVE

VIEWS

DOWN

TOWN

DOWNTOWN’S

BEST VIEWS

OF THE RIVER

By DENISE REAGAN

For several decades, no one wanted a

view of the St. Johns River.

Jacksonville was dumping millions

of gallons of raw sewage and industrial

waste into the river every day. Who

would want to see that? It certainly

wasn’t an appetizing site for a meal or

happy hour.

In any other city, the riverfront would

be prime real estate. Jacksonville chose

to crowd it with municipal buildings,

like the old city hall and courthouse and

the jail.

That began to change in 1969 when

Mayor Hans Tanzler started cleaning up

the river, then a new attitude emerged

when the Southbank Riverwalk opened

in 1985 and the last section of the

Northbank Riverwalk in 2005.

Now, finally, after decades of

clean-up efforts and some frustrating

environmental setbacks, the St. Johns

River is getting new life from a series of

views that are popping up on rooftops

along the urban core.

New views are on the horizon. The

District, on the Southbank where the

JEA plant used to be, should include a

riverfront restaurant. With the staff of

The Florida Times-Union relocating

to the Wells Fargo Tower in the spring,

1 Riverside Ave. could become a hot

commodity, particularly if plans to

unearth McCoys Creek as part of the

Emerald Necklace come to fruition.

If — when? — JSO vacates its current

PHOTO BY WILL DICKEY

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 55


11

10

FULLER WARREN

BRIDGE

ACOSTA

BRIDGE

A DOZEN RIVER

VIEWS IN THE

URBAN CORE

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Cowford Chophouse

101 E. Bay St.

The River Club

1 Independent DRIVE

River City Brewing

Company

835 Museum CirCLE

Chart House

1501 Riverplace Blvd.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

1201 Riverplace Blvd.

DoubleTree by Hilton

Jacksonville Riverfront

1201 Riverplace Blvd.

Museum of Science

and History

1025 Museum CirCLE

Intuition Ale Works

929 E. Bay St.

Burrito Gallery at

Brooklyn Station

90 Riverside Ave.

River & Post

1000 Riverside Ave.

Black Sheep

1534 Oak St.

The Jacksonville Landing

2 Independent DrIVE

9

2

12

MAIN ST.

BRIDGE

3

7

1

5 6

4

8

ST. JOHNS RIVER

N

location, perhaps William Morgan’s original

design of the Police Memorial Building could

return, which included a rooftop garden with

multiple terraces, plant beds, and a fountain.

Years ago, the publicly accessible rooftop park

was declared a security hazard and closed,

undercutting Morgan’s original vision.

It’s frustrating that there aren’t more public

places where you can eat or drink on the river in

Downtown Jacksonville.

“That’s the thing that bugs me,” said Heather

Adams, a resident of the Berkman Plaza condos.

“I live on the river, but there aren’t many places

where I can have a cocktail and a meal while

overlooking the river.”

The private University Club closed in 2016

after 48 years at 1301 Riverplace Blvd. The main

dining room and lounge on the 27th floor had

some of the most breathtaking 180-degree vistas

of the river. Now, only Ameris Bank executives

enjoy those views.

The night before I got married, we held

our rehearsal dinner at Crawdaddy’s on the

Southbank, one of the few restaurants with river

view at the time. A few years later, the shabby chic

shack was gone.

Construction to rebuild a portion of Coastline

Drive where it runs in front of the Hyatt Regency

has blocked what used to be a street-level river

view from Morton’s The Steakhouse inside the

hotel. I hope the outdoor seating at the corner of

Market Street and Coastline Drive will get its river

view back later this year.

For now, there are at least 12 places where you

can eat and drink in Downtown with a view of

the river. Some barely pass with scant view of the

water; some are eye-popping showstoppers. Each

one is rated on a scale of one to 10 on the quality

of the river view.

The Jacksonville Landing

Only three restaurants with river-level views

remain at this 32-year-old venue — Chicago Pizza,

Fionn MacCool’s and Hooters — and not for long.

Landing owners and the city recently announced

an agreement: If City Council approves, the city

will pay $15 million to terminate the owners’ longterm

lease, clearing the way for demolition and a

new use for that prime location. Stay tuned for a

possible new view of the river.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $30 and under

River & Post

This is the highest restaurant glimpse of the

St. Johns River the public can enjoy without a

membership, and it is breathtaking. On the ninth

Perched high above the St. Johns

River in Five Points, River & Post’s

ninth-floor terrace offers stunning

views along with delicious cocktails.

BOB MACK

56

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


floor of the building at Riverside and Post streets,

you’ll find deep, comfy sectional couches, firepits

surrounded by vivid blue glass pebbles, and a

retractable roof. The attached indoor bar also has

seating so you can enjoy the view even when the

weather is less than ideal. Appetizers of ceviche,

seared ahi tuna and charcuterie pair well with

wine or cocktails while you admire the dazzling

view up and down the river.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $30 and under

Cowford Chophouse

Jacques Klempf purchased the endangered

Bostwick Building at auction in 2014, then

lovingly restored the 1902 historic structure,

including the arched windows, exterior bricks,

metal cornice and 300-year-old heart of pine that

is seen throughout the building today. When you

emerge from the top of the stairs onto the roof,

you feel transported to a metropolitan city in

Jacksonville’s future. Rooftop happy hour draws

Downtown office-dwellers and visitors from

near and far for the views and the tasty tacos,

sliders, and oysters. The revelry continues into the

evening, as chilly nights take on the glow of toasty

space heaters.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $50 and over

WILL DICKEY

The River Club

For a $500 initiation fee and monthly dues of

$125 ($250 and $58 for those younger than 40),

you, too, can soar high above the city at the top

of the Wells Fargo Center. The Vue34 lounge,

the St. Johns Dining Room and multiple event

spaces provide 360 degrees of Jacksonville skyline,

including a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the

Main Street Bridge. I’m not a member, but I was

invited there once. The food is serviceable and

the décor feels a bit dated, but you’ll probably be

too busy gazing outside to notice. The service is

fabulous, as you might expect at a private club.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $30-$50

Chart House

I couldn’t wait to go to this restaurant when

it opened in 1982. The exterior looks like a

weathered seashell washed onto the riverbank

and partially sunk into the earth. Designed by

Kendrick Bangs Kellogg who was inspired by

Frank Lloyd Wright, the Southbank building

is a distinctive example of modern organic

architecture with its weathered copper-clad ribs

and concrete barnacle cones. Inside, wooden

laminate ceilings undulate to smooth concrete

columns like you’ve entered the interior of a snail

shell. The windows curve from the floor to the

ceiling, revealing stunning views of the skyline

across the river. The décor finds the sweet spot

at the intersection of hippy couture and George

Jetson, as if you’ve walked onto the set of Woody

Allen’s “Sleeper.” During a recent happy hour visit,

the restaurant and lounge were both fairly full as

twilight washed over the restaurant and the Main

Street Bridge reflected in the river.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $31-$50

River City Brewing Company

This is the only place in the urban core where

you can sit outside within spitting distance of the

river (but please don’t spit in the river). When the

Acosta Bridge had to be rebuilt in 1990, the city

agreed to designate nearly half of the renovated

Friendship Park for a restaurant and parking. That

led to the boondoggle that was Harbormasters,

which River City Brewing Company (RCBC)

The River Club, located at the top

of the Wells Fargo Center in the

heart of Downtown, offers stunning

views of the St. Johns River and city

skyline.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 57


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eplaced in 1993. RCBC signed a 99-year lease

with the city on the property in 1998, but it looks

like no improvements have been made to the

property since then. The dining room and decks

have gorgeous riverfront skyline vistas next to a

marina. Happy hour in the Brewhouse Lounge

and Sunday brunch are popular.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $30 and under

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Inside the DoubleTree by Hilton Jacksonville

Riverfront, the oversized windows provide

sweeping views of the water and Downtown,

particularly at night. White tablecloths, candles,

high-quality food and impeccable service come

with a steep price. Some happy hour deals can

be found in the lounge, but the view isn’t as

remarkable.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $31-$50

Burrito Gallery

at Brooklyn Station

The third installment of the local burrito

chain has become an instant classic and favorite

gathering place, and its rooftop is a big reason

why. The mix of tables, lounge seating and bar

top surrounded by open air on three sides creates

a beachy vibe in the urban core. The restaurant

serves its signature “Jax Mex” in burritos, tacos,

quesadillas, tortas, enchiladas and salads, washed

down with margaritas and local beer. The river

view is barely there, but the surrounding Riverside

Avenue scene is vibrant.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $11-$30

Museum of Science

and History

One often forgotten gem is the rooftop at

MOSH. Although it’s not open on a regular

basis, several ticketed events are held there

each year. The impressive views of the bridges

and Friendship Fountain, particularly at night,

contribute to a memorable evening. MOSH

has hosted events such as rooftop yoga and

GastroFest.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: N/A

is visible in the distance and includes vistas of

Riverside at a height you don’t usually find in that

neighborhood. The open-air bar, cozy fireplace

and couches, built-in high-top tables and ample

table seating provide plenty of options, and a

new retractable roof makes being outdoors easier

year-round.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $30 and under

DoubleTree by Hilton

Jacksonville Riverfront

On Wednesday evenings, the DoubleTree

hosts live music and happy hour specials on the

terrace. The poolside vibe breathes new life into

the river view; you can almost imagine a cabana

in L.A.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $20 and under

Intuition Ale Works

The renovation of this industrial space

produced a headquarters for one of Jacksonville’s

favorite breweries and home to some of the best

beer in the city. The rooftop provides a fabulous

vista of the sports complex buildings and a very

narrow view of the river if you squint your eyes.

Once the ramps from the Hart Bridge come down,

that view will become a real bonus, at least until

development takes off along Bay Street. Sitting

along the edge of the rooftop looking down on

fans scurrying to football games, baseball games

or concerts provides a feeling of exclusivity. The

fresh air, the breeze from the “Big Ass Fan” and

an endless supply of locally crafted beer from the

outdoor bar make it a chill place to catch the Blue

Angels flybys during Jaguars games.

River view: H H H H H H H H H H

Price: $20 and under

Denise M. Reagan is a former editor at

The Florida Times-Union, currently senior manager

of public relations at Brunet-García and a life-long

advocate of Downtown Jacksonville.

“That’s the

thing that

bugs me. I

live on the

river, but

there aren’t

many places

where I

can have a

cocktail and

a meal while

overlooking

the river.”

HEATHER

ADAMS

DOWNTOWN

RESIDENT

While there are arguably better

views of Downtown, it’s hard

to beat the beer and terrace

at Intuition Ale Works near the

stadium. Plus, where else can you

do yoga before sipping a frosty

brew?

BRUCE LIPSKY

Black Sheep

When restaurateur Jonathan Insetta decided

to build this unusual triangular building at the

corner of Oak and Margaret streets in Five Points,

he must have known the rooftop view would

wow people. Not only does this restaurant (one

of the first rooftop establishments in Jacksonville)

have great roots — the Insetta family also owns

Restaurant Orsay in Riverside and Bellwether

in Downtown — but the triangular tip takes

advantage of the bend in the river. The water

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 59


60 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


CORE

EYESORE

DILAPIDATED

BUILDINGS A

BLIGHT ON AREA

521-523 West Forsyth St,

BY FRANK DENTON

They stand there unsteadily, seeming

to lean on each other and, framed

by vapid parking lots, present in stark

contrast to the massive and grand new

courthouse looming behind them.

They are two gap-toothed old geezer

buildings, decrepit by all appearances

with painted-over and boarded-up exteriors,

minus some tiles that have been

pried off and spirited away.

If you go Downtown looking for the

new Jacksonville, you’ll wince at the

sight of 521-523 West Forsyth St., on a

major thoroughfare into Downtown.

Both date to 1905, four years after the

Great Fire.

At least 521 has an interesting social

history, having in recent decades served

as a succession of food and drink establishments.

Notably, in the 1990s, it was

JoAnn’s Chili Bordello where, according

to JoAnn Perschel’s obituary in The

Times-Union, “Reflecting her cheeky

sense of humor, the decor was bordello

red, Ms. Perschel dressed as a New Orleans

madam, and the waitresses dressed

in corsets and garter belts.”

At other times, the building housed

a succession of bars — The Sinclair,

PHOTO: BOB SELF

Spot a Downtown eyesore and want to know why it’s

there or when it will be improved? Submit suggestions

to: frankmdenton@gmail.com.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 61


Secrets, The Voodoo and finally Duke’s Place Blues Bar & Lounge,

whose management bravely told Yelp in 2014: “Duke’s Place … has

quickly become the destination spot for Jacksonville’s professionals

and young entrepreneurs. With lavish décor and a large

selection of sofa seating, it’s a great venue for social networking

or celebrating a significant life event. Week nights feature live jazz

and neo-soul bands, poets and comedians that include both locals

and tourists alike entertaining the crowd. Duke’s provides a blend

of high energy you’d expect from a nightclub but with the refined

elegance of an upscale lounge. Fun and flirty signature drinks and

bartenders filled with personality keeps patrons at the bar. Some

of our patrons say its takes them back to DC or Philly and while we

take it as a compliment, we’re good being Duuuvallllll!”

A ragged sign on the building says it is for lease.

Apparently the last tenant of its bigger neighbor, 523 West

Forsyth, was Bailey’s Camera Corner, which opened in 1963 and

moved to Hogan Street in 1993. You can still make out the store’s

name, painted on the bricks in front.

For a while, 523 was on the market, and the listing emphasized

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that the main attribute of the gutted building was its proximity to

the new Courthouse, then under construction: “The new owners

Explore Downtown’s musuems and theatres, galleries

of the building will have a constant reminder of the location with a

and shops, murals, restaurants and bars on the

view of the Courthouse façade for decades to come and is an ideal

first Wednesday of the month.

building location for a firm to renovate the existing structure to

serve its true capacity to the new Courthouse.”

According to tax records, 523 is owned by LGS of North Florida,

whose principals are Lisa Salloum and Hadi Karaa, who live in

ILOVEARTWALK.COM

Monclair, a Southside suburb. Calls to Salloum, a Jacksonville

DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE ART WALK periodontist, were not returned. According to a 2018 legal filing in

Texas: “Hadi, a cardiologist and Lisa’s husband, lives primarily in

Beirut but also lives in Florida three months out of the year.”

The sidekick 521 is owned by Rim Properties, whose president

is Rivka Barav and vice president Maoz Barav of Ponte Vedra

Beach.

Rivka Barav said she understands 523 is about to be redeveloped

but her 521 building is in such bad shape because of “what’s

happening Downtown. Why would I want to put money in that

building where it would not thrive? Is there reason for anybody

to invest money in it?” She said she’s owned the building 12 or 13

years and has invested a lot, but there’s “no market for leasing or

sale.”

Barav blames the city for lack of support. She said she didn’t

get a response from the Downtown Investment Authority after she

offered a plan to improve the building. “The city is totally inflexible.

They make everything difficult. There is no incentive and no

assistance. I asked for a loan to renovate the exterior, and there

Jacksonville has a long history as one of

was nothing. The city does not function as a breeding ground for

the leading commercial centers in Florida.

business, for initiative.

“If the city is offended by the way the building looks, fine, let

Holland & Knight is proud of the contributions our

them help me in the form of a loan or whatever. The city needs to

lawyers have made in promoting the business and

be a partner in every available way.”

community interests of Downtown Jacksonville.

Barav intends to hold onto 521 “until investing in it makes

sense or I get a fair price for it.”

So the owners of 521 and, presumably, 523 W. Forsyth are waiting

for the Courthouse and other Downtown revitalization to drive

up the value of their investments for sale, which we hope will be

soon. While the owners live in the suburbs or in Beirut, Downtown

residents, workers and visitors have to look at their disheartening

www.hklaw.com

buildings.

904.353.2000 | Jacksonville, FL

Frank Denton, retired editor of The Florida Times-Union, is editor of J.

He lives in Riverside.

Copyright © 2018 Holland & Knight LLP All Rights Reserved

62 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

PRODUCED BY


Urban Living

in Downtown

Jacksonville

100%

occupied

100%

occupied

coming fall 2019


The iconic neon Maxwell House

coffee sign glows from the side

of the company’s Jacksonville

production facility on Bay Street.

64

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


The

Maxwell

House

Mystery

Situated along Bay

Street near the

Shipyards, Maxwell

House Coffee has

been a mainstay of

Downtown since

opening more than

100 years ago. We set

out with a notebook

full of questions

about the company’s

Downtown role.

We came back with

very few answers.

BY MIKE CLARK

PHOTO BY WILL DICKEY

M

axwell House, with

its iconic presence on

the riverfront, needs

to be more active Downtown.

You shouldn’t have to be an investigative

reporter to find out what

Maxwell House has been doing to be

a good corporate citizen in Jacksonville.

Of course, Jacksonville is proud

to have this manufacturing facility

here. And we’re proud that Jacksonville

won the 1990 competition with

Hoboken, N.J., to “Keep Max in Jax.”

And we’re happy that Maxwell

House employs about 200 people

with good jobs.

But come on, folks, we need you

more involved in a revived Downtown.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 65


In search of this story, I set out to break

the mystery of Maxwell House in Jacksonville.

Why is this placed guarded like a top-secret

security site?

Why wouldn’t the security guard give

me the name of the plant manager? All I

wanted was to schedule an interview.

It took an email to Kraft Heinz corporate

headquarters to produce an answer

from the local plant manager

to my questions.

My concerns as a writer for a publication

that advocates for a better Downtown

are simple: Why isn’t Maxwell House

more active Downtown? I certainly don’t

want to produce defensiveness; instead I

would hope to persuade the leaders of this

important Jacksonville asset to step out of

their shell.

The idea came from a recent meeting of

the Downtown Investment Authority. The

boundaries for the special taxing district

for Downtown Vision stopped short of the

Maxwell House plant.

Hmmm. So Maxwell House isn’t paying

the special millage assessment of businesses

in the Downtown Vision plan. And the

plant isn’t even a member of Downtown

Vision.

Further checks documented that

Maxwell House is not a member of the JAX

Chamber or of First Coast Manufacturers.

BELOW: Bags of green coffee beans sit

on pallets inside Jacksonville’s Maxwell

House coffee plant in April of 1980.

ABOVE: A forklift driver moves pallets filled with cans of

Maxwell House coffee in January of 1983.

ABOVE: A worker looks over the top of the Maxwell House sign that stands

100 feet above the entrance to the plant in January of 1992.

LEFT: Maxwell House workers can and box coffee during a shift in October of 1973.

TIMES-UNION ARCHIVES

66

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


What a shame. Maxwell House has been

an integral part of Jacksonville for over 100

years.

The Jacksonville plant opened in 1910,

employing about 30 people. By 1992, it employed

420 people. But a slowdown in coffee

consumption led the company’s owners

at the time, General Foods, to consolidate

plants, with the competition between Hoboken

and Jacksonville.

A $4.8 million incentive package was

developed to “Keep Max in Jax,” along with

promises to build a bridge over Hogans

Creek and extend Forsyth Street for a new

entrance off Bay Street. There have been

more incentive packages provided by the city

since then.

There was a big rally of about 700 people

at Metropolitan Park featuring Mayor Tommy

Hazouri and U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett.

Oliver Barakat, a member of the Downtown

Investment Authority questioned the

incentives in 2016, saying Maxwell House

should be more involved “in the tapestry

of Downtown,” reported the Jacksonville

Business Journal.

In contrast, Jim Bailey, the current chairman

of the Downtown Investment Authority,

said in an interview that Maxwell House was

“wonderful” during the 2005 Super Bowl.

Many of the Super Bowl’s activities occurred

in streets surrounding the plant.

A Times-Union story described Maxwell

House as a good supporter of many nonprofit

organizations. In response to my query,

Maxwell House did provide a list of local

MAXWELL HOUSE COFFEE: TIMELINE

1897

The first Maxwell

House plant opens

in Nashville.

1892

Cheek convinces Nashville’s posh

Maxwell House to serve his brand.

1873

Joel Cheek, a

grocery salesman,

develops his

own coffee in

Nashville.

JEFF DAVIS (GRAPHIC)

1910

A coffee plant opens in

Jacksonville under the name

of Cheek-Neal Coffee Co.,

employing 30 people and producing

about 40,000 pounds of

coffee a day.

1928

Cheek-Neal is sold to the

Postum Co., later to become

General Foods. That

sale allows the founder’s

son, Leon Cheek, to build

a mansion at 2263 River

Blvd. between Memorial

Park and St. Vincent’s

Medical Center.

1955

A 95-foot tall illuminated sign –

with the cup and the drop – is

erected at the Jacksonville plant.

Today

Maxwell House

employs about

200 people in

Jacksonville.

2016

Maxwell House announces

a $36 million expansion

and receives about a $1

million grant from the city.

2010

Maxwell House reaches its

100th anniversary in Jacksonville.

1990

General Foods announces that due to declining coffee consumption, it would close

one of its East Coast plants, either Jacksonville or Hoboken, N.J. For Jacksonville,

it would mean the loss of 400 jobs and a $556 million economic impact in Northeast

Florida. The successful “Keep Max in Jax” campaign led by Mayor Tommy

Hazouri, lasts for months. Local and state incentives sweeten the deal. Hoboken’s

former coffee plant is turned into condos, called Maxwell Place on the Hudson.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 67


SPRING

MAXWELL HOUSE

IN JACKSONVILLE

Here is the response from Maxwell

House on volunteer activities

in the community:

• Our employees volunteered

at the Salvation Army Homeless

Shelter to serve meals.

• We held a meal packing event

at our facility for our long time

charitable partner Rise Against

Hunger and packed 15,000 meals

for hunger relief efforts around

the country and world. Attendees

were our employees and their families,

some who are Navy veterans;

local officials; a member of the

Jacksonville Jaguars staff.

• We held a Feeding Northeast

Florida Food Bank food drive and

collected over 500 lbs of food.

• Employees donated gifts/toys

for the local Jacksonville Comfort

House wrapping 100+ gifts for

children in need.

• We provided one truck of

supplies from employees for the

local Hurricane Relief Drive by

local radio stations.

• Donated 1½ truckloads of supplies/food

for the Hurricane Drive

at the Sulzbacher shelter located

just behind our facility.

• We supported and participated

in the Jacksonville Veterans Day

Parade honoring veterans with our

“Old Max” truck.

• We are sponsors of the Jacksonville

Jaguars promotion “Coffee

with the Coach.”

• “Old Max” went to the Racetrack

Road Walmart grand opening

where we had employee volunteers

serving coffee to the community.

• We’ve hosted several meetings

at our offices for the local Navy

office, Jacksonville Sheriff’s office,

Fire Department and Jumbo

Shrimp teams.

• Maxwell House has recently

become the coffee sponsor of the

USO supporting our veterans.

• We have also partnered with

the Mike Rowe Foundation to

fund scholarships to individuals

in support of technical education

degrees.

• The plant has received many

recent awards and recognition

for being part of the community

from community-owned electric

utility company JEA, the Northeast

Florida Safety Council, JAX USA

Partnership and for our participation

in Breast Cancer Awareness

from the Department of Children

and Families.

House coffee plant. Schmidt told Robinson “If they keep this place open, I’ll kiss you in the middle of this loading dock.” They did,

near the side entrance on Bay Street after Maxwell House had announced they would be keeping the Jacksonville plant open.

Kelly Brunson (left) encourages Frederick Robinson (center) and Bill Schmidt to make good on a bet in 1990 at the Maxwell

volunteer and charitable activities, which is good. Join and support Downtown Dwellers, a

What is lacking is more involvement Downtown.

For instance, I asked why Maxwell House is

group of Downtown residents.

not more involved in annual cleanups of Hogans

Creek, which empties into the St. Johns River at

the plant. Groundwork Jacksonville hosts regular

cleanup campaigns there.

Plant Manager Dan MAXWELL HOUSE

Frisosky responded,

“If there is a

735 E. Bay St.

COFFEE CO.

recommended

group that organizes

clean-

Veterans

Jail

Memorial

Jacksonville

Arena

up activities of Sheriff’s Office

Hogans Creek,

please let us Berkman

know. We

Plaza

know our employees

would

be happy to

St. Johns River

participate.

N

We do clean up

the banks near our

XX J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

2019 | J MAGAZINE XX

facility at various times.”

social media.

That’s the spirit. So please meet Kay Ehas,

head of Groundwork Jacksonville, who would

be thrilled to have more volunteer activity from

Maxwell House.

Mike Clark has been a reporter and editor for

And in the newfound spirit of openness,

The Florida Times-Union and its predecessors since

allow me to suggest a few activities from Maxwell 1973 and editorial page editor since 2005.

House.

He lives in Nocatee.

68 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

ADAMS ST.

MARSH ST.

BAY ST.

MONROE ST.

Hogans Creek

ADAMS ST.

HART BRIDGE EXPY

Join and support Downtown Vision.

As Bay Street turns into an innovation corridor,

develop a chic retail outlet with Maxwell

House wares. While the plant manager says “this

is not a core competency of the company,”

they could always partner with

a vendor.

DUVAL ST.

A.P. RANDOLPH ST.

Do a better job

of sharing Maxwell

House’s

community

activities.

Some of this is

basic public

relations. As

Bailey said,

“They have

always been

a silent, quiet

company.” But

this is a new era of

Downtown needs the active participation of a

major Downtown business.

WILL DICKEY; JEFF DAVIS (MAP)


The

Great

Hotel

Boom

With as

many as nine

new Downtown

hotels on the drawing

board, many are asking if

the core can support that

many new places?’

BY FRANK DENTON

J MAGAZINE

70

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 71


COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT

ll those grand plans for Downtown developments — from the stadium to

Brooklyn, from the core to the Southbank — seem to have common, almost

dutiful components: “mixed use,” “residential,” “retail” and hotels.

Lots of hotels.

Add them up, and over the next few years, Downtown could have

nine — that’s NINE — new hotels. Since we really only have six now

(two in the core, four on the Southbank) can this town possibly

support that many new hostelries?

Sure, given all the other plans for attracting visitors, said Aundra

Wallace when he was CEO of the Downtown Investment

Authority and seven of the hotels were proposed.

“Clearly no,” said Hank Staley, a managing director of

CBRE, the global Fortune 500 real-estate firm, and a specialist

in hotel feasibility, based in Jacksonville. “I’m frankly

Ashocked there are as many hotels proposed as there are.”

SUBMITTED

72

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


SUBMITTED

Well, maybe not today, said Michael Corrigan,

president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville. “We’re

excited about the possibility of all the new hotels

coming in.”

“I don’t think Marriott would have given us

approval if they didn’t think the answer to that is

yes,” said Michael Munz of The District. “I think the

answer is yes.”

“The business-oriented nature of this market is

untapped,” with companies bringing in new employees

all the time, said Bryan Greiner, president of

Augustine Development Group, which is doing the

Ambassador Hotel project. “There is going to be a lot

of activity Downtown.”

“That’s a great question,” said Steve Atkins, developer

of the Laura Street Trio which includes a Courtyard

by Marriott. “The Northbank needs additional

hotel rooms. We feel comfortable with it.”

Of course, each of them was looking at the

scenario from his own viewpoint, background, qualifiers

and professional optimism.

The reality seems to be that, if those nine hotels

opened their doors now, they would flood the market,

and the weakest wouldn’t last long, even among

the existing hotels.

But of course, few of them will be here anytime

soon, and as Downtown achieves its boldest development

goals of attractions and residents over the

next few years, more hotels will pop up to serve the

new needs.

And hotels have a way of finding their own markets

and sorting themselves out.

First, the cold hard facts

Let’s start with Staley, a 37-year veteran of hotel

feasibility analyses, one of only a half dozen such

consultants in Florida. “Most of what I do is feasibility

studies for new hotels. I’ve worked in 46 states

on 2,000 properties, everything from Motel Six to

Ritz-Carlton and everything in between.”

He points to CBRE’s proprietary financial report

on the Jacksonville hotel submarket that covers

Downtown and Jacksonville International Airport,

which together include 54 hotels and 7,164 rooms.

The report for the third quarter of 2018 showed

that occupancy rose 8.6 percent to 76.6 percent,

the average daily rate rose 4.2 percent and the key

criterion of revenue per available room rose 13.2

percent to $72.31, but those impressive numbers

masked the most important dynamic of the market:

Jacksonville hotels are cheap.

The average daily rate for the Downtown and airport

hotels was $94.38 — $122.24 for upper-priced

hotels and $71.40 for lower-priced hotels.

(For comparison, the national occupancy rate

for the year ending Sept. 30 was 66.2 percent, the

revenue per available room was $85.50 and the

average daily rate was $129.20.)

“It’s not an occupancy problem, it’s a rate problem,”

Staley said. “Jacksonville always has been a relatively

healthy market on occupancy, but it’s always

had a low rate structure,” aside from the beaches.

There are several reasons, he said. One is that

Downtown “hasn’t been very vibrant from an economic

perspective.”

Another is the Hyatt Regency (originally the

Adam’s Mark), which with 951 rooms is “a massive

hotel for a city the size of Jacksonville. It is the de

facto convention center for Jacksonville, with more

meeting space than at the (Prime Osborn) convention

center. The Jacksonville market simply could not

support that many new hotel rooms. It pushes rates

down. … It probably never should have been built.”

The final factor was the economic collapse of

2008-9 and the related drop in tourism statewide.

Miami recovered the fastest, Staley said, and Jacksonville

the slowest. “When you look at the recent

numbers, it looks like the growth in demand is really

strong. But look at where we’re coming from.”

Staley said he doesn’t see how the low hotel

rates, even with high occupancy, can cover escalating

construction costs, especially Downtown. “I’ve

never seen construction costs increase as fast as

they have in the past five years, and I’ve been doing

this 40 years.”

Staley said he finds the proposed Residence Inn

in Brooklyn “somewhat intriguing. That whole area

has really exploded, Riverside and Avondale. It’s the

place to be.”

Other than that, he said, “If I had to build a hotel

Downtown right now and those were the choices,

the stadium area holds the greater upside, if you

believe all that stuff is going to happen,” that is, Shad

Khan’s proposed Lot J and Shipyards developments,

both of which promise hotels.

“The Shipyards has the potential to be a real

game-changer. If that happens, then we might be

looking at more demand. I can see the focal point

of the entire Downtown area, for tourism anyway,

shifting to the Shipyards and Lot J. Similarly, what

they’re doing with the District is a game-changer for

the Southbank.”

The view from

Visit Jacksonville

Corrigan, whose agency attracts and accom-

LA QUINTA

“The

Shipyards

has the

potential

to be a

real gamechanger.

If that

happens,

then we

might be

looking

at more

demand.”

HANK STALEY

HOTEL FEASIBILITY

SPECIALIST


“We lose

a lot of

business to

neighboring

counties

that have

full-service

luxury

hotels –

the Ponte

Vedra Inn,

the Marriott

Sawgrass,

the Ritz-

Carlton

on Amelia

Island.”

Michael

Corrigan

CEO of Visit

Jacksonville

FULLER WARREN

BRIDGE

ACOSTA BRIDGE

MAIN ST.

BRIDGE

ST. JOHNS RIVER

NEW DOWNTOWN HOTELS IN THE WORKS

1

2

3

4

5

N

Courtyard by Marriott

In the renovated Laura Street Trio. 145 rooms.

Marriott AC

The District, Peter Rummell’s innovative “healthy”

community is to include a 200-room hotel.

Shipyards

Five-star hotel to be specified.

8

Lot J

Shad Khan’s planned entertainment complex adjacent

to TIAA Bank Field and Daily’s Place is to include an

as-yet-unspecified hotel.

Hotel Indigo

The old seven-story Life of the South building at 100 W.

Bay St. (at Laura Street) will be converted into an 89-

room boutique hotel, with a rooftop restaurant and bar.

modates tourists and conventioneers, agreed we

probably don’t need all those nine hotels now.

But historically, he said, about 50 percent of

new hotels that are announced actually get built,

because they’re usually announced before they nail

down financing and undergo feasibility analyses like

those Staley does. Corrigan said of the current list of

announced hotels, “I can’t believe they’re doing a

full analysis of long-term financial stability.”

One factor in favor of more hotels, he said, is that

some travelers prefer to stay in certain brands. The

list of nine includes three Marriott sub-brands, a

Hyatt brand and a La Quinta.

Atkins of the Trio project points out the Northbank

doesn’t now have a Marriott, “the largest hospitality

brand in the world,” and after studying the

project “very carefully,” his development group and

Marriott signed an agreement. “We’re committed.”

The hotel planned for the Shipyards project

hasn’t been named, but Shad Khan has made clear

that he wants a five-star hotel there. He owns the

Four Seasons in Toronto which has that distinction.

Can Downtown Jacksonville support a five-star

hotel? “I personally think we could,” Corrigan said.

6

5

9

1

6

7

8

9

2

7

Hyatt Place

A nine-story hotel with 128 rooms and a rooftop bar

is seeking permitting for its site at Hogan and Water

streets.

Berkman Plaza II hotel

500 E. Bay. New owners plan a $150 million, 312-room

hotel alongside a 500-car parking garage and a “family

entertainment center” with a Ferris wheel.

Residence Inn by Marriott

A six-story, 135-room hotel at the intersection of

Forest and Magnolia in Brooklyn.

La Quinta

Work is underway on the $15 million renovation of the

historic Ambassador Hotel, 420 N. Julia St., into a 120-

room La Quinta Inn & Suites, Inn or Hotel.

“We lose a lot of business to neighboring counties

that have full-service luxury hotels — the Ponte Vedra

Inn, the Marriott Sawgrass, the Ritz-Carlton on

Amelia Island. The closest I can come is One Ocean.

It’s seen as our full-service resort hotel.”

Corrigan noted that existing hotels sometimes

have to work together. “There are many times we

look to put a conference at one of the conference

hotels, and they don’t have enough rooms. So they

partner with another conference hotel.”

Munz, a partner in the Dalton Agency, said that

when his firm hosts out-of-town clients, sometimes

they have to go as far as Southpoint to find accommodations.

And from the Downtown

Investment Authority

Brian Hughes, interim CEO of the Downtown

Investment Authority (and chief of staff for Mayor

Lenny Curry), pointed out that, on one weekend last

spring during Welcome to Rockville, there also were

the Spartan Race and well attended events at Veterans

Memorial Arena and the Baseball Grounds.

“All the same night. We had 98.9 percent occupancy

3

4

JEFF DAVIS

74

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


SUBMITTED

hotel-wise. Everything Downtown was booked and,

at the airport, occupied. That’s a need.

“Some of our Downtown venues are impacted

by a lack of urban-core hotel space. People ask: How

many people can stay how close to the event? We’re

going to have to have hotel inventory.”

That’s especially true, he said, as the number of

people living Downtown continues to grow and as

attractions like Lot J and the Berkman family-entertainment

center become real. “The question mark

is do we have a chicken-and-egg component …

Ultimately, planning is about making a decision.”

How the list will sort out

Inevitably, that list of proposed new hotels will

sort out, one way or another. Here’s how:

First, as Corrigan pointed out, most of those proposals

probably have not yet undergone feasibility

studies, and when they do, the developers might see

a different tack.

Then, consider the time factor. While a few of the

hotels are well into the permitting process and even

about to begin construction, some are in the indefinite

future — the “five-star” hotel at the Shipyards,

for example, and the hotel at the entertainment

center promised for the Berkman II site. By the time

those hotels are built, Downtown revitalization

should have generated substantially more demand.

Munz cautioned that, while the number of hotels

seems large, a more relevant number might be the

number of rooms. The boutique Hotel Indigo, for

example, plans only 89 rooms, while the Berkman

developers are talking about 312 rooms. Atkins noted

that the Trio Marriott will be a 145-room “limited

service” hotel, which operates differently from, say,

the full-service Hyatt.

As Corrigan pointed out, the list of proposed

hotels brings more brands and levels of service and

luxury that will attract their own choosy patrons.

For people who prefer boutique hotels, the Hotel

Indigo is going to be very appealing. A five-star hotel

associated with TIAA Bank Field, Daily’s Place and

the Lot J and Shipyards developments can create its

own rich market.

Shad Khan doesn’t need to rely so heavily on feasibility

studies. As Staley said, “He can do whatever

he wants to.”

Who’s first. The laggards in getting their doors

open may face a tougher market. “We’re going to be

one of the first to market,” Greiner said, “so we’re not

too worried about it.”

Or rather than figuring the list of proposed

hotels will sort out, you can choose to be a optimist,

cockeyed or visionary. If you read Mike Clark’s story

about Oklahoma City’s revitalization over 14 years

(see page 24), the then-mayor said 20 new hotels

were built downtown and in the Bricktown entertainment

district. Now those contiguous areas list 30

hotels, compared to our six.

Frank Denton, retired editor of The Florida Times-Union, is

editor of J. He lives in Riverside.

HOTEL INDIGO

HYATT PLACE

Residence Inn by Marriott

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 75


With a successful Murray

Hill location, Will Morgan

opened Vagabond Coffee in

Downtown six months ago.

76

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

While successful small businesses

+ + + + + +

&

+ + + + + + + + + +

often define a downtown’s character,

+ + the challenges + + + in + Jacksonville’s

+ + + + + + + + + +

Downtown can be daunting

+

Rise

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Grind

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

BY CAROLE HAWKINS // PHOTOS BY BOB SELF

+

Six months into his tenure Downtown at Vagabond Coffee, owner

+ + + + + + + + + +

Will Morgan is upbeat about prospects. But the specialty coffee

+ + + + +

shop’s hours show how tough the urban core market can be.

+ + Vagabond + is open + during + business + hours — + 8 a.m. to 5 + p.m. weekdays. + Compare + that + + + + + +

to the popular Murray Hill location, where weekdays stretch from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and

where Saturday and Sunday hours run nearly as long.

+ “In + my opinion, + we should + be + able to open + more, + but the business + just + isn’t there,” + + + + + + +

Morgan said of his store just a half-block off Hemming Park. “I actually think Downtown

Jacksonville is one the hardest areas in the city to run a successful business, especially a

+ + small one.” + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Morgan’s landlord, George Saoud, sees a similar pattern with his other tenants. Happy

Grilled Cheese closes at 3 p.m. So does the Desert Rider sandwich shop.

+ “What + does + that tell + you? Nobody + stays + Downtown + after hours,” + he said. + + + + + + + +

One block over on Laura Street is Wolf & Cub, a concept store featuring an eclectic mix

of vintage and new curated clothing, as well as unique products like hand-rolled incense

+ + from Peru. + Owner + Emily Moody + is no + retail ingénue. + She + ran a similar + store + in Riverside + + + + + +

for many years. She keeps customers coming into her Downtown shop by surprising them

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 77

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


with changes in inventory and engaging them with

Instagram posts. Wolf & Cub is open noon to 5 p.m.

weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Across the street, the Barnett Building and Laura

Street Trio redevelopments are underway. The city

granted the mixed-use projects a combined $9.8

million in incentives.

They’re beautiful buildings, and Moody is happy

they’re renovating. But that’s paired with another

thought.

“Twenty-five thousand dollars would be huge for

a small business who’s trying to grow their inventory.

And it’s just a drop in the bucket for these bigger

projects,” she said.

Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority

has granted Downtown retailers $613,000 in

renovation grants over the last five years. But that

seems a small number compared to $9.8 million.

When it comes to retail, could Jacksonville do more

to help the little guy?

The simple answer is yes. There are other

incentives, assistance programs and retail-friendly

policies that the city could offer. But there’s little

consensus on what those ought to be.

The case for incentives

Cluster a few mom-and-pop retailers together,

and you get an urban shopping experience worth

traveling for — one that’s messy and creative, fast

and surprising. Around Downtown’s Hemming

Park there’s a specialty grilled cheese eatery, a

candy store with Willie Wonka flavors and a used

bookstore paired with a healthy foods coffee shop.

Mom-and-pop stores define an urban

neighborhood’s character, but they also do more.

They are precursors to national brands. Small

retailers prove the market is there, triggering the

bigger players to buy in — Riverside needed a Five

Points before it could land a Publix.

Retail is also vital to keep urban neighborhoods

attractive to residents. And so, cities activate

shopping districts with retail support programs.

Jacksonville offers retail support too.

Renovations for retailers

Five years ago, DIA created a Retail Enhancement

Grant, which pays up to half the cost of a retail

renovation in Downtown Jacksonville. That’s enabled

a dozen or so retailers to build out or expand, and it’s

behind some trendy, transitional remodels at places

like Urban Grind and Super Food and Brew.

The city replenished the fund during the last

budget cycle, adding another $922,000.

“There’s demonstrated value to it,” interim DIA

CEO Brian Hughes said. “It will continue to be

available as it continues to demonstrate value.”

Saoud recently received a partial matching grant

of $55,000 from DIA to help him restore the secondfloor

windows and antique elevator at his Hogan

Street building. A grant isn’t the difference between

succeeding and failing as a business, he said. But it

does encourage investment.

“People are

still working

hard to

create a

destination

here. So

the least

landlords

can do is

offer some

affordable

rents,

especially

when

buildings

are sitting

empty.”

EMILY MOODY

WOLF & CUB

“I don’t think I would have done as much if I

didn’t have it,” Saoud said. “Besides putting windows

back in, I’m now toying with the idea of painting the

whole building and putting in new awnings.”

Despite its successes, a Retail Enhancement

Grant isn’t for everybody, though.

Morgan did an attractive low-cost DIY build-out

for Vagabond. That type of work doesn’t qualify for

a grant. Moody also did a DIY build-out when she

opened Wolf & Cub.

Morgan said the grant paperwork looked

complicated too.

“It’s a lot of questions. It’s kind of a lot for a small

business owner to do,” he said. “There are people

who love coffee, love people and know a lot about

running a business, but who don’t know a lot about

filling out forms for grants. And there are other

people who have bigger pockets who can have

someone else help them fill out grants.”

Jake Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision, praised

the city’s renovation program, but admitted no

support incentive can ever be one-size-fits-all. The

smallest retailers are the ones who have the toughest

time using it, he said.

“In terms of the incentives, I think what’s next for

DIA is an evolution,” Gordon said. “There’s a whole

list of businesses and owners who were helped by

the Retail Enhancement Grant. But as the new CEO

comes on, there probably is an opportunity for the

investment authority to add even more resources.”

Lease assistance

Gordon’s top pick is lease assistance.

“For me it’s the number one thing that we need,”

Gordon said. “Rent is the number one cost to our

Downtown retailers, by far.”

The city of Dallas in the late 2000s offered lease

assistance as part of a suite of retail supports for its

Main Street district. Over three years, the program

brought eight new stores to open within a six-block

area, a progress report showed.

New Jersey currently offers lease assistance for

low-income retail districts across several cities. That

program pays 15 percent of the rent for qualifying

retailers during their first two years in business.

It’s a way to fill in the gap between what building

owners need to charge and what a new business

ramping up can afford, Gordon said.

Rent is definitely an issue among the Downtown

owner-operators. Moody said hers is high, and she’s

hoping to renegotiate better terms.

“I don’t think the things that people say that

Downtown has — that it’s lived up to that,” she said.

“People are still working hard to create a destination

here. So the least landlords can do is offer some

affordable rents, especially when buildings are

sitting empty.”

Morgan said Downtown rents vary widely, and

many owners will leave their buildings vacant rather

than bring their rates down.

“I have gotten quotes from people Downtown

that I have literally just laughed at,” he said.

78

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


After running a successful boutique

in Riverside, Emily Moody opened

the eclectic Wolf & Cub in

Jacksonville’s Downtown.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 79


PRIDE

IN SERVICE

CSX is proud to honor the men and

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In support of these heroes, CSX

has launched the Pride in Service

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csx.com/prideinservice


Morgan favors a lease assistance program and

said he would use if it were offered.

“Fifteen percent is like two free months of rent

a year for me,” he said. “That’s just huge for a small

business.”

But lease assistance is a tougher sell politically

than a renovation grant. That’s because lease

programs are harder to run than renovation

programs, Gordon said.

“It’s easier to evaluate a capital project than the

viability of a business,” he said. “What you don’t want

to do is have the business not succeed and go away

right away.”

Hughes at DIA was underwhelmed by the idea.

“There’s a little bit of political and economic

philosophy to it,” he said. “The taxpayers would really

be more dependent on the business acumen of the

retailer, as opposed to a demonstration of capital

improvement.”

Business mentoring

Also, any lease assistance from the city will

expire. So owner-operators have to be able to build a

business that will succeed at the full-rent rate.

David Barilla, Assistant Director of Orlando’s

Downtown Development Board, said his city

doesn’t use lease assistance in isolation. A decade

ago Orlando established a Minority/Women

Entrepreneur Business Assistance Program,

which pairs up to $40,000 in grants with business

mentoring when an entrepreneur opens a store

within the city’s disinvested Parramore district.

To qualify, applicants work with a consultant,

hired by the city to design a business plan. The

consultant helps analyze the business, guides the

setup, and gives marketing tips before making a

recommendation to a board on whether to fund

it.

If approved, the grant can cover any business

expense, from inventory to rent to renovations.

“The consultant we work with is very helpful.

And the applicants are very receptive and openminded

to the recommendations,” Barilla said.

“It’s really about getting them on the pathway to

become successful long-term, while helping them

get off the ground.”

Over the course of the program’s 10-year

history, more than half of the businesses have

succeeded. It’s a good rate, said Barilla, for an

at-risk area where most business startups are nonbankable

deals.

Lowering barriers

Another way to support mom-and-pop retailers

is to lower barriers that are especially difficult for a

small business to hurdle.

Barilla in Orlando convinced the developer of a

new 400-unit apartment complex to offer one-year,

rather than three-year or five-year leases for momand-pop

retailers renting space on the building’s

ground floor.

“They may not have fully tested their concept yet.

“There are

people who

love coffee,

love people

and know

a lot about

running a

business,

but who

don’t know

a lot about

filling out

forms for

grants.”

WILL MORGAN

VAGABOND

COFFEE

It could be a baker that makes great cupcakes or

somebody who wants to open a yoga studio,” Barilla

said. “They’re just trying to get the foot in the game,

and a longer commitment can be really challenging

for them.”

In other cases, regulatory policies written as onesize-fits-all

can be tough for small business owners

to comply with.

In Jacksonville, businesses are required to

provide a Life Safety plan — a plan that shows

emergency exit routes — before they can open. The

cost of compliance is high: The required architect’s

drawings run $3,000 to $5,000 and can take months

to complete.

“To a mom-and-pop renting a place for $1,000 or

$1,500 a month, that’s a lot,” said Stanton Hudmon,

a commercial real estate agent at Pine Street/RPS.

“Most want to move into an existing spot, put a

couple of coats of paint on it and get some minor

permits like bathrooms. They don’t require an

overhaul and a 10-step plan.”

Adding rooftops

Views are mixed on what’s next for retail

assistance in Downtown Jacksonville. But everyone

agrees there’s one thing that would boost retail

reliably: more residents in the urban core.

A population base is why retail has rebounded

in near-Downtown neighborhoods, like Riverside,

San Marco and Brooklyn, but not yet in the central

business district.

“You can go within a mile or two of those retail

districts and you’ve got people working as well as

rooftops,” Hudmon said. “The retail there has a night

business, where there’s really not night business

Downtown.”

The good news is residents are coming.

According to Downtown Vision, apartment projects

on the books are set to deliver more than 5,500 new

residents to the urban core. But there’s a catch-22 in

that scheme. When the Downtown dwellers arrive,

how much will they enjoy their new neighborhood?

Retail needs residents to survive, but residents need

retail to provide a quality of life that makes them

want to stay.

DIA’s Retail Enhancement Grant has been the

right program for the last five years, breathing life

into Downtown’s destination retail until apartment

developers stepped in. But now, with new housing

on the horizon, it’s time to ramp-up Downtown

retail incentives.

The renovation grants have made a strong

beginning. But as long as Downtown remains the

“hardest place in Jacksonville to run a successful

business,” the city should do more to help the owneroperators

who define much of the urban-core retail.

Jacksonville needs to be ready for what’s coming

next.

Carole Hawkins was a reporter for the

Times-Union’s Georgia bureau in 2007-10. She

is a freelance writer who lives in Murray Hill.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 81


Paul Shockey (left) and Tony Allegretti bought and renovated a vacant, boarded-up building at 21 E. Adams St. in the early 2000s and opened Burrito Gallery in 2005.

THE URBAN

PIONEERS

With only a vision of a revitalized Downtown, early advocates

shed light on why they went ‘all-in’ before few others would

BY ROGER BROWN

Long before Downtown Jacksonville became the attractive,

enticing place for developers and individuals to

invest and build in that it’s now become, there were pioneers

who decades ago saw Downtown’s potential amid

all of the boarded-up buildings, buzz-deprived streets

and chronic underachievement.

These pioneers saw a vision for a better Downtown and backed

it up by taking real leaps of faith to invest and transform dormant

properties in the city center into Downtown fixtures that helped set the

foundation for the great things that are happening today.

J magazine sought out three of these pioneers and asked what

drove them to believe in Downtown when so many wouldn’t.

Law partners and brothers Eddie and Chuck Farah, for example,

turned a dead Downtown property into the glittering Farah & Farah

law office.

John Keane, the former longtime executive director of the Jackson-

WILL DICKEY

82

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


ville Police and Fire Pension Fund, was the driving

force behind the fund turning a vacant former

department store into its eye-catching headquarters

on West Adams Street, right across the street from

Farah & Farah.

Tony Allegretti and Paul Shockey, meanwhile,

were driven by a shared belief that Downtown

was a sleeping giant that the “little guys” — small

businesses and establishments — could help stir to

life. So the two ignored the skeptics and doubters,

purchased an old decrepit Downtown building and

made it the Burrito Gallery restaurant, a popular and

iconic spot with another beloved eatery — Indochine

— above it.

All three of the pioneers offer some interesting

insights on why they took a chance on Downtown.

Tony Allegretti

and Paul Shockey

While longtime business partners Tony Allegretti

and Paul Shockey are not brothers, there is a good

reason why many in town affectionately joke that

the duo have become Downtown Jacksonville’s

version of the “Property Brothers.”

Like “Property Brother” Jonathan Scott, Shockey,

a longtime area licensed contractor and real estate

developer, has had the instinctive ability to look at

a humble building and use his own two hands and

physical labor to help hammer, saw, drill it into a

stunning end product.

And like “Property Brother” Drew Scott, the personable

and engaging Allegretti has had an uncanny

knack for using his ability to present to others an

articulate, compelling vision for a humble building’s

potential — and for employing his keen people skills

to hack through the bureaucratic red tape, skepticism

and other barriers to help make the project an

impressive reality.

“We have heard that over the years,” Shockey

says with a laugh regarding the “Property Brothers”

comparison.

“But we definitely don’t have (the Scott brothers’)

great hair.”

What Shockey and Allegretti definitely do have,

however, is the satisfying legacy of buying a ramshackle

empty Downtown building at 21 E. Adams

St. in the early 2000s — and turning it into a thriving

city center site that’s become the iconic home of the

popular Burrito Gallery restaurant, which opened in

January 2005, shortly before Jacksonville hosted the

Super Bowl.

In the years since, another popular restaurant,

the Asian fusion eatery Indochine, also has moved

into the 6,000-square-foot building as an upper-level

tenant atop Burrito Gallery.

The duo took a vision as “little guys” who saw a

slumbering yet promising giant in Downtown Jacksonville

and in the process became pioneers who

helped set the groundwork for the great progress

being made now, through projects big and small, to

turn Downtown from a dozing giant into a roaring

Goliath of activity.

“Tony and

I had been

looking at

that building

on East

Adams Street

for a bit; we

both saw life

and renewal

and potential

in it as a

structure and

Downtown

overall. So

we decided

to go for it.

The building

had been

boarded up

and vacant

for some

time, though.

It was a

mess.”

PAUL SHOCKEY

BURRITO GALLERY

“We recognized the potential was there for

Downtown, but that no one seemed to be anxious

or ready to take the plunge and make that commitment

to help fulfill it,” Allegretti said. “I guess we

felt someone needed to take that plunge, make that

commitment. Why couldn’t it be us?”

And Downtown Jacksonville is immeasurably

richer because Allegretti and Shockey did just that.

In this engaging conversation with J magazine,

the two share their observations on their journey as

Downtown pioneers.

Q: Was there an “Aha” moment when you knew

that making such a huge investment in Downtown

— when few others were — was the thing to do?

Shockey: Well, what I remember as much as

the “Aha” moment were the “what?” moments —

the moments when we would tell people we were

thinking of buying this empty, messed-up building

Downtown that had been listed for sale, and they’d

say, “You want to do what?!” (Laughs)

I definitely remember a lot of that.

But Tony and I had been looking at that building

on East Adams Street for a bit; we both saw life and

renewal and potential in it as a structure and Downtown

overall. So we decided to go for it. The building

had been boarded up and vacant for some time,

though. It was a mess.

Allegretti: It was gross! It had 1970s faux-stone

cladding all across the place. It was really weird. Its

last commercial use was as a jewelry store, but in

between that and when we took it over, at one point

it had a stint as a rave club. So it was really kind of

creepy being in there excavating that. And it wasn’t

like Downtown was booming. But we felt like we

could find a good use for that building, and that we

could make it work Downtown.

So it’s really gratifying to know how we started

and then to realize what we were eventually able to

do over the years — first with Burrito Gallery and

then adding a great tenant like Indochine.

I know I feel a sense of accomplishment every

time I go Downtown, go into Burrito Gallery and

Indochine and see the smiling faces, the familiar

faces. And I realize the jobs that Paul and I have been

able to create. And I watch all the other great things

that have been coming into Downtown, and will

keep on arriving.

Shockey: I’m really proud of the strides that

Downtown is making now, and that we’ve had some

role in that. We always believe that Downtown could

be a vibrant, cool place, and we’re definitely getting

there.

Q: You both took a great leap of faith and

carried out a vision that few others were seeing

when you came Downtown when not many were

rushing to do so. What do you see as the big challenge

now to getting Downtown to reach its full

promise?

Allegretti: The big thing I’ve learned that if you

have a passion for Downtown and for revitalizing it,

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 83


Attorneys Chuck (left) and Eddie you have to accept early on that there is always going

Farah stand in front of their

to be someone who will try to change your mind. If

32,000-square-foot law office at you say, “Oh man, I’m very positive on Downtown,”

10 W. Adams St. The Farah

they will throw out negative after negative at you in

brothers purchased the deserted

response. And no matter what you say, that person

building in 1997 and now have

more than 200 employees.

won’t be convinced.

But here’s the secret: For that one person, there

are five others out there who do have open minds

about Downtown and what it can be. They do want

to work with you on making something positive happen

Downtown. They are super interested in being

part of that process. So the thing is to not leave those

five people behind — don’t overlook opportunities

to make connections with them to make a difference

Downtown because you’re spending so much energy

trying to sway the one naysayer who will never be

convinced about Downtown.

You have to focus on turning those five people

into 10, 15, 20.

That’s the kind of positive energy I’m seeing now

when it comes to Downtown. But we have to keep

nurturing it.

Shockey: Tony and I were called crazy when we

got into this. But we were willing to take a risk, and

the results have really validated what we believed

in about Downtown. (Let’s) continue to encourage

those who have a passion for doing something great

Downtown — a belief in it — that they can and

84 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

should pursue it. The challenge is to keep feeding

that passion, and not letting it fade. It’s going to be

that drive that’s going to make Downtown great in

the years to come. I have no doubt about that.

Eddie and Chuck Farah

Strolling into Farah & Farah’s law office building

on 10 W. Adams St. — smack on the corner of West

Adams and Main streets — it doesn’t take long to understand

just how excited law partners and brothers

Eddie and Chuck Farah are about Downtown and its

future.

“Don’t believe any of the naysayers about Downtown,

man, because this place is on the rise,” says

Eddie Farah almost instantly upon greeting a visitor

in Farah & Farah’s spacious, colorful lobby.

Standing next to Eddie, Chuck Farah is quick to

agree.

“The energy in Downtown is already through the

roof, and it’s only going up,” Chuck Farah says. “So

I’m so glad we’re down here. I’m really proud that

we came into Downtown as early as we did. It has a

soul to it.”

Adds an energetic Eddie: “Yes, exactly. That’s a

good way to put it. Downtown has got some soul to

it — a lot of soul, really.”

And a big reason why Downtown’s soul vibe exists

today is because of the Farah brothers’ decision

BOB SELF


in 1997 to purchase a deserted two-floor building

on 10 W. Adams St. that once housed an insurance

company and turn it into a massive law office with

more than 200 employees.

The transformation has combined a willingness

to invest substantially in Downtown along with a

desire to create something distinctive in Downtown

— and the end product turned out as impressive as

the original ambition.

The Farah & Farah Downtown law office is an

impressive, light-colored, 32,000-square-foot brick

site that features:

n Three expansive stories.

n Lush lighting.

n Strikingly high ceilings.

n An impressive array of artistic features ranging

from classic to funky eclectic.

n A serene, outdoor courtyard/mini-park in

the center of the building that is used for group

gatherings, law firm events and other occasions —

and wouldn’t be out of place if it was plopped in the

center of a trendy urban neighborhood.

“We believe in Downtown,” Eddie Farah says.

Man, do they.

And it’s a sentiment the Farah brothers proudly

make no effort to conceal during this fun conversation

with them.

Q: Was there an “Aha” moment when you knew

that making such a huge investment in Downtown

— when few others were — was the thing to do?

Eddie: We were on the Southbank in the late

1990s in the Stein Mart building when this building

came up for sale. We always wanted to be right in

the center of Downtown. The courthouse was in

the center of Downtown; we had lawyers in the

courthouse every day. So many of the things we had

to do as a law firm were right in the center of the city.

It just made sense. We wanted to be in the heart of

the action.

Chuck: There was an investment company that

wanted to sell the building. It was all boarded up.

And the whole street itself was pretty dead, really.

But when we walked in the building to look it over,

we fell in love with it right away. I remember saying,

“Man, this place is beautiful.”

Eddie: Yeah we made up our minds right then

we were going to do it. Plus, we’d always been

Downtown guys, anyway. We’d always felt it was the

soul of the city. We just felt it was the right move to

make. And even though there wasn’t much going

on Downtown overall, we felt like if we came there,

it would breed other activity. And slowly, gradually,

it’s done that. The momentum is really rolling now.

We’re proud of that. We’re proud that we have more

than 200 employees working, eating, socializing

Downtown every day. And we have some employees

who are living Downtown, too. That means a lot

to us. We feel like we’re making a contribution to a

better Downtown.

Q: You both took a great leap of faith and

“The

energy in

Downtown

is already

through the

roof, and

it’s only

going up, so

I’m so glad

we’re down

here. I’m

really proud

that we

came into

Downtown

as early as

we did. It

has a soul

to it.”

EDDIE FARAH

FARAH & FARAH

carried out a vision that few others were seeing

when you came Downtown when not many were

rushing to do so. What do you see as the big challenge

now to getting Downtown to reach its full

promise?

Eddie: To me, the key is that in addition to building

all of the great projects that are now going on

down here, we also have to keep working hard to tear

down all the negativity that some people still have

about Downtown and its potential. It just takes away

energy from us being able to accomplish all we can

here. Now thankfully a lot of that negativity is starting

to go away. Part of that is because there are more

people coming Downtown and seeing for themselves

that all of the perceptions — “Oh, there are a

lot of homeless people,” “Oh, is it safe?” — aren’t the

actual reality. But we need more and more people to

start really believing in Downtown. We need to keep

building that up along with all of the great projects,

both big and small.

Chuck: Downtown is starting to get recognized

by major people and companies all across this country.

They believe in what they’re starting to see here.

Now more of us here have to start believing, too. I’m

telling you, Downtown is on the move. This is real.

So that’s what I’d say to people who still don’t believe

in Downtown. Give it a chance. You will be more

than pleasantly surprised. Jump on this train now,

because it’s really starting to roll.

John Keane, Police

and Fire Pension Fund

John Keane devoted 25 years to leading Jacksonville’s

Police and Fire Pension Fund as its executive

director before retiring in 2015.

During that time Keane was the driving force

behind the pension fund’s bold decision in late

1999 to buy a long-vacant building that was the

home of a long-gone department store on West

Adams Street, a slumbering Downtown site with

little real buzz or activity, and transform it into the

organization’s headquarters.

And Keane’s vision back then — supported by

the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund’s

board of trustees — continues to reward Downtown

Jacksonville some 20 years later.

Today, the pension fund building on 1 W. Adams

St., with its eye-catching design and distinctive

light-gray look, is a symbol that faith in Downtown’s

promise can pay off.

In addition to housing the pension fund’s

offices on the first floor — which feature an airy

atrium that, as Keane proudly notes, allows “a lot

of that good, fresh Florida sunshine to come on

through” — the three-floor building has had an

impressive roster of tenants over the years. The

Pace Center for Girls Jacksonville, a prominent

local nonprofit, is one of the facility’s current

co-inhabitants.

“I think it’s worked out pretty well,” Keane said

with a smile.

It has, indeed, and J magazine explored the Po-

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 85


As executive director of

Jacksonville’s Police and Fire

Pension Fund, John Keane led

efforts for the group to purchase

and renovate a vacant building at

1 W. Adams St. In 1999.

lice and Fire Pension Fund’s Downtown journey

in a fascinating Q-and-A session with Keane.

Q: Was there an “Aha” moment when you

knew that making such a huge investment in

Downtown — when few others were — was the

thing to do?

Keane: Well, for about four years, we had had

our headquarters inside an old bank on (Interstate)

95 and Emerson Street on the Southside.

One day, like the spring of 1999, I was heading

down to City Hall for a meeting with (then-Mayor

John Delaney). I went across the Hart Bridge,

coming down Adams Street, stopped at the traffic

light and I saw this banner on this empty building

at 1 W. Adams St. that said, “Building for sale —

and parking garage.”

I thought, “Hmm, that’s interesting.”

So after my meeting with the mayor, I drove

back around the block a few times, sized up the

building a bit. The more I looked at it, the more

it really intrigued me. I was already familiar with

the building because it used to be a W.T. Grant

department store.

I could just see some potential there. It was

right in the heart of Downtown.

So I called the broker and told him that if the

offer he had already received on the building

didn’t come through, to call me immediately

before it went to market again.

In the meantime, I started to have lots of

discussions about the building with our board of

trustees. We talked about what we would do with

it, how we’d use it — even whether we even needed

to go Downtown. We had this nice suburban

place already, after all, with all the parking we

wanted. Why go Downtown?

Well, around that time Mayor Delaney was

following up on (former) Mayor Ed Austin’s vision

of redoing Downtown Jacksonville. And I just felt

the mayor’s vision about getting Downtown going

again really made sense to me. It struck a chord

with me.

We really did need to do something about

Downtown to move Jacksonville forward as an

entire city, and it was a ghost town down there.

Plus I felt we could get the building at a good

price, we could fill the other space with tenants,

and the parking garage would be a nice, reliable

revenue stream for us.

The board of trustees, to their great credit,

could see that too.

So when the broker finally called and said

the people with the first offer couldn’t put up the

money, we were ready to act.

It was a quick offer and counter-offer deal,

WILL DICKEY

86

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


and we ended up buying it for $2 million — a

45,000-square-foot building and 230-car parking

garage.

Within six months of looking at it, we had it.

After that, it was all about gutting the inside

of the building, working to really make a beautiful

place with a great design — and recruiting

tenants, which wasn’t too hard because there was

a lot of interest once we started working on the

building.

Then we moved in and made it the Police and

Fire Pension Fund’s new headquarters on Oct. 1,

2001.

At that time, it was pretty much just our building

and the Farah & Farah (law office) building

across the street that had much of a presence on

Adams Street. There really wasn’t much else. But

it was exciting. You could sense even back then

both of our buildings were starting to put down

the foundation for other development to come

around us and all over Downtown.

And that’s what has happened.

Q: What were the biggest challenges?

Keane: Well, developers will always tell you

that when you’re dealing with an old building,

it has a thousand secrets — and the walls don’t

talk and tell you any of them. You have to find out

those secrets on your own once you actually get

in the building, and not always in the best ways.

We certainly had a moment or two like that while

“Our goal

was to keep

Downtown

moving

forward

and to do

our part to

rejuvenate

and

redevelop

it.”

JOHN KEANE

POLICE AND FIRE

PENSION FUND

we were transforming the Downtown building

into our headquarters. You have to expect the

unexpected.

Q: What goes through your mind when you

see the building these days?

Keane: I’m very proud in a lot of ways, absolutely.

We built and redid the Police and Fire Pension

Fund building without one penny of city subsidy.

I’m proud of that.

We built it on time, and we built it under budget.

I’m really proud of that, too.

But really, the building is a tribute to the

outstanding vision that was shown by the board

of trustees in embracing the idea of moving

Downtown when I suggested we do that. We were

blessed to have a board that was not only dedicated

to the long-term goals of the Police and Fire

Pension Fund, it knew our success in the long run

would benefit from having a successful, thriving

Downtown.

Our goal was to keep Downtown moving

forward and to do our part to rejuvenate and redevelop

it. And whenever I look at the Police and

Fire Pension Fund building today, I know that we

accomplished that goal.

That means a lot to me.

Roger Brown is a Times-Union editorial writer and member

of the editorial board. He lives Downtown.

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SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 87


REMAPPING

DOWNTOWN

L

A proposal

to simplify

more than a

dozen zoning

districts could

be a boost for

development

ooking at the existing zoning map for

Downtown is akin to looking at a piece

of abstract art — a lot of haphazard

splashes of color that don’t seem to go

together. A small green block in a sea of purple.

A patchwork of colors peppered throughout one

neighborhood.

That approach works for art but is terribly

outdated for the map that details zoning rules in

Downtown Jacksonville, a growing urban core that

shouldn’t be governed by a regulatory process last

updated around the turn of the century.

City Councilwoman Lori Boyer is leading the

push for a sweeping change of those archaic zoning

BY MARILYN YOUNG rules.

Instead of the current 15 zoning districts

88 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

all with their own rules, Boyer’s proposal calls

for all of Downtown to be zoned Commercial

Central Business District. That encompasses the

Northbank, Southbank, LaVilla, Brooklyn and the

Sports Complex areas.

The CCBD designation allows a wide range of

uses — including mixed uses such as commercial

and residential — without having to wade through

a separate zoning approval process or seek a

variance from the Downtown Development Review

Board. Those changes alone will automatically save

developers valuable time and costly legal fees.

The wide-ranging proposal also addresses

other issues, such as rooftop activation, setbacks

along waterways, sidewalks and parking. It allows

unlimited building heights in most areas, except

CARSON PULLIAM


LaVilla and parts of Brooklyn, where it’s capped at

75 feet, and the Cathedral District, where it tops out

at 65 feet.

The zoning update will shorten the timeline

for some, which will certainly make developers

happy. There has long been talk among some in

the development community that getting a project

completed in Jacksonville takes far longer than it

should.

But it doesn’t impact other steps in the approval

process for projects, including with the Downtown

Investment Authority and a plan review from

the DDRB. Some also will need to get the OK for

financial incentives, buying property from the city

and doing work on historic buildings.

Those steps likely add to the chorus of complaints

from some developers that the approval process

takes too long in Jacksonville. Some of those are

valid, some are self-induced and some are based on

outdated perceptions.

Christian Oldenburg, managing director of

Colliers International Northeast Florida, definitely

sees the plan to simplify the zoning process as a

positive for developer. But economic issues — such

as the current high construction costs and low rent

rates Downtown — have much more impact on a

developer’s decision than zoning improvements.

“We’re a long way from having developers come

in to Jacksonville and seeing the cranes go up,”

said Oldenburg, who grew up here. “So, I’d say that

(economic) equation needs to get balanced first,

but that’s 90 percent of the problem.”

Reasons for the changes

Boyer began tackling the issue last summer,

forming a working group to help match zoning

regulations to current needs. She said the most

recent update was in the early 2000s, long before

the DIA was established by former Mayor Alvin

Brown in 2012.

“Some of it is outdated because the references

don’t make sense anymore,” Boyer said. “What

might have been thought was going to be an

arterial roadway is now not, or the way the people

used rooftops 20 years ago is different.”

She recruited experts like Brenna Durden, an

attorney who served on DIA’s board and is now

on the DDRB; Jim Klement, DIA redevelopment

coordinator; Guy Parola, DIA operations manager;

Alan Wilson, an architect with Haskell; and Carol

Worsham, vice president of HDR (an architectural,

engineering and consulting firm) who served on

DDRB and is now on DIA’s board.

Klement compiled a list of all waivers,

deviations and exceptions sought from 2014

through May 2018 to illustrate common requests,

such as parking reductions, building heights and

sign issues.

“If there was a particular provision that almost

everybody had to get a deviation from, we said,

‘That’s broken. Something is wrong here. It’s always

granted. What are we going to do?’” Boyer said.

For example, a current provision requires

there to be an entrance on every street frontage.

That caused a security issue for a hotel, which

said it needed to funnel people through the main

entrance. “That makes perfect sense,” Boyer said.

The provision also was a safety concern for

Dogtopia on Hendricks Avenue, because it would

have required an entrance for the dog daycare on

the side along the interstate.

“What we’re trying to do is bring it up to our

current standards and say, ‘OK, this is the general

expectation and here are some ways to not meet

that expectation and do some alternative that still

doesn’t require a deviation,’” Boyer said.

For example, a current requirement is that

a building has to be constructed to the right-ofway

line as opposed to having a setback, which is

common in urban settings. The alternative is to

provide an “urban open space” for the public in a

setback area. An example of that is the Baptist MD

Anderson Cancer Center not building its facility

to the corner of the site but using that space as an

extension of the public sidewalk.

Worsham said she was happy to assist with

the effort. She felt there were redundancies in the

code, some criteria were inconsistent and at times

it was confusing what a developer needed to do.

“A lot of what we did was consolidate what was

good in the code and try to eliminate statements

that were confusing,” said Worsham, who stressed

the need to create a walkable, pedestrian-friendly

urban environment where people feel safe and is

pleasant aesthetically.

The changes also should help get many projects

get through the approval process quicker, though

not as quick as many developers would like.

Other, necessary

processes

Boyer said she perceives that Downtown has a

taken bad rap of being a place where it takes too

long, it’s too difficult and you have to talk to too

many people to get a project approved.

Some criticize the Request for Proposal process,

where the city is selling off property, of which there

is a fair amount Downtown.

“That is not a simple process, and I don’t care

if you’re buying it Downtown or if you’re buying it

someplace else,” Boyer said. “There are processes

that we have to go through to dispose of a property,

and we can’t get around those.”

Those requirements include basic real

estate transaction requirements, such as getting

appraisals.

Another issue that Boyer said impacts a lot of

Downtown property is soil contamination and

brownfield designations caused by previous uses.

“So, we can blame it on Downtown but the

reality is you’re in an area that was previously

developed that might have an underground storage

tank or might have had a dry cleaner or might have

been a turpentine factory,” she said. “Downtown

“We’re a

long way

from having

developers

come in to

Jacksonville

and seeing

the cranes

go up. So,

I’d say that

(economic)

equation

needs to get

balanced

first, but

that’s 90

percent

of the

problem.”

CHRISTIAN

OLDENBURG

Colliers

International

Northeast

Florida

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 89


CENTRAL

CIVIC CORE

LaVilla

CHURCH

CATHEDRAL

INSTITUTIONAL

CURRENT ZONING

OVERLAY DISTRICTS

STADIUM

RIVERFRONT

Brooklyn

& Riverside

ST. JOHNS

RIVER

SOUTHBANK

RIVERFRONT

RIVER PARK

N

has that challenge, and none of us can wish it away.

It’s just there.

“A lot of

Neither DIA or the city can make that go away,

Boyer said.

what we

Developers who want to add docks or marinas

on the waterfront have to follow the rules under the

did was

federal government’s Manatee Protection Plan. Boyer

recalled that Peter Rummell and Michael Munz, who

consolidate are developing The District on the Southbank, said at

a Downtown Dwellers meeting that they worked on

what was

getting the marina permit for a year.

There are a certain number of Downtown

good in the buildings that have been deemed historic, and only

changes to their exteriors must be approved. If a

code and try decision by the historic commission is appealed, the

next stop for the building owner or developer is City

to eliminate Council.

“Probably 30 percent of them we (the council)

statements

overturned, but a lot of them are kind of self-created

hardships that are warranted to be turned down,”

that were

Boyer said.

For example, someone in a historic district may

confusing.” replace the original windows with vinyl ones, then

ask for forgiveness when they get caught. “Well, you

Carol

know. Not so much,” Boyer said.

Worsham

She believes generally the people who complain

about the process are the ones who have been turned

vice president down for something.

of HDR

Incentives are complicated

The incentives process also can add some time

to a project Downtown. “That’s the part where I’ve

90 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

heard complaints that it’s too difficult,” she said,

because many have to go through DIA, the City

Council and the Mayor’s Office — even though the

DIA is an independent agency.

The short answer to that is, particularly in hard

economic times, it didn’t make fiscal sense for the

city to put millions of dollars in a DIA trust fund

where it would sit until a deal was made and the

incentive funds were needed. That money could

instead be used for a city park or to fill a gap on an

immediate need.

But when DIA makes a deal with a developer

and incentive funds are needed, such as for Steve

Atkins’ Barnett Bank and Laura Street Trio project,

they can go before council to get the money, which

is signed off on by the mayor.

That budgeting philosophy doesn’t keep DIA

from being solely in charge of other economic tools,

such as the retail enhancement fund money. It also

has the sole authority to grant Recapture Enhanced

Value grants up to 75 percent for 15 years, Parola said.

And it also controls money from the Tax

Increment Funds for the Northbank and Southbank,

the latter of which is about $6 million a year, Boyer

said.

Durden said she believes the DDRB process can

sometimes take too long, such as when there are

unnecessary multiple workshops for a project or

because of a lack of good communication.

What happens now

A draft of the working proposal has been

JEFF DAVIS


CENTRAL CORE

PROPOSED ZONING

OVERLAY DISTRICTS

CHURCH

LaVilla

CATHEDRAL

SPORTS &

ENTERTAINMENT

WORKING

WATERFRONT

BROOKLYN

ST. JOHNS

RIVER

SOUTHBANK

N

JEFF DAVIS

circulated among stakeholder groups and has

been the focus of several meetings. The feedback

has been constructive and helpful, said Boyer.

For example, she said, developers constructing

a new building or renovating a façade must have

a second-story balcony, awnings or a portico

over doors or plant trees to provide a certain

level of protection from the rain and sun. JEA

had a concern that the required awning height

was going to interfere with cranes that pick up

underground transformers that are beneath the

sidewalk.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, that makes sense,’” Boyer said.

So, the solution is to prohibit an awning if there’s

an underground transformer there.

She has also presented or will present the plan

to groups such as NAIOP, a commercial real estate

development association; the American Institute

of Architects; the Urban Land Institute; and

Downtown Vision.

Oldenburg, of Colliers International, said

he is concerned with the plan’s proposed 200-

foot setback before allowing unlimited building

height along the entire Northbank and Southbank

riverfronts.

There is zero height allowance for the first

50 feet of setback, with the first 25 being for the

public; 45 feet maximum for 50-125 feet and 75

feet maximum for 125-250 feet.

While he understands the aesthetic and civicminded

reasons for some setback off the river, he

thinks those restrictions would be best in a smaller

area, similar to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, versus

the entire riverfront.

“It can negatively impact the value of a lot of

property,” Oldenburg said.

He pointed out that several buildings, including

the Peninsula and the Strand condo high-rises on

the Southbank “obviously would be in violation of

this” and possibly the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville

Riverfront.

“I don’t necessarily look at those buildings and

go, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s too close to the water. This is

horrible,’” he said.

With all that is good about the proposal,

Oldenburg said it’s not going to be a driving force

for developers to choose Jacksonville. Simplifying

the zoning code and approval process doesn’t

make up for other, more important negatives.

Construction costs right now are historically

high, and low rents Downtown don’t make

Jacksonville a spot where it makes sense for many

companies to develop. Plus, he said there is a lack

of available skilled labor, and the city isn’t home

to an airport like Atlanta and New York where you

can fly non-stop to major cities.

“So, we definitely have some great things going

for us, and we have some challenges we need to

address,” he said.

Marilyn Young was an editor at The Florida Times-Union

in 1998-2013 and was editor of the Financial News & Daily

Record in 2013-2017. She lives in north St. Johns County.

“So, we

definitely

have some

great things

going for

us, and we

have some

challenges

we need to

address.”

CHRISTIAN

OLDENBURG

Colliers

International

Northeast

Florida

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 91


COMPLICATED

SIMPLE

No games, just marketing

made simple.

(904) 359-4309 | jacksonville.thrivehive.com


QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

By Mike Clark & Roger Brown

Passion

projects

Creating critical mass is

what drives Downtown

developer Mike Balanky

ike Balanky has to be included

M among the most productive

and influential developers in

Downtown Jacksonville. His focus has been

the Southbank. But

MIKE

BALANKY

WORK:

President, CEO of

Chase Properties Inc.

FROM:

Jacksonville

LIVES IN:

San Marco

he has a grand plan

to move many of the

vacant buildings in

the Central Business

District that he has been

discussing with civic clubs

and city leaders. Editorial

Page Editor Mike Clark and

Editorial Writer Roger Brown

interviewed him for J magazine. The following

transcript was edited by Clark for clarity and space.

WILL DICKEY

Recalling Downtown’s heyday

My family has been here since the late 1920s. My dad grew

up in Brentwood next door to Jake Godbold.

My dad managed a business on the Southbank where San

Marco Place is now, Brink’s Armored Car, and my brother and

sister and I would come down there on weekends to wash

trucks to make extra money.

When I was 19, I worked at Cunningham Furniture Downtown

as a salesman. My girlfriend worked at the old Ivey’s

Building, which is JEA’s customer service center now. We

would go to lunch Downtown. That’s when we had Rosenbloom’s,

Levy Wolf, Furchgott’s, they were all here. We often

would have to walk in the street because the sidewalks were so

packed. It was unbelievable. Downtown was dynamic. I remember

loving to be in that environment. Then to see it all move out

was heartbreaking.

MAGAZINE 93


I always thought this would be a cool place to

live, and then flash forward, we ended up developing

the San Marco Place high-rise. I live there, my

office is there and my mom and dad have a unit

there, not with me but in the same building.

This has been a passion of mine to help bring

back San Marco. We started working on the Kings

Avenue parking garage in 2003, about the same

time we started working on San Marco Place. The

rest is history.

“‘Hey world,

Downtown

Jacksonville,

Florida, is

A plan to create critical mass

getting ready

I kept hearing at real estate conferences about

which comes first, retail or rooftops. Around to blow up.

2005, they were talking about spurring activity

Downtown so somebody came up with a concept:

Let’s do one street at a time, do a good job,

... So for a

and it would grow from there. That was Laura limited time

Street. They did a good job with Laura Street, but

nothing ever followed.

only, we’re

That’s what my whole plan is based on, critical

mass, when the rate of development is self-sustaining

and creates future growth.

going to give

You’ve got to have the vision first. The opportunity

has to be there or it won’t work. You need to

you some

create synergies with those opportunities, but just amazing

as importantly, you’ve got to have execution, which

is what I’m trying to promote for Jacksonville.

incentives,

Right now, Downtown has a lot of surplus

properties, many of them city-owned. There is a

but they end

lot of money being spent on these properties in

insurance and maintenance costs, and they’re not

on this date.

generating any ad valorem taxes. So they are a net

loss on the city’s books. They’re losing money every

year. And properties that aren’t inhabited deteriorate

much faster. It’s a vicious cycle. It makes it

So take a

harder and harder to market. quick look.’ ”

So what’s the answer? The Urban Land Institute

talks about public-private partnerships as being the

key component in helping these cities getting their

growth back.

Critical mass can help unify our city. A good example

is the Better Jacksonville Plan. John Delaney

did an amazing job as mayor.

Vision without execution is just hallucination.

It’s not going to happen by itself.

We’ve got to have inter-agency coordination

between the city and DIA or whoever will oversee a

project. We’ve got to identify the properties by their

highest and best use, whether retail, restaurant or

office.

We would get the brokers to identify the highest

and best use of these properties. They won’t

charge the city for doing this. They’ll do it for the

listing, which is how they make their living. You

want brokers of stature with international reach.

They can’t get the yields from South Florida so

they are looking at cities like Jacksonville. I would

go around the country at real estate conventions,

and you never heard Jacksonville. It was always

Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Austin, Nashville, Charlotte.

Every conference I go to now, everybody’s

94 J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019

talking about Jacksonville. The timing is good.

Streamlining RFPs

The key is the RFP process. Three years ago, I

went to Dallas for a public-private-partnership

conference. The worst RFP I saw in three days is

better than the best one I’ve seen in Jacksonville.

That’s not to be critical of anybody, but we haven’t

refined the process. Now I haven’t looked at

RFPs lately, but I was awarded an RFP on a project

and it took 17 months from RFP to contract.

Most developers will never do that. A developer’s

time is his most precious resource. They’re

mostly vague and written that way because the

municipality wants flexibility, but it’s not going

to attract much interest. I can understand that

for big projects like the convention center, but if

you’re taking surplus properties, you need to take

the assessed value of these, discount them by 20

percent, put a 75 percent revenue grant on them,

and the 25 percent we keep from the grant will

produce more taxes than today and will stop the

bleeding. Then to get all this development going,

you do it properly and use a common template.

A lot of developers are multi-faceted, they

might do residential, multi-family, office and

mini storage. If they have to look at different RFP

format for every single property, they’re not as

likely to participate. But if you have three different

properties and all you have to do is look at the

numbers because everything else is the same,

they can be very efficient with the RFPs. There are

companies that specialize in this; it’s not rocket

science. It’s critical that we have a well-defined,

efficient RFP.

Then if you want to create all of this excitement

and energy, you’re going to have to incentivize

it, and the city’s doing a good job of that. This

administration understands that you’ve got to

invest in yourself if you want to turn it around.

Incentives have to have timelines on them. You’ve

got to create a sense of urgency. So the message

would go something like, “Hey world, Downtown

Jacksonville, Florida, is getting ready to blow up.

We’ve got Shad Khan coming down here, we’ve

got the District, the Laura Street Trio, and we want

to finish it off. So for a limited time only, we’re going

to give you some amazing incentives, but they

end on this date. So take a quick look. The process

is going to be easy and efficient, and we’ll commit

to whatever we show you. When I explained this

concept to a broker he said, “We can sell that.”

I’m not huge on doing a whole lot of planning

because I’ve seen so many plans that were never

executed. I think we need to let the capitalists get

involved, and that’s why progress is being made

now.

Finally, we need community engagement and

accountability. It has to be transparent. I would

envision creating a committee that would have

a couple key players driving it and let the private

market get into that pool, too. A lot of private


individuals would like the concept, too. It could

be open to the public as well.

It has to be transparent. Then track it. That’s

how you get accountability, and that’s where you

keep political will on track.

Importance of political will

I can’t overstate the importance of political

will or this thing will go nowhere fast. To give an

example, all you have to do is look at what Mayor

Rick Baker did in St. Petersburg. He totally turned

that city around. My wife grew up there, and

she left because she hated it, it was dead. Baker

said, “I’m turning around downtown. I’m going

to do some things that may not be very popular,

like selling things cheap or even giving it away,

and if you don’t like it, don’t re-elect me.” He got

re-elected in a landslide, went on to become national

mayor of the year. He did a masterful job.

You’ve got to have buy-in from the City of

Jacksonville first. The Downtown Investment

Authority is a critical component.

We took a failing garage at Kings Avenue. The

Times-Union did some stories about this $14

million garage, and nobody parked in it. They

called it the ghost garage. We went to John Peyton,

who was my next-door neighbor at the time.

He was chairman of the JTA when the garage was

approved. So I walked out to my driveway one

day, and John was reading the headlines, “ghost

garage,” and he wasn’t happy. I said, “John, why

don’t you let us work together. We’ll put some

development in front of the garage, and we’ll put

cars in the garage, and we’ll have people on the

Skyway, and it will be beautiful.” And he said,

“Let’s do it!” Eventually we did get the project. We

have spent millions of dollars on the project, and

we plan to have future phases. This was JTA’s first

transit-oriented development.

Brown: If all of the elements you mentioned are

in place, when will you see a dramatic transformation

of that area?

That may be the most important question of

the day. I’ve been thinking about this for several

months. Now we’re developing a head of steam

and everybody is receptive to the idea. Depending

on how fast we can get universal buy-in, RFP

templates in place, incentives and identifying the

properties, that might take six months. I’m just

concerned we might be walking right into a recession.

I would rather keep this momentum going

and get buy in, and if it looks like the economy

is going to stall, get everybody to wait and start

right after that. I don’t think it’s going to be a deep

recession or a long recession, but I think we’re in

for a correction.

So how long would it take? We put together

Deerwood Lakes in nine months, $300 million of

development. If you have the incentives and timelines

and the international reach and commitment,

it’s a marketing effort. The way to do this is with a

“I can’t

overstate the

importance

of political

will or this

thing will

go nowhere

fast. ... You’ve

got to have

buy-in from

the City of

Jacksonville

first. The

Downtown

Investment

Authority

is a critical

component.”

3-minute pop-up video that shows Jacksonville the

way it is now and then shows the District, Lot J. If

I’m the developer and all I have to do is check a box,

I’m in.

Clark: I’m frustrated by the School Board building

still sitting there on the riverfront. What can be

done?

There is a new superintendent, we have some

new School Board members. The timing could be

very good to talk to some of these people.

I think changes are coming. Some of the people

are open-minded. I’m optimistic that something

good could happen there. It’s too good an opportunity.

It really stands out like a sore thumb now that

there are new apartments next door. In the School

Board’s defense, there has not been a financial

model that worked. They’re reasonable people; they

need something that is a win-win for everybody.

They have so much other property in this town,

you would think they could take some of it and

make it a redevelopment focus for a neighborhood

somewhere. I know they have to be careful about

taking on new debt.

There is a model out there. The existing building

is failing. It’s what is called a “sick building.” If they

stay there, there will be money they will have to

spend to bring it up to speed, and that is money

that could be spent on a new facility. That would be

part of a model that would work. I know there was

a report that talked about how much it would cost

to bring it to a first-class condition. It’s functionally

obsolete. It was designed in the old days when

everybody had a secretary. It’s very inefficient. And

their utility bills are probably double what they

should be.

Clark: But they’re not looking. They’re hoping

someone will show up with an offer.

If you talk to them, they would say they have a lot

on their plate.

Brown: What about the Landing? The Laura Street

development hasn’t worked out so well because

the Landing is one of the book-ends of that deal.

I don’t even want to get in the middle of that

debate.

Brown: What’s the best use for it? What’s your

grand vision?

I saw the J magazine survey that said people

didn’t want to see residential there. I think mixed use

makes a lot of sense there. I would live there if it were

done right. It doesn’t need to be high density. If you

had a big food hall, that would be an excellent use.

Clark: To me, that property is too small for apartments.

The obvious design is something like St.

Petersburg or Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco

with a park and an outer ring of shops and restaurants.

That’s what I envision with apartments on top of

them.

SPRING 2019 | J MAGAZINE 95


Clark: You could get big rents there.

Or people could buy condos there. What I mean

by critical mass is the people living there would feed

the restaurants below them. It helps make everybody

successful. The Sake House is in my building, and my

wife calls that her kitchen. Parking is going to be the

issue, always has been. Not as much now because not

a lot people are going there. As Downtown develops

with residential, parking becomes less of an issue

because people can walk there. That goes back to

synergy.

Clark: In every corner of Downtown, there are big

things going on.

So imagine you have this international group

of investors and you send them a 3-minute link for

the pop-up video. That brings the emotion into the

transaction. We’ve got to make this an emotional sell.

That’s the key to it.

Clark: What do you think of the innovation corridor

down Bay Street, with JTA’s riderless vehicles?

And the 5G internet and compression plates that

deliver energy. It’s amazing. JTA CEO Nat Ford is

doing a great job with that. He went to Europe for a

conference, and they are talking about Jacksonville.

That’s why the timing is good. A lot of these people are

spending their own money to be part of this because

they’re looking to monetize this, invest in this and

get it right to replicate it all over. We’ll combine all of

these different technologies.

“I think we

have the

right people

in place, but

we’ve got to

stop long

enough to

ask, what

do we need

to do? What

needs to

happen?

Almost

every time,

the answer

is to get

everybody in

the room at

once.”

my business, there is an old saying that “if it’s not

fun, it’s not profitable.”

Clark: Ostensibly with consolidated government,

we should be able to do this very easily.

So I what’s the holdback?

We just need to bring everybody in the room

at one time. That’s the hardest thing to do. I had

another project that went on for 17 months from

the RFP to the time I signed the deal. And the only

reason the deal happened is I got frustrated. I had

spent a lot of money on consultants and lawyers.

I was fed up. I was dealing with a government

entity that couldn’t agree on anything. Finally, on

a Monday, I sent an email that I would be at their

offices Friday at 10 a.m. and I will leave there with

a deal or I’m done. At 1 o’clock we had a deal. I

wanted everybody in a room. Don’t just send a

lawyer or an engineer or a consultant.

Clark: We wrote about this 10 years ago,

rather than run people through a gauntlet, an

obstacle course. We are ostensibly a Republican

government that likes to cut red tape.

Every candidate we interview tells us that, but

still, here we go.

That goes back to political will. I think we have

the right people in place, but we’ve got to stop

long enough to ask, what do we need to do? What

needs to happen? Almost every time, the answer

is to get everybody in the room at once.

Clark: So to summarize, if you were mayor, you

Clark: Everybody is frustrated quietly and nothing

changes.

would put timelines with incentives to force a sense

of urgency, streamline RFPs and have a single template

for all the city property.

pens.

Communication is the key but it rarely hap-

If we have a committee, it gives us strength in

numbers. When you bring in the right players, they

Mike Clark has been a reporter and editor

all have expertise in different areas. It also gives

for The Florida Times-Union and its predecessors

cover to everybody because you’re not a Lone

since 1973 and editorial page editor since 2005.

Ranger who is afraid of being criticized. As much

He lives in Nocatee.

as anything, this needs to be a marketing business

on steroids. I would have marketing materials on

Roger Brown is a Times-Union editorial

HENALOINGEA

all of these surplus properties that say “buy me.”

writer and member of the editorial board.

Multi-media will generate fun and excitement. In

He lives Downtown.

READ FLORIDA TIMES-UNION COLUMNIST NATE MONROE AT JACKSONVILLE.COM

SSIT’SJACKSON

LEASIERVILLES

OWHERE?MYINAG

96

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


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


THE FINAL WORD

Making a better

Downtown for

all of Jacksonville

JAKE

GORDON

PHONE

(904) 634-0303

EMAIL

jake@dtjax.org

e all know them. Our friends who

W live at the beach. We get it, it’s

beautiful out there. It’s a great part

of our city. But why no love for Downtown?

Many people who live in Jacksonville are

Downtown pessimists. Feet in the sand,

looking out at the waves, they say, “I never go

there! Downtown doesn’t matter to me!”

They’re wrong. Like it or not, Downtown Jacksonville

matters to every single one of them. Even if they

never cross the ditch. But don’t smack your beach-side

buddies with a frisbee, hit them with these four simple

reasons why a better Downtown means a better Jacksonville

for all of us!

Downtown Drives

Our City Economy

It’s simple: Downtown is the primary economic

engine for our region.

Investing in our “engine” makes it run stronger,

creating more jobs and more tax dollars for essential

community needs like roads, parks, police and replacing

dunes on the beach.

Sure, we know Downtown is the epicenter of Jacksonville’s

culture and entertainment. The Jaguars. The

Jumbo Shrimp. Concerts. Museums. Festivals. Fireworks.

But perhaps more importantly, it’s where business

happens. It’s where the skyscraping office towers

contain millions of square feet of jobs and commercial

activity, investment capital and taxable value.

It’s A Proven Model

Across the U.S., downtowns remain the greatest

generator of tax dollars. And with more money to invest,

cities better themselves.

Investing in downtown is rewarded with economic

prosperity. In 1996, the city of Minneapolis committed

to $2 billion of investment in its downtown. In 2011, it

renewed that pledge with another $2 billion. Today, the

three square miles of downtown Minneapolis accounts

for 36 percent of all property tax revenues in the city.

Even more impressive, more than half of all jobs in

Minneapolis are now downtown. This story is not

unique: Tampa, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Nashville and

many others have drastically improved their economic

outlook with significant downtown investment.

If we grow our Downtown tax base, the funds raised

will be spent in all neighborhoods, all the way to the

beach.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

This all works because healthy Downtowns deliver

so much value and a much higher return on investment

than sprawling suburbs.

Here’s a real-life example: A suburban Walmart in

Jacksonville on 20 acres pays roughly $280,000 in taxes.

The Wells Fargo Center skyscraper in Downtown on just

three acres pays more than $1 million in taxes. In cost

per acre, Downtown is almost 25 times more valuable.

Here’s another: Duval County averages $74 million

in taxable value for each of its many square miles. But

in Downtown, our half-square-mile business improvement

district averages $1.9 BILLION in taxable value

per square mile, again over 25 times more valuable!

For a city, a dense, healthy commercial urban center

is almost impossible to duplicate. Even the most expensive

residential homes can’t compare to the tax-generating

value of commercial office buildings. In Duval

County today, commercial real estate parcels make up

only 11 percent of the total parcels, but already account

for more than 40 percent of total taxable value.

Our Face to the World

Even with the economics tipped heavily in favor of

Downtown investment, its most important value might

be something more intangible: our civic identity.

More than a profit center, a Downtown embodies

the image and character of a city to the rest of the

world. A strong downtown indeed helps power a city

— not just in tax revenue, but also in civic pride and

recruiting talented people. When you think of a city,

you usually think of its downtown first. City reputations

are made on their skylines.

Downtowns are truly unique in that they are the

only neighborhood shared by the entire community. At

Downtown Vision, we want everyone to enjoy Downtown.

(We even built a website — DowntownJacksonville.com

— to help.) So tell your beach-loving friends:

Even if they never come to #DTJax for a Jaguars game

or MOCA Jacksonville or the Museum of Science and

History or the Symphony or the Florida Theatre or the

Jacksonville Jazz Fest, Downtown matters!

JAKE GORDON has been CEO of Downtown Vision

since 2015. He lives in San Marco

98

J MAGAZINE | SPRING 2019


Formed to revitalize and preserve downtown property values

and prevent deterioration in the downtown business district.

The Downtown Investment Authority is the economic and

community redevelopment agency for Downtown Jacksonville.

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.

Since 2015, the Downtown Investment Authority has leveraged

approximately $150,000,000 for $800,000,000 in private

capital investment, incentivizing over 573,000 square feet of

planned new and renovated commercial/office, 2,900 new

multi-family units and 900 new hotel rooms.


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