Fall 2019

riverside1

THE MAGAZINE OF THE REBIRTH OF JACKSONVILLE’S DOWNTOWN

WOMEN’S

I S S U E

GROWTH

VYSTAR GOES all in

with ‘INNOvATIVE’

Downtown HQ

P42

EMERALD TRAIL

34-MILE GREENWAY

project INCHING

closer to reality

P50

AUDREY

MORAN,

LAUREN

HAWKINS

and KEAGAN

ANFUSO

(clockwise

from top)

are three of

the women

we asked for

opinions on

Downtown.

DISPLAY THROUGH NOVEMBER 2019

$6.50

What DO womEn want IN THE URBAN CORE?

WE ASKED THEM.

DOWNTOWN

& WOMEN

P20

FALL 2019


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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, Shelton Hull,

Dan Macdonald,

Charlie Patton,

Denise M. Reagan,

Lilla Ross

MAILING ADDRESS

J Magazine, 1 Independent Dr., Suite 200, Jacksonville, FL 32202

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contents

Issue 3 // Volume 3 // FALL 2019

The

Women’s

Issue

14 - Designing a Downtown that will attract women

20 - How does Downtown rate with women? We asked.

28 - Lori Boyer’s next act might be her biggest one yet

26 - Closing the gender gap in Jacksonville leadership

42 50 56 66

VYSTAR GOES ALL

IN ON DOWNTOWN

BY MIKE CLARK

EMERALD TRAIL

BLAZING

BY RON LITTLEPAGE

WHAT’S NEXT FOR

1 RIVERSIDE AVE.?

BY FRANK DENTON

THE HOUSING

GROWTH SPURT

BY LILLA ROSS

72 78 82 86

SAVING OUR

GOTHIC FORTRESS

BY ROGER BROWN

THE GREAT

SPACE ChASE

BY CAROLE HAWKINS

RIDE & SHINE

WITh GO TUK’N

BY DAN MACDONALD

DIGITAL

DIRECTIONS

BY SHELTON HULL

JEFF DAVIS

6

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


J MAGAZINE

PARTNERS

DEPARTMENTS

9 FROM THE EDITOR

10 RATING DOWNTOWN

11 BRIEFING

12 PROGRESS REPORT

48 THE BIG PICTURE

88 CORE EYESORE

90 A NEW VISION FOR MOCA

92 QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

98 THE FINAL WORD

THE MAGAZINE OF THE REBIRTH OF JACKSONVILLE’S DOWNTOWN

WOMEN’S

I S S U E

GROWTH

VYSTAR GOES ALL IN

WITH ‘INNOVATIVE’

DOWNTOWN HQ

P42

EMERALD TRAIL

34-MILE GREENWAY

PROJECT INCHING

CLOSER TO REALITY

P50

AUDREY

MORAN,

LAUREN

HAWKINS

and KEAGAN

ANFUSO

(clockwise

from top)

are three of

the women

we asked for

opinions on

Downtown.

DISPLAY THROUGH NOVEMBER 2019

$6.50

WHAT DO WOMEN WANT IN THE URBAN CORE?

WE ASKED THEM.

DOWNTOWN

& WOMEN

P20

FALL 2019

ON THE COVER

If you design a downtown for women,

they will come. All of them. What will

it take to create an urban core that

appeals to women? We decided to find

out. // PAGE 20

STORY BY DENISE M. REAGAN

ILLUSTRATION BY JEFF DAVIS


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FROM THE EDITOR

Is McUrbanism

starting to choke

our Downtown?

FRANK

DENTON

PHONE

(904) 359-4268

EMAIL

frankmdenton@

gmail.com

e’re all appreciating the boom in

W apartment construction that is

bringing more and more people

living in the urban core, toward the critical

resident population that will jump-start the

reactivated Downtown.

But as you watch those massive complexes arise

across Brooklyn and LaVilla and on the Southbank (see

story page 66), aren’t you feeling a sort of weirdness,

grating on your aesthetic senses?

The apartment buildings pretty much all look alike,

with boxy designs, monotonous facades and colored

panels added in an apparent attempt to make them

more interesting.

A Twitter query to name the architectural style quickly

fell into sarcasm: McUrbanism, fast-casual architecture,

Simcityism, Minecraftsman, Contemporary Contempt

and (my personal favorite) Spongebuild Squareparts.

Of course, there are reasons for the spiritless sameness.

Patrick Sisson, a reporter on Curbed.com (a blog

once described by its founder as “Architectural Digest

after a three-martini lunch”), said the reasons are

“code, costs and craft:” Building and zoning codes

demand efficiency on tight sites. The style is cheapest;

variation and originality are expensive. Computer-aided

design, pushing aside architects, squeezes every bit

of value out of a site.

But if you have to look at them, you might as well be

at St. Johns Town Center, which also is spawning acres

and acres of the structures, or in about any other city, as

the style has metastasized nationally.

On page 92, you’ll read a passionate plea by Downtown

pioneer Sherry Magill to save what’s left of our

historic buildings and, where appropriate, adapt them

into modern residences.

“Architectural history gives us a sense of place,” she

said. “Places that tear it down and build something

new, you don’t have a sense of the past and a collective

past.” You don’t have the authenticity and character

that make the city unique and interesting.

You might think Jacksonville has a paucity of historic

buildings, given the Great Fire of 1901 and the ravages

of “urban renewal” a half century later, but when

Magill was president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, it

produced a study in 2017 that found Downtown has

“abundant redevelopment opportunities in its rich inventory

of vacant land and vacant buildings.” The study

pointed out that 62 percent of Northbank buildings are

more than 50 years old.

“The true strength of a downtown lies in the small

projects — the shops and restaurants and residential

projects that nurture everyday engagement from

residents and visitors. These smaller projects come

alive in neighborhoods that have distinct character and

personality.”

Kay Ehas, who did the research, points out that we

have made progress, with the Barnett Bank, the Ambassador

Hotel project, the Jones Bros. Furniture store,

Brewster Hospital and more. And before that, Vestcor

revitalized 11 E. Forsyth and The Carling.

Another study by the fund with the National Trust

for Historic Preservation delved deeper into the opportunities

with older buildings and blocks and concluded:

“Unlocking this potential requires stronger incentives,

innovative new policies and increased awareness and

capacity in the nonprofit, government and private

sectors.”

In her Q&A with J, DIA CEO Lori Boyer agreed with

Magill on the value of putting new life into historic

buildings but pointed out: “It’s hard and expensive to

do adaptive reuse of older buildings … A lot of the folks

who have done historic renovations have really lost

their shirts on it.”

For extreme example, Jacques Klempf invested three

years and, according to building permits, almost $10

million to turn the Bostwick Building into the Cowford

Chophouse.

Even with city incentives, Boyer doesn’t think “that

it’s a value proposition at the moment ...

“How can we make it economically viable for somebody?”

Boyer’s one request of City Council is to appropriate

some money into the Downtown Historic Preservation

and Revitalization Trust Fund, which now is “completely

encumbered.”

Whether the money would come from that fund or

direct, per-project appropriation from City Council,

think about that value proposition for your tax money.

After all, where would you rather live, or even just

hang out, in McUrbanism or in a Downtown with Jacksonville

character?

This is my last From the Editor column, as I continue

to pursue the meaning of “retirement.” The estimable

Mike Clark will be the editor of future issues.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 9


POWER

RATING DOWNTOWN

By The Florida Times-Union Editorial Board

Optimism abounds as people

continue moving Downtown

7 7

8

6

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

PUBLIC SAFETY

LEADERSHIP

HOUSING

INVESTMENT

Serious crime remains low,

and the new Urban Rest Stop

may be drawing the transients

and panhandlers and lowering

the negative perception they

cause. More apartments will put

more citizens on the streets.

Lori Boyer brings her experience,

leadership and commitment as

the new CEO of DIA.

Mayor Curry keeps the heat

on projects like the Landing,

Lot J and others, though maddenly

and unnecessarily opaque.

The new State of Downtown

report says 5,200 people now live

Downtown, up 8% from last year.

With more apartments and now

townhomes, we’re anticipating

the critical mass of 10,000 we

need living Downtown.

When she moved into her

new office, DIA CEO Lori Boyer

already began fielding “lots” of

queries from moneybags: “I’ve had

folks from New York and Detroit,

and Atlanta, and … I mean, in just

in the last two weeks.”

PREVIOUS: 7

PREVIOUS: 8

PREVIOUS: 6

PREVIOUS: 6

6 5 5

4

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

MIN

MAX

DEVELOPMENT

EVENTS & CULTURE

TRANSPORTATION

CONVENTION CENTER

All around the core, developers

are hopping. The old Times-

Union site is now joining the

party. Finally, there’s a Lot J

development, but its public price

tag may be a red flag to City

Council and the public.

Lot J, if it happens, will add a

new dimension to Downtown

activities. New directors at the

Cummer and MOCA are causing

creative stirs. New tuk tuk tours

are exploring Downtown’s

history and oddities.

Riverplace Boulevard is slowly

transforming and soon will

provide a showpiece for road

diets, to be followed by Park

Street humanizing Brooklyn.

Why are the two-way streets

in the core taking so long?

This likely will remain lower

priority, because the consultants

tell us we are not yet ready to

compete with other cities with

more vibrant and interesting

downtowns. Too bad — we

have some great sites available.

PREVIOUS: 5

PREVIOUS: 5

PREVIOUS: 5

PREVIOUS: 4

OVERALL RATING

Edging up. If you’re John Q. Cynic, invest a half hour in a

driving tour of Downtown’s transforming districts. If you

can muster some optimism, drive by the empty Landing

and grassed old courthouse and city hall annex sites and

imagine the possibilities — then speak truth to power!

PREVIOUS: 6

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

JEFF DAVIS

10

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


«««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««

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

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

«««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««

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

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

55,392 1,931 3

«««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««

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

«««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««

DIGITS

The number of

employees working

in Downtown

Jacksonville.

The number of

businesses located

in Downtown

Jacksonville.

The number

of Fortune

500 corporate

headquarters

located in

Downtown

Jacksonville

SOURCE:

Downtown Vision’s

2018-2019 State of

Downtown report

BRIEFING

By The Florida Times-Union Editorial Board

Thumbs down to Gov.

Ron DeSantis for

vetoing $8 million in

state funding for workforce

housing at Lofts at

Cathedral, a worthwhile

project that deserved to

be backed.

Thumbs up for the

North Florida

Transportation

Planning Organization’s

study that

shows traffic congestion

is increasing in Jacksonville.

It could spur

more people to live

Downtown or use mass

transit.

Thumbs up to the huge

impact VyStar will

make when it officially

moves its headquarters

Downtown. VyStar

already has more than

300 jobs Downtown,

and hundreds more are

on the way.

Thumbs up to the Bay

Street innovation

corridor

project, which

recently won praise from

two renowned national

experts who study what

“smart cities” are doing

to transform their downtown

areas.

HITS & MISSES

Thumbs up to JAX

Chamber for going

full speed ahead with

LiveDowntownJax, the

online platform for

its efforts to ensure

Downtown has at least

10,000 residents in the

next two years.

Thumbs down to the

lack of any visible

improvement

to Main Street

Park. Yes, the city was

right to temporarily

close the park; it had

become an unsanitary

magnet for vagrants. But

what’s next?

Thumbs down to the

closing of 20

West Café, the

restaurant operated by

Florida State College

at Jacksonville on the

ground floor of its student

dormitory at 20 W.

Adams St.

Thumbs up to Visit

Jacksonville,

the city’s tourism arm,

for drawing more and

more major conferences,

including the annual

gathering of the influential

Florida Society of

Association Executives.

FIRST PERSON

«««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««

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

«««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««««

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

Thumbs up to Cathedral

District-Jax

Inc. for installing banners

to promote the rich

heritage of the Cathedral

District, a Downtown

neighborhood undergoing

dynamic revitalization.

Thumbs up to Downtown

Vision Inc.,

which is in the process of

overhauling and updating

its website for the first

time in six years.

Thumbs up to the potential

of 527 Duval

Street, an ambitious

Downtown project

that would combine

residential units with art

studios and more.

Thumbs down to no

shade on Riverside

Avenue. If you walk along

the stretch near Brooklyn,

you’ll find useless

palm trees that provide

no cover from heat or

rain. Ban the palms!

Thumbs up to the

city for issuing 40

percent more tickets

for Downtown parking

meter violations than it

did this time last year. It’s

time to end meter-squatting

in Downtown.

“We have gotten to a place now where we all say we

hear this momentum and everything. It’s real in terms of

numbers, it’s real in terms of investment.”

DOWNTOWN INVESTMENT AUTHORITY CEO LORI BOYER (PAGE 28)

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 11


FORSYTH

J MAGAZINE’S

PROGRESS REPORT

LAVILLA

PRIME OSBORN

CONVENTION

CENTER

BROOKLYN

JACKSON

ADAMS

HOUSTON

STATUS: UNITY DDRB approved. Next

is permitting PLAZAand construction.

FOREST

JOHNSON

PARK

MONROE

OAK

LEE

Lofts at

Brooklyn

Vestcor is planning

a $30 million, 133-

unit workforce and affordable

apartment complex on the block

among Spruce, Chelsea, Stonewall

and Jackson streets.

MAGNOLIA

DAVIS

WATER

RIVERSIDE AVE.

LaVilla

Townhomes

Vestcor plans to build 70 market-rate

townhomes in LaVilla valued around

$250,000 each. Two others bid on the property, but

the DIA chose Vestcor. As part of the deal, Vestcor will

donate $100,000 to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park.

STATUS: Vestcor hopes to close with the city this year,

with groundbreaking no later than nine months later.

MADISON

JEFFERSON

JEA Headquarters

JEA chose the Ryan Companies to build its new $72

million headquarters at 325 W. Adams St., next to the

courthouse, with an 850-space parking garage nearby.

STATUS: The city approved sale of the land to Ryan, and JEA agreed to

a lease with Ryan. JEA is studying privatization, and its board said any

deal must include the new Downtown HQ. Construction could start

in April and take about 18 months.

BROAD

CLAY

PEARL

STATUS: Barnett is open, with the 107 Residences TIMES- at

Barnett apartments leasing. The UNF space is open. UNION Chase

CENTER

Bank will move into the grand first floor and put its sign on

top. Planned garage is expanding to accommodate VyStar,

and construction should start by the end of the year, with

Trio work starting soon after.

ACOSTA

BRIDGE

JULIA

Laura St. Trio and

Barnett Bank Building

A $79 million project is renovating the iconic

buildings into residences, offices, a Courtyard

by Marriott, commercial/retail and a UNF campus.

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: The first Model Mile is in design, funded in the

city budget. Construction is to be in the 2020-21 budget.

HEMMING

PARK

HOGAN

BAY

LAURA

JACKSONVILLE

LANDING

MAIN STREET

BRIDGE

BEAVER

ASHLEY

CHURCH

DUVAL

MAIN

FRIENDSHIP

FOUNTAIN

RIVERPLACE

MARY

OCEAN

SAN MARCO BLVD.

OAK

Brooklyn STation

Jacksonville Landing

The removal of the “jug handle” that allowed

big trucks access to the old Times-Union

building 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: Redevelopment agreement approved. Street closure

passed Council. The jug handle is gone and property excavated.

12 J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019

N

MAY

RIVERSIDE

FULLER WARREN BRIDGE

The city paid Sleiman Enterprises $15 million to

give up its long-term lease, and City Council approved

another $3 million to buy out tenants’

subleases then raze the structure.

STATUS: The last tenant will be out by October, but some

demolition was to start before that, with completion by May 28.

The city has a plethora of studies and ideas for what comes next,

and the DIA board will specify some parameters in what it wants

on the site before soliciting proposals. The mayor expects green

space for public gatherings as part of a mixed-use development.

PRUDENTIAL DR.


NEWNAN

FLAGLER

SPRINGFIELD

MARKET

NORTHBANK

WASHINGTON

ST. JOHNS

RIVER

SOUTHBANK

KIPP

LIBERTY

KINGS

CATHERINE

ONYX

Lofts at the Cathedral

Cathedral District-Jax is working with

Vestcor on a $20 million project to transform

the old Community Connections

(YWCA) property at 325 E. Duval St. into about 115

workforce and low-income apartments.

STATUS: Gov. DeSantis vetoed the $8 million state portion

of the cost, and Vestcor is seeking other city and state

assistance. The district hopes to close in October.

Main Street Park

Transients moved here after being made to

feel unwelcome at Hemming Park, so it was

fenced and some of the transients went to

Sulzbacher’s new Urban Rest Stop. The park remains closed.

STATUS: The city says it is: “working with the Cultural Council,

Art in Public Places, to design an art installation ... that will

be a public-interactive installation much like the concept of

Wynwood walls in Miami. It is still in the design phase.”

MONTANA

PALMETTO

VETERANS

MEMORIAL

ARENA

A. PHILIP RANDOLPH

Cathedral apartment/

art complex

Developer Rafael Caldera proposed a $5.6

million mixed-use, 45-unit apartment complex

with a ground-level art gallery and studio space plus a possible

rooftop dog park at Duval and Washington streets in the

Cathedral District, according to the Daily Record.

STATUS: The DDRB gave conceptual approval.

Berkman Plaza II

The 23-story structure has been an eyesore

since it collapsed under construction

in 2007. The new owners backed out of a

planned hotel and “family entertainment center” and said

they would downscale to a smaller hotel and residences.

STATUS: Several other prospective developers have approached

DIA, which referred them to the owners. Mayor

Curry says his team is working with the owners.

Shipping-container

apartments

JWB Real Estate Capital plans to build

an 18-unit studio-apartment complex

using repurposed shipping containers on a tiny plot at

412 E. Ashley St. in the Cathedral District.

STATUS: Approved by DDRB. No application for city

incentives yet.

BASEBALL

GROUNDS

GEORGIA

FRANKLIN

SPORTS

COMPLEX

ADAMS

GATOR BOWL BLVD.

TIAA

BANK FIELD

DAILY’S

PLACE

Parking Lot J

and Shipyards

Shad Khan’s proposed Shipyards

development is to begin on Lot

J next to the stadium and Daily’s Place, with an

entertainment complex, an office tower, a 200-

room hotel and a 300-residence tower.

STATUS: Razing expressway ramps to make

room was delayed until after football season.

The $450 million Lot J construction could be

simultaneous. Mayor Curry and the developers

agreed the city would contribute up to

$233.3 million, which must be approved by

the DIA and City Council. The deadline for a

redevelopment agreement with the city for

the Shipyards was extended to June 30, 2020.

The District

Peter Rummell’s healthy-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: Bonds are clear to be issued; a buyer is on tap. Haskell

was hired as construction manager. A “60 percent” horizontal

infrastructure design has gone to the city, and at “80 percent,” the

shovels get to work. The hotel is in final design. The “green grocer”

will be a new brand for Jacksonville.

HENDRICKS

Riverplace road diet

A road diet slims down the number of driving lanes and

makes a street friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists. The

city budget includes $4.6 million for Riverplace Boulevard

on the Southbank and $2.2 million for Park Street in Brooklyn.

STATUS: Riverplace is well under way, with the street reconfigured

and shade trees planted. Completion extended to November.

SAN MARCO

DOWNTOWN

JACKSONVILLE

TRACKING DEVELOPMENT IN THE URBAN CORE

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 13


}

The

Women’s

Issue

Designing a

Downtown

that will

attract

women

According to some

experts, if women

were in charge,

downtowns would

be more welcoming,

more successful

and more safe.

By MIKE CLARK

Illustration by

RETRO ROCKET

14

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 15


We’ll know Downtown

Jacksonville has

arrived when women

perceive it to be safe.

That’s what Anna Lopez Brosche told

the Times-Union Editorial Board when she

was running for mayor.

That was a deep statement, and it’s

more than safety. Women are more influential

than ever in American commercial

life:

• In 2010, for the first time in U.S. history,

American women controlled more than

half of U.S. private wealth, Time magazine

reported.

• Women make or influence more than

80 percent of retail decisions, such as 91

percent of home sales, 92 percent of vacations,

89 percent of bank accounts and 80

percent of health care.

A new book, based on a solid academic

research, makes the powerful case that

if downtowns are designed with women

in mind, everyone will benefit. Women

in many cases act and think differently

enough from men to influence whether

downtowns are successful.

The book is “Design Downtown for

Women: Men Will Follow” by Carol Becker,

Sheila Grant, David Feehan and Drew

McLellan.

It’s based on the premise that if women

were in charge, downtowns would be

more welcoming, more successful and

more safe.

“Designing for women doesn’t mean

excluding anyone else, just adding to the

appeal of the place,” the authors wrote.

The fact that there is little serious crime

in Downtown Jacksonville isn’t enough for

women. The following list illustrates the

top safety issues keeping women out:

• Unpredictable strangers, especially

aggressive panhandlers.

• Parking garages, especially if poorly lit.

• Groups of uncivil youth.

• Getting lost due to odd street layouts

and poor signage.

• Dirty buildings, sidewalks, trash and

graffiti.

Women voice a greater concern for a

sense of security, author William Whyte

(“The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”)

wrote. The personal “space bubbles” of

women tend to be smaller and their tolerance

for density greater, so they are often

more attracted to densely occupied places.

Some of the research also suggests that

differences between men and women

explain some of the fundamental problems

for all downtowns, but especially in

Jacksonville.

For instance, research shows that

women feel safer in crowds. Men often are

satisfied being alone. So an empty downtown

feels threatening to women, but not

so much to men.

16

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


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Women are about creating

experiences. Market your

downtown in that context and it

will be easier for her to imagine

herself in the settings to which

you’re trying to entice her. “

“Design Downtown for

‘Women: Men Will Follow”

More technology isn’t the answer.

Instead, positive cues are an open door, a

display or a sale table set up on the sidewalk,

café tables and flowers.

A park should give people choices

regarding space.

“Some places offer a quiet space for one

or two people who want to be alone while a

cluster of seats invites conversations, and a

wide walkway provides places to be anonymous

within the crowd,” the authors state.

Now consider something as simple as

color.

“In many ways, downtowns have the

color palates of men’s closets,” the authors

wrote. “We need to admit that our visual

environment is limited to one gender’s

perspective.”

There’s science involved here, too.

About 1 in 12 Northern European men

have red-green color blindness but less

than 1 in 100 women do. So bland downtowns

make a statement to women that

many men may not even recognize.

These two principles are put into play —

fear of empty spaces and bland colors — in

parking garages.

“Parking is not a car storage business.

It’s a people business,” the authors wrote.

Garages typically are gray and empty.

And at night, it’s even worse.

So why not add color to parking garages?

Color could be more than artistic flourishes,

but colors could become memory

aids. Paint every floor of a parking garage

a different color. You may be able to better

remember your car is on the red floor than

on either the third or fourth floor.

“Everything from lighting to landscaping

to nearby housing and the design

of bus stops and shelters can create a

place-avoidance factor that keeps women

and their spending away,” the authors

wrote. That includes having to drive

through a neighborhood perceived as

threatening to get downtown.

Possible solutions involve female-friendly

parking: free or low-cost

valet parking, special locations for women,

reserved parking for female employees.

Get rid of dead ends and dark corners in

parking garages. Add ground-level retail.

Walking past a long gray wall of a parking

garage is not inviting.

Having a range of services makes parking

more inviting for women: dead-battery

jumps, flat-tire assistance, help for customers

who lock their keys in the car. This helps

everyone, especially women.

Height matters

Here’s another metric that men are not

likely to notice. Seating often is designed

with an average male height in mind. In the

United States, the average man is 6 inches

taller than the average women. Older

women and foreign women are shorter

still.

There can be a 14-inch variation in eye

level. It becomes a 28-inch variation for

people in wheelchairs.

So what do you do? Whyte pointed out

that one of the most popular places to sit in

New York City is on a long sloping wall on

a hill where the changing height provides a

wide variation of seating heights.

Uneven pavement is a great hazard and

hindrance for women. Uneven pavement

and steps without railings are issues for

many women. Women, especially in heels,

have less tolerance for pavement that has

cracks, holes or cobblestones.

“Poorly maintained sidewalks make it

difficult to push a stroller, safely maneuver

a walker or scooter or pull a suitcase on

wheels,” the authors noted.

Signage is part of it. Bright, creative,

information signage sends a message.

Shopping

Understand the science of how men

and women buy.

“Men tend to be hunters. They seek

out what they need, which is probably the

same brand they’ve always worn. Once

they find it, they call it a day,” the authors

wrote.

“Women are gatherers. They want to

gather up all the possibilities and don’t really

want to make a purchase until they feel

like they’ve exposed themselves to enough

options. Women are about creating experiences

and those experiences are meant to

be shared. Market your downtown in that

context and it will be easier for her to imagine

herself in the settings to which you’re

trying to entice her. Women generate seven

times more referrals than men.”

Cleanliness matters to women.

“For many women, a dirty restroom

is like no restroom at all,” the authors

wrote. “Lack of toilet paper or empty soap

dispensers and odor are closely related

to uncleanliness in people’s minds.

Touchless controls and easily operated

hardware add to both functionality and

cleanliness.”

This matters for shopping.

“Ask women where they will shop and

they will tell you: on streets that are clean,

with ample trash receptacles, benches,

bike racks, tidy news boxes, trees, flowers,

handsome window displays, wide

sidewalks, adequate lighting with no dark

zones and no panhandlers,” the authors

wrote.

“One of the most important indicators

of a secure place is its good upkeep: the

paving is swept, windows and tabletops

are polished clean, plants are healthy and

there’s no litter.”

Bicycles

About 60 percent of adults are “interested

but concerned” when it comes to

bicycling in cities

“They would ride more often if they felt

safer, if cars were slower and less frequent

18

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


and if bicycle facilities were separated from

vehicles,” the authors wrote.

“In 2011, a protected lane was installed

on Columbus Avenue in New York City and

bicycling increased 56 percent on weekdays.”

Women generally demand more from

public spaces than men. Whyte observed

that, for this reason, women are a good

bellwether of public space: “If there is a

noticeable dip in the number of women

present, there is a good reason to believe

something is wrong. Conversely, if there is

a high concentration of women, the plaza

is working well as a public space.”

Jacksonville has made strides in adding

color to its Downtown. Major events like

ArtWalk and the jazz festival are winners.

Parking, though, is still an issue. A

poorly lit Downtown adds to a sense of

insecurity at night.

With Lori Boyer heading the Downtown

Investment Authority, we can expect to see

an appreciation for these issues.

Let’s give women an influential voice in

Downtown. We’ll all benefit.

Mike Clark has been a reporter and

editor for The Florida Times-Union and its

predecessors since 1973 and editorial page

editor since 2005. He lives in Nocatee.

EIGHT WAYS TO DESIGN

A DOWNTOWN FOR WOMEN

To design places that are more attractive to women, include these features:

1. Design in choices.

Provide surfaces,

signs and

other amenities

at a range

of heights

and sizes.

2. Provide protection

from harsh weather.

Include sheltered spaces.

3. Offer both sunny

and shady seating.

4. Install good and

durable paving.

5. Include public restrooms,

unisex if possible, that

can be cleaned well.

6. Use high quality

natural materials.

7. Connect to

surroundings with

safe, walkable streets.

8. Create a

welcoming

ambience.

SOURCE: “DESIGN DOWNTOWN FOR WOMEN: MEN WILL FOLLOW”

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FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 19


GOING TO THE SOURCE:

(L-R) Issis Alvarez, Audrey

Moran, Michelle Barth,

Keagan Anfuso, Annette

Anderson and Lauren

Hawkins

20

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


}

The

Women’s

Issue

How does

Downtown

rate with

women?

We asked.

While the urban core

might be trending in

the right direction,

there is still a need for

improvement to make

it appealing to women.

By DENISE M. REAGAN

Illustration by JEFF DAVIS

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 21


What will it take to

transform Downtown

Jacksonville into

a place for women?

Six women who currently live, work or

play in Downtown Jacksonville envision a

future destination that attracts both visitors

and hometown Jaxsons to lively streets

bustling with activities, restaurants, shops

and amenities.

Although there are several positive

signals that Downtown is moving in that

direction, most say we have a way to go to

create a district where they look forward to

spending their time and can convince family

and friends to join them.

We asked these women about their

Downtown experiences:

Annette Anderson is a seamstress

who moved to The Carling apartments on

Adams Street between Laura and Main in

2017 after living at the Beaches for 15 years.

Keagan Anfuso is a filmmaker

whose production company, Enfocus Media,

works out of the Novel Coworking space at

the corner of Market and Forsyth streets. She

lives with her girlfriend and two elementary

school-aged children in Riverside.

Michelle Barth is the associate

vice president of advancement and external

affairs at the Jacksonville Symphony and

previously served as deputy chief of staff for

Mayor Alvin Brown. After living at the Plaza

Condominium at Berkman Plaza and Marina

since 2008, she knows Downtown like the

back of her hand.

Issis Alvarez is the program manager

for the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida

and works in the Jessie Ball duPont Center

at the corner of Adams and Main streets.

She and her husband live with two teenage

children near St. Augustine.

Lauren Hawkins recently took on

the role of resident director for 20West, the

Adams Street residences for Florida State

College at Jacksonville students. Over the last

few months, she’s been exploring Downtown

and said she loves the convenience of

being close to school, work and home.

Audrey Moran is president of the

Baptist Health Foundation, where she works

on the Southbank. She previously served as

chief of staff for Mayor John Delaney, director

of legislative affairs for Mayor Ed Austin,

and president and CEO of the Sulzbacher

Center for the Homeless. Her numerous

appointments regularly take her to meetings

throughout the urban core.

All of the women compared Downtown

Jacksonville to other cities they’ve visited

and pointed out two major differences:

density and mobility. When reminiscing

about memorable trips to other downtowns,

they all had one thing in common: They

could park once and go to all the places they

wanted to visit.

When Anfuso visits other cities like

Chattanooga, Tenn., the downtown is a huge

draw. She finds it’s easy to park once and

spend a whole weekend without moving her

car.

“Everything pushes you toward downtown,”

she said. “I want to eat. Great, go

downtown … I want to try something new.

Great, go downtown … We don’t seem to

have that here.”

BOB SELF

22

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


‘‘

I feel

completely

safe, and I

have walked

through

Downtown

at all times

of day and

night.”

MICHELLE BARTH

‘‘

“As somebody

who grew up

here and lives

here, there

isn’t a reason

for me to go

Downtown

on a regular

basis.”

KEAGAN ANFUSO


‘‘

The spooky

thing for me

about being

Downtown is

you can walk

outside, and

you see no one.

There’s not a

car, there’s

not a person.”

ANNETTE ANDERSON

Anderson longs for a concentrated and

connected Downtown, so she doesn’t need

a car and “can just go from one experience

to the next.”

Barth pointed to the longtime undeveloped

Shipyards property as key to creating

those connections between the Sports

Complex and Bay Street bars and clubs.

She mentioned that one big impediment is

the Maxwell House plant, although she was

quick to point out she loves “the smell of

coffee Downtown.”

“I feel there’s no exploration or adventure

here in Downtown,” Alvarez said. “I feel like

until that happens, I don’t see me talking

anyone into coming and hanging out for a

day here.”

Perception

So how do we get there? One thing is

addressing the perception people have of

Downtown Jacksonville.

When asked about Downtown’s reputation,

the answers tended to start on the

negative end of the spectrum: Deserted.

Dead. Depressing. Apocalyptic. Scary.

“As somebody who grew up here and

lives here,” Anfuso said, “there isn’t a

reason for me to go Downtown on a regular

basis.”

Barth pushed back on the narrative that

there’s nothing going on Downtown. She

rattled off the number of Jaguars games,

concerts at the VyStar Veterans Memorial

Arena, shows at The Florida Theatre and

the Times-Union Center for the Performing

Arts and Jacksonville Symphony events.

“I can watch fireworks every Friday

night from my place,” Barth said of the

displays following Jumbo Shrimp games.

“Where I live at Berkman Plaza, I see the

line for some of those clubs wrap around

the block on a Thursday. Those are things

you don’t see because that’s not happening

until 10 or 11 o’clock at night.”

Hawkins said Downtown is on the

“come up.” “It will take the right team of

people — some traditional, some innovative

and open-minded — to help it become

more city-like. We have to be willing to tap

into the potential and strengthen the weak

areas.”

“It’s going to take some serious consideration

to be able to draw people away

from that main draw, which is the beaches,

to Downtown,” Anderson said. “It certainly

isn’t there yet.”

Anfuso said there is an upside — in the

reaction producers have when they see

all the unused spaces that could serve as

film sets. Even though it might sound a bit

negative.

“‘What a great blank canvas!’” Anfuso

said. “We do have a Downtown that has this

really beautiful layout and architecture that

people creatively freak out about.”

Safety

In comparison to other metropolitan

centers, Jacksonville often lags behind, but

there is one area where Downtown benefits

by comparison: safety.

“I feel completely safe, and I have

walked through Downtown at all times of

day and night,” Barth said.

“As a resident of Downtown, I feel safe

a majority of the time,” Hawkins said. She

added that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

should do more outreach beyond just acting

as security at events.

Alvarez said when she has traveled to

BOB SELF

24

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


‘‘

I wouldn’t

move my

family where

I couldn’t

have access

to a grocery

store quickly.”

Issis Alvarez

BOB SELF

denser metropolitan areas, such as San

Francisco, she experienced what it’s like to

feel real danger. But she’s never really felt

that way in Downtown Jacksonville. She

said 99.9 percent of the time she feels safe,

but “it is the lack of density that freaks me

out. It’s when I’m working late and I go outside

and I see no one … It’s just weird.”

Alvarez said if someone is walking

behind her in the dark for more than three

seconds, it’s difficult to find refuge because

there are so many long stretches of empty

store fronts. “I’m like, OK, where is my next

safe haven?”

Anderson agreed: “The spooky thing for

me about being Downtown is you can walk

outside, and you see no one. There’s not a

car, there’s not a person.”

However, she said the perception of

Downtown from those living in the far corners

of the city is skewed. “I’ve had clients

from Ponte Vedra come down here and say,

‘How do you live here?’” Anderson said.

“Do you know what? It’s real life. It’s life. It’s

not clean and tidy and whitewashed.”

Anfuso recalled when friends from New

York or San Diego visited. They couldn’t

wrap their heads around the idea that

Jacksonville residents were afraid to go

Downtown.

“This is a joke to them,” she said, “the

idea of being afraid on these streets.”

Anfuso said realistically people aren’t

afraid of getting shot, assaulted, robbed or

snatched. “They’re afraid some homeless

person is going to ask them for money in a

mean way,” Anfuso said. “That’s the worst

thing that they actually think is going to

happen.”

Maybe we just need to arm people with

a strong “no.”

Anderson said in reality, there are only

a handful of people who might be drug-addicted

or mentally ill. “I’ve seen some

things that are disturbing and sad.”

Alvarez agreed: “You definitely see a

lot of the same faces of folks that are very

publicly going through this time and time

again.”

“We have shelters and services for our

homeless citizens on all four corners of

Downtown and smack dab in the middle,”

Moran said. “We need a master plan to consolidate

these services in an appropriate

location. That will free up a lot more opportunities

for development of Downtown.”

She added that relocating the John E.

Goode Pre-trial Detention Facility away

from Bay Street is critically important. “And

when the jail moves, Sulzbacher will need

to move as well.”

Parking

Any discussion of Downtown Jacksonville

almost always brings up parking.

Moran insisted parking is not a problem

Downtown and says the urban core has way

too many surface lots.

“I often joke that our city suffers from a

‘motel parking’ culture,” Moran said. “We

expect to pull right up to the door of our

destination, instead of parking and walking,

which is the norm in most other downtowns.”

But some of the women tied parking to a

sense of safety. Barth said she knows some

people look for parking that is near their

destination so they can feel more secure.

Everyone agreed that upgrading parking

meters to use apps and payment options

beyond quarters is essential.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 25


‘‘

I often joke

that our city

suffers from a

‘motel parking’

culture. We

expect to pull

right up to the

door of our

destination.”

AUDREY MORAN

Barth said installing signage that clearly

indicates where parking is available is key.

She applauded the installation of new signs

pointing to the Northbank Riverwalk.

Mobility

Hawkins, who walks about four miles

a day, said one of the impediments to

walking in Downtown is the heat, particularly

because there are so many stretches of

unshaded sidewalks.

“Walking has been beneficial to my

overall health; it’s honestly very therapeutic,”

Hawkins said. “I get a chance to ‘smell

the roses,’ meet new people, and stumble

across new places.”

Barth shared anecdotes of women

dressed to the nines to hit the clubs on

Bay Street. She often fears for them as

they teeter on the heels of their gorgeous

shoes while trying to navigate gratings and

uneven sidewalks.

Other ways of navigating Downtown

led to discussion of the Skyway, which was

never really finished.

While Barth related stories of packed

Skyway cars during lunch hour, Anfuso

described the Skyway as a great location for

a film set in a dystopian future because it

often seems so deserted. However, Anfuso

related her mother’s experience on the Skyway

during One Spark. She described her

mom as a Mandarin resident who’s never

traveled outside of Florida.

“I put her on it, and she thought she was

having like a sci-fi film experience,” Anfuso

said. “It blew her mind.”

The river

Alvarez said one of the most important

aspects of mobility in Downtown is

the activation of the waterfront. “From

my experience, it doesn’t feel like there’s

one cohesive identity between both of the

banks.”

Anfuso shared her experience with waterfronts

in Tampa, San Diego, Chattanooga

and Cleveland where you can find people

regularly paddle boarding, kayaking and

jet skiing. “This is what Jacksonville could

look like.”

But she said she thinks Jacksonville

residents are afraid of the river. “They have

an idea in their brains that our river is just

so horribly dirty and contaminated.”

Historically the St. Johns River has had

horrible pollution problems, but that’s no

longer the case. However, the river still deals

with high nitrogen levels, and dredging

could introduce other environmental

stresses.

Barth fondly remembered eating within

feet of the water at The Jacksonville Landing.

Hawkins agreed that more river-view

dining options are needed.

Downtown living

Living Downtown is becoming more

and more attractive, especially as businesses

relocate to the urban core. Moran said

Debbie Buckland’s leadership as chair of

the JAX Chamber has put more focus on

residential development in the city center.

“We need lots of housing options to

get more folks Downtown,” Moran said,

“affordable apartments, like the Vestcor

projects that are very popular, to high-end

condos.” The Vestcor Companies have built

the Lofts at LaVilla and the Lofts at Monroe,

and are finishing construction of the Lofts

at Jefferson Station.

WILL DICKEY

26

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


‘‘

I love the

convenience

of being close

to school, work

and home.

You can meet

so many

people with the

same interests,

hobbies, etc.”

LAUREN HAWKINS

DEDE SMITH

The three women who live Downtown

said the benefits far outweigh the deficits.

“I don’t want to be anywhere else,” Barth

said, “because it is easy to live Downtown.”

“I love the convenience of being close

to school, work and home,” Hawkins said.

“You save time and money on gas, mileage,

wear and tear on your car and the hassle of

finding parking. Networking is the cherry

on top! You can meet so many people with

the same interests, hobbies, etc.”

Anderson described her Downtown

experience as rich in culture with all the

places she loves — MOCA Jacksonville,

Hemming Park, food trucks, The Florida

Theatre, The 5 & Dime. And she doesn’t

have to add the hassle of figuring out where

to park.

“In five minutes, I can be to all of those

places, and that’s joyous,” she said.

“I like it because it’s grittier,” Anderson

said. “I like an urban experience. I feel that

it reflects life in a more realistic way, which

I like. It’s not just homogeneous.”

But the downside is that a large swath of

Downtown is still empty. She wants to see

more businesses — dry cleaners, bodegas,

shoe repair, drug stores, restaurants. In an

age where you can have almost anything

delivered right to your door, Anderson

wants to get to know the people who work

at the stores in her neighborhood.

“I like that sense of community,” she said.

Wish lists

Alvarez listed the joys of shopping at

several locally owned businesses, such

as Wolf & Cub, Chamblin’s Uptown and

Vagabond Coffee Bodega. But one big thing

is missing.

“I wouldn’t move my family where I

couldn’t have access to a grocery store

quickly,” Alvarez said.

Barth said the Downtown Harvey’s

Supermarket is an acceptable option in a

pinch. She can easily drive to Fresh Market

in Brooklyn or Publix in Riverside, although

increased traffic has made those drives a bit

longer. Plans reported in 2014 for the Laura

Street Trio included an urban grocery.

“I don’t even want to get in a car,” Anderson

lamented.

In addition to a high-quality grocery

store, Barth listed several items on her

Downtown wish list: a fish market, a general

store and a liquor store where she can

buy supplies to enjoy a gin and tonic on

her balcony. Hawkins longs for a few more

clothing boutiques and a store specializing

in healthy food.

Anfuso said the people she works with in

the film industry complain that Downtown

Jacksonville is missing a destination hotel.

“There’s no impressive, breathtaking,

you-have-to-stay-at-this-hotel Downtown,”

Anfuso said.

One of the biggest items on everyone’s

wish list is a robust calendar that helps visitors

and hometown folks alike know what’s

going on in Downtown, although event listings

from Visit Jacksonville and Downtown

Vision are doing a good job.

“They have no idea where to go, so they

drive through Downtown,” Anfuso said.

“They don’t know where to go or what

to do, and then they end up at the Town

Center.”

Denise M. Reagan is the executive

director of the Garden Club of Jacksonville.

She lives in Arlington.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 27


LISTENING TO CONSTITUENTS:

DIA CEO Lori Boyer talks with

Stanley Scott, the managing director

of the African American Economic

Recovery Think Tank about his

concerns with condominium

development plans incorporating “Lift

Ev’ry Voice and Sing” park in LaVilla.

28

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


}

The

Women’s

Issue

Lori Boyer’s

next act just

might be her

biggest one yet

An advocate for

numerous Downtown

initiatives, the former

city councilwoman

is now at the helm

of the Downtown

Investment Authority.

By FRANK DENTON

Photos by BOB SELF

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 29


Downtown and

Lori Boyer may be

reaching critical

mass together.

Boyer might tell you she already has,

with her new job as chief executive officer

of the Downtown Investment Authority,

after earlier careers and activities that

almost seem like designed preparation

for her to be the leader of Downtown

redevelopment.

She is finding that our groggily awakening

Downtown may be reaching the

point of having its own energy in attracting

and driving activity and investment

and new life.

Boyer came here 41 years ago, having

transcended a humble upbringing in rural

South Dakota — famously working at the

Dairy Queen through high school — by

graduating from Georgetown University

and the University of Florida Law School.

She launched her career as a lawyer

practicing in land use and environmental

law then, in the early ’90s, ended up working

for, then running several real estate

investment and management companies.

And on her own time, she plunged

into community service through a raft of

neighborhood and civic organizations and

finally as a member of the City Council for

two terms, distinguished by major Downtown

initiatives, notably simplifying the

arcane zoning system and creating a plan,

now being implemented, for humanizing

the St. Johns River through people-oriented

nodes of access and activity.

Amid the political squabbles, lawsuits

over the Landing and fizzles like Berkman

II, Boyer was quietly putting ideas and

pieces together, organizing support and

getting things done, without all the criticism,

arguments and excuses.

Frankly, Boyer’s critical mass for the

DIA job came because her first careers

made it financially feasible. “Both in my

legal practice, and eventually in the real

estate development and property management

fields, those were income-producing

years,” she said. “And I got to the

point where I didn’t have to work solely

for income.

“It was a choice when my youngest

child, my son, went to college. That’s when

I decided to run for public office. It was

one of those moments in one’s life where

you reflect and regroup and say, what do

I want to do now? And it really was an

opportunity to use skills and background

that I had in a way that would benefit the

city that I loved and had been home to me

for a long time.

“So I do find this fun. I wouldn’t be

doing it, frankly, if I didn’t, but I think it’s

30

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


BOYER

also meaningful. And to me, those two

blend a little bit.”

Critical mass

Downtown

Only two weeks into the job in July,

Boyer already could feel Downtown

approaching its own critical mass. “I have

lots of individual developers and investors

at the moment that are reaching out and

scheduling meetings that have an interest

in Jacksonville,” she said in an interview

then. “I’ve had folks from New York and

Detroit, and Atlanta, and … I mean, in just

in the last two weeks.”

J magazine has been among those

pointing out that most of the new investment

in Downtown has been local people,

sometimes out of loyalty, not out-of-town

investors seeing an opportunity to get

involved in a valid economic opportunity.

Boyer acknowledged that DIA has not

really been marketing Jacksonville beyond

Jacksonville much. “Most of the projects

tend to be local developers and people

that have invested. I think that was a fact

of the market at the time, because you had

to be local and really know what-was-what

in order to be able to make money. We

just weren’t there yet.”

But critical mass is forming, she said.

“We have gotten to a place now where we

all say we hear this momentum and everything.

It’s real in terms of numbers, it’s real

in terms of investment. The market rent

on residential, the multifamily units, is

now above $2 a square foot. That seems to

be the magic number that everyone uses

from an investment perspective, to say I

can pay current construction costs and

Boyer takes calls in her office after her first meeting

as CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority.

still get enough return on my investment

to make this worthwhile, which is generating

all this external interest.”

There are always

the suburbs

That’s a real turnaround from the past

few decades, when hardly anyone lived

Downtown or even played Downtown

and people used it only as a place to work.

That was not only because of the lure of

the beach, the suburbs and the shopping

malls but also because there wasn’t much

going on Downtown.

“I think the successful downtowns now

obviously have offices and jobs,” Boyer

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 31


BOYER

As chief executive officer of the Downtown Investment Authority, Boyer hit the ground running during her first DIA board meeting in August.

said. “But the critical pillar for a successful

Downtown today is that 10,000 or maybe

it’s 11 or 12,000 people live there. It is

having residents Downtown who seek and

bring a certain lifestyle and a certain energy.

Yes, they want to live there because

it’s convenient for work, but for some of

them, they commute out.

“What they really want to live there for

is the lifestyle and the proximity to the

Performing Arts Center and the proximity

to the stadium and the proximity to

districts like the Elbow. And the opportunities

that being in that urban environment

provides for interaction with other

people, where you’re not going into your

apartment or your yard and closing your

front door and not seeing anybody else.

People are on the street, and there’s a

different opportunity to interact. It’s the

energy from that which drives, I think,

both the younger folks who want to live in

Downtown and the retirees who want to

live in town. I think they’re both coming

for the same reason — looking for that

lifestyle.

“So there is this migration to urban

areas,” Boyer said. “And when you get

that critical mass of people that have that

lifestyle desire, then the businesses that

support that lifestyle, the entertainment

venues, the restaurants, the attractions,

all can thrive, and it becomes this domino

effect.

“That is the vision, coupled with the

fact that we have this magnificent river.

We’ve been going around the country,

in Toronto, nationally, internationally,

looking at what other people have done

Boyer served two terms as a Jacksonville city

council member before taking over as CEO of the

Downtown Investment Authority.


‘‘

was adopted under the then-new DIA in

with their waterfront, and how can the

waterfront activation feed into and create

that lifestyle and that energy for the people

who are moving Downtown and draw

other people Downtown because they

want to come visit. So, it becomes maybe

not the only central focus of Jacksonville

— there are going to be people who

prefer the beach, and there are going to be

people who want to go to (St. Johns) Town

Center. But Downtown should be on a

par with those in terms of competing for:

What do I do this weekend?”

A master plan?

Skeptics, especially John Q. Cynic, still

dismiss Downtown plans and progress by

arguing that nothing much will happen

until we get a master plan.

They’re overlooking the fact that we do

have a master plan. Unfortunately, it is not

called the “Downtown Master Plan.” It has

the catchy title “Downtown Northbank and

Southside Community Redevelopment

Area Plan” and “Business Investment and

Development Strategy” and consists of 381

pages of data, background, studies, explanations,

recommendations and, finally,

projects as specific as “free Wi-Fi system”

(done) and “Hemming Park Re-Design and

Programming” (done), as complicated as

“Riverplace Boulevard Road Diet” (under

construction) and as big as “Reintroduce

Two-Way Streets” (not done yet). When it

There are going to be people who

prefer the beach, and there are

going to be people who want to

go to (St. Johns) Town Center. But

Downtown should be on a par

with those in terms of competing

for: What do I do this weekend?”

2014, it set near-term goals for 2014-2015,

mid-term goals for 2017-2021 and longterm

goals for 2021-2025, the last including

the long-dreamed-of Emerald Trail.

Boyer said, “We have more of a master

plan than people think or acknowledge.

But what we have is a 300-page document

of text. Most people don’t relate to that.

They want to see drawings, they want to

see some bullet-point graphics.

“So what we really need to do is synthesize

what’s in that document and present it

in a way that is more visual and easily understandable.

So we are required this year

to update the CRA plan and the BID plan,

and we have professional service dollars in

next year’s budget to do that.

“Frankly, there’s not much in it that I

disagree with. I just think we need to elaborate

and to refine it. The things like the

LaVilla strategy, which has become a more

specific, more refined element for La Villa.

“Brooklyn is so far along in its development,

I think it would be not a great investment

to do some kind of an overlaid more

detailed master plan for Brooklyn because

most of Brooklyn is pretty clear. You’ve got

the office towers and kind of this commercial

corridor along Riverside Avenue.

You’ve got the residential developing next

to it. There are plans for McCoys Creek and

the area between Park Street and McCoys.

Brooklyn’s a long way along in its master

plan design already.

“Cathedral District has done its own

plan. What’s going to happen at the

Shipyards and Lot J is largely being master-planned

by the master developer.

“So I think we have that master plan, I

just don’t think we’ve done a good job of

presenting it to the world.”

LORI BOYER

Boyer said she’s gone through the plan

and found that most of the early goals have

been accomplished. “But there are a number

of things we haven’t done, and I have

them all in my list for next year. It’s like OK,

how do we start doing this?”

She will have more firepower than her

predecessor Aundra Wallace, as the DIA is

now searching for a new redevelopment

coordinator, a communications coordinator

and a real estate development director.

At the moment, Boyer has only two staff

members.

What about those

two-way streets?

“We’re starting on that this summer,”

Boyer said. “We’re doing turning-radius

Boyer visits with DIA board members Braxton

Gillam and Todd Froats after wrapping up her first

meeting as CEO.



counts to figure out, from an intersection

standpoint, how trucks would turn and

things like that if we converted to two-way

and whether we have to make curve modifications.

We have some funding in the

Downtown tax-increment district. Could

we implement one street next year or three

blocks of one street? Or how do you do it?

How do you phase it? So we’re trying to

figure out the if-I-do-this-street-do-I-haveto-do-the-cross-street-too?”

The DIA is analyzing such practical

issues this year, she said, “so that hopefully

next year in the budget, we can incorporate

at least several streets and start

working our way through them.”

The vibrancy that you’re seeing

in Brooklyn, or that you’re

seeing on the Southbank, or if

the entertainment zone happens

by the stadium and some energy

I’m seeing down there about

other developments in that area.

They’re all wonderful. But we

need this core area to have that.”

LORI BOYER

A need for city

money Downtown

One issue facing Downtown revitalization

is, of course, money. Most of the

investment is coming, and should and

must come, from private investors who

see a way to earn a profitable return or

make a commitment to Downtown. But

it also will require some public money to

jump-start some projects and to provide

public infrastructure and amenities.

What is the funding role of the DIA, as

the Downtown ringmaster?

Boyer says the city’s Historic Preservation

Trust could use an infusion of cash,

since it is entirely committed now. So

some important projects that would be eligible

for such money — the Ambassador

Hotel, for example, and Jones Brothers

Furniture project — will have to get their

public contributions from specific City

Council appropriations.

As a recent and longtime council

member, she didn’t seem to have a problem

with that, but she does see a need for

a funding source for Downtown capital

projects that are part of the master plan

but not funded. “Implementing the twoway

streets,” she gave as an example.

“We’re going to be doing a park study

implementing Downtown parks that

serve residents Downtown. Whether it’s a

dog park or tot lot or implementing some

of the activation things along the waterfront,

some of that will be that public

infrastructure that serves the Downtown

community we are building. Those will

need to be funded. And that will be something

where that would be very helpful if

we had funds that we could just use for

that.”

Those could be individual appropriations,

or the council could entrust the DIA

with general Downtown funding.

“Could be either way,” she said. “If the

funds were allocated to the Downtown

Investment Authority and the board had

the authority to pick and choose specifically

which project made more sense and

whatever development activity was going

on there, it’s a streamlined process and

probably a more strategic process.”

As an example, she talked about the

competing proposals to develop townhouses

in LaVilla on city-owned land

between the Jacksonville Regional Transportation

Center and Lift Ev’ry Voice and

Sing Park. The proposals differed on what

would be in the developments, how the

developers would pay for the land, how

they would integrate into LaVilla’s plan

and their commitments to the park.

“But that’s a parks department issue,”

Boyer said. “And they both go right along

Lee Street where the Model Mile of the

Emerald Trail is proposed. And the

LaVilla strategy suggests moving the curb

on Lee Street. Well, we really don’t want

Development A constructed until we fund

and work with the public side of this so

that the things all work together. So the

curb line, the Model Mile location where

the trail is and how it interfaces with the

park all need to be decided before you

have somebody build you in and confine

that space.

“And so that’s one of those things

that if the DIA had funds for Downtown

infrastructure projects they could then

use, you could solve this problem. I mean,

without having to go through three or

four pieces of legislation and figure it out,

we could solve that problem. We need to

make all of those happen together.”

Money to facilitate

adaptive reuse

In the Q&A on page 92, Downtown

pioneer Sherry Magill argues for adaptive

reuse of historic or old buildings

over the proliferating and often lookalike

modern buildings, such as the apartment

complexes in Brooklyn, LaVilla and the

Southbank. Putting new life into historic

buildings creates character and authenticity

that many people, especially millennials,

seek in deciding where to live and

play.

“It’s largely the economics of it,” Boyer

said. “It’s hard and expensive to do adaptive

reuse of older buildings. The DIA supported

the FSCJ (student apartments on

Adams Street), we’ve got the Ambassador

Hotel, we’ve got the Jones Brothers building.

The Ambassador’s moving forward,

Jones Brothers is working to find tenants

and make the numbers work. We’ve got

34

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


Barnett coming online. I sure hope we get

ground broken on the Laura Street Trio

behind it.

“But I do think that one of the things in

our plan update that merits consideration

is whether there is some other incentive

we can provide for adaptive reuse. I think

I agree with her there’s a value in it. I don’t

want to see the building demolished. But

how can we make it economically viable

for somebody? And I will tell you that a

lot of the folks who have done historic

renovations have really lost their shirts on

it. And don’t feel that it’s … even with the

incentives that we provide for it, that it’s a

value proposition at the moment.

“Even when Clara White (Mission) was

doing some veterans housing units in an

old facility, they had to come back for a

couple of additional appropriations … it

doesn’t even matter the magnitude or the

scale of the project or how luxury it is or

not. They all seem to be really challenged

to make the numbers work.

Boyer talks with a member of the media as she

arrives for a DIA board meeting in Jacksonville’s

City Hall building.

“So the question is what else can we

do to make that happen? Because I would

agree with Sherry that this core area,

and having significant vacancies in it, is

a challenge for Downtown overall. It’s

important to us … the vibrancy that you’re

seeing in Brooklyn, or that you’re seeing

on the Southbank, or if the entertainment

zone happens by the stadium and some

energy I’m seeing down there about other

developments in that area. They’re all

wonderful. But we need this core area to

have that.”

A passion for

Downtown

Boyer’s driving motivation will be her

personal passion for Downtown.

“Absolutely,” she said. “I lived in

Avondale and then I lived in San Marco.

So I’ve always lived close to Downtown.

And back in the day, I worked Downtown,

I worked in the Barnett Bank building,

and I worked in Independent Life when

it was Independent Life. So I remember

Downtown when the department stores

were still Downtown and the streets were

bustling. It’s not like I moved here and

lived in the suburbs and didn’t have that

relationship with Downtown.

“I remember when bands used to play

at the park around Friendship Fountain

and we would go on the weekend and

take our kids and sit on a blanket and

watch that. I mean, I remember lots of

things we used to have Downtown that,

over the years, we don’t anymore, that

we’ve lost.

“But I didn’t become passionate about

the opportunities that we have Downtown

now, really, until my work on City

Council. What I started to see was this

momentum building in this opportunity.

And then I became a real Downtown

advocate.

“It’s different, it won’t be the same,”

she said, “but there is a new downtown

era across the nation. We have an opportunity

to create what the new Downtown

Jacksonville is. And we’re getting very

close to having the critical mass that will

make it the vibrant place that everybody’s

been looking for.”

Frank Denton, retired editor of

The Florida Times-Union, is editor of J.

He lives in Riverside.


}

The

Women’s

Issue

Closing the

gender gap in

Jacksonville

leadership

Women in power in

Jacksonville isn’t unheard of,

but it’s more the exception

than the rule. From 1999 to

2003, 10 women, including

Elaine Brown, served on

City Council. Brown is now

mayor of Neptune Beach.

By MIKE CLARK

Photo by BOB SELF

36

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


WOMEN IN CHARGE:

Elaine Brown was part

of a historic Jacksonville

City Council class.

From 1999 to 2003, 10

female members – a

majority – were elected

to the council.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 37


Inertia can be

incredibly powerful.

Even bad decisions are

difficult to overturn

once they have the power of precedent.

When it comes to the role of women in

Jacksonville, precedent is that they have

limited power with some major exceptions.

So a group of influential women and a

few men have been working in recent years

to change that precedent, to help Jacksonville

take full advantage of all of its great

leaders, and that includes women.

But as philanthropist Cynthia Edelman

told me, emotion in her voice, “This is hard

work.”

That is the tragedy and the injustice.

How long has Jacksonville lost the

contributions of outstanding women? How

many of them have left the city because they

could find opportunities elsewhere? It’s a

particular issue for Downtown revitalization

because Downtown is the locus of power,

as the center of government, business and

leadership.

How do you change this narrative?

The Jacksonville Women’s Leadership

Coalition, which represents about 13

women’s groups, has hired the Institute for

Women’s Policy Research of Washington

to conduct a report on the status of women

in Jacksonville’s leadership positions. It will

reveal progress and the lack of it. The report

is expected in October.

The Institute for Women’s Policy

Research was founded in 1987 to “inspire

public dialogue, shape policy and improve

the lives and opportunities of women.” The

group is independent and does not lobby.

The Community Foundation for Northeast

Florida is providing much of the fundraising

and organizational support.

The study emerged from a summit

sponsored by the EVE Awards of the Times-

Union. Edelman said a three-part action list

was developed:

Produce data for a scorecard that will

reveal the status of women in key Jacksonville

areas such as business, government

and nonprofits.

Foster a leadership pipeline. Many

young women want to know about mentors.

Where do you find them? How does mentorship

work?

How can men be encouraged to be more

engaged in this work? Jacksonville University

President Tim Cost and retired CSX CEO

Michael Ward lead this effort.

While we don’t have the Jacksonville

findings, the Institute for Women’s Policy

Research in 2018 produced a report on the

economic status of women in Florida.

“Women in Florida have made considerable

advances in recent years but still face

inequities that often prevent them from

reaching their full potential,” the report

states.

Since 2004, the gender wage gap has

narrowed, a higher percentage of women

have bachelor’s degrees but a larger share of

women live in poverty.

“If employed women in Florida were

paid the same as comparable men, their

poverty rate would be reduced by more than

half and poverty among employed single

mothers would also drop by more than half,”

the report stated.

A major issue is that the community

remains largely unaware of inequities

faced by women. Take City Council. There

currently are five women on the 19-member

group, 26 percent. That’s actually

38

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


etter than most years.

When I took over as editorial page editor of the Times-Union in

2005, I was surprised by what I saw in City Council chambers. Not

only were there many women on City Council, but at times most of

the staff members at committee meetings were women — city attorneys,

auditors and so forth.

I thought that was progress, the new normal. Sadly, it was an

exception.

The City Council’s website lists all the members of each four-year

term since consolidation. It shows Jacksonville has made almost no

progress in the representation of women on the council in the over

50 years since consolidation.

For instance, the first two classes of City Council — 1967-1971 and

1971-1975 — included just two women in the 19 members. Sallye

Mathis and Mary Singleton were giants, but they were definitely

exceptions in a male-dominated group.

Most often there have been either three women (four times) or

four women (four times) on City Council.

Has there ever been a majority of women on City Council? Yes,

once. In 1999-2003, there were 10 women, including four of five atlarge

female members elected countywide.

Matt Carlucci was in a unique position in that 1999 City Council

class. He was a white male in the minority.

“That was a historic council, and I knew it even then,” he said in an

email. “I was extremely proud to be part of it.”

He recalls Alberta Hipps as council president playing an important

role in splitting the Jacksonville Aviation Authority from the Port Authority

as well as leading City Council on the Better Jacksonville Plan.

Carlucci said this majority-female council made Jacksonville a

better place because “it was a council of unity and caring.”

Elaine Brown was one of the 10 female trailblazers of the 1999 City

Council class. That class included a female president, Ginger Soud,

followed the next year by another female president, Alberta Hipps.

Brown’s campaign platform highlighted her “experience, leadership

and commitment” along with the proven ability to bring projects

to fruition. She had to defend her candidacy as separate from her

husband Dick Brown’s political career.

“We shocked everyone in the city because they expected a lot

of infighting,” Brown said. “That never happened.There was good

debate and then we went about our business.”

A reading of news stories of the time showed Brown’s involvement

in Downtown, children’s issues and redevelopment. She and Councilwoman

Suzanne Jenkins persuaded Mayor John Delaney and

Sheriff Nat Glover to tour several neglected neighborhoods.

In Brown’s second term with eight women on the council she was

president in the 2004-2005 year. That term was marked by four major

storms and a Super Bowl.

At a youth football game for the Super Bowl coached by Snoop

Dogg she even rapped to cheers from the crowd.Suddenly, slippage

occurred with just three women in the next two classes.

What happened? It’s difficult to say.

Edelman said she intends that the study produced by the Institute

for Women’s Policy Research will not sit on a shelf but will be used to

spur progress. A business, for instance, could be publicly recognized

as being a leader in providing opportunities for women.

“To have a document that is respected as a standard would be a

very positive step for the community,” she said. “Women have been

undervalued, and it’s time for women to step up and use their voices

to help those who don’t have one.

Debbie Buckland, the chair of the JAX Chamber board and a leader

in the Women’s Leadership Coalition, said that the report is going

to be relentlessly data-driven. It will identify areas of “best in class”

in Jacksonville that are “doing it right” when it comes to including

women as key leaders.

As CEO of CSX, Ward had seven people reporting to him. There

were four women, including the operations head. For Ward, it just

made good business sense to have that diversity.

“If you get two or three smart people together you probably come

up with a good answer to a problem or situation,” he said. “If you

have four or five you do even better, especially if you have some

diversity of views.

“The plain old fact is that men and women think differently. I’m

sorry, it’s just reality. So having different points of view and different

life experiences helps an organization come up with different

answers.”

Ward was asked why this is so difficult.

“It’s an issue in Jacksonville,” he said, “but it’s not a Jacksonville-only

issue.”

How can more men be encouraged to mentor women?

“There are people who do that naturally,” Ward said. “But the

Me-Too movement may be making that a little bit harder. People who

are not strongly inclined to mentor can use it as a great excuse not to

do it.”

Which brings us back to pushing against inertia. The effort is

worth it.

For those who want a better quality of life in Jacksonville, talented

women are needed.

Mike Clark has been a reporter and editor for The Florida Times-Union

and the Jacksonville Journal since 1973 and editorial page editor since 2005.

He lives in Nocatee.

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FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 39


Q:

CHECKING

More than 4,000 readers of

The Florida Times-Union have

volunteered to be part of the

Email Interactive Group. They

respond to occasional questions

about public issues in our

community.

Linda Segall,

Jacksonville

Several years ago before GPS,

my sister-in-law was in Jacksonville

for business. I found

the streets confusing. I had

difficulty finding the Omni!

Although I have GPS now, I

still find navigating Downtown

extremely difficult.

Patricia A. Kidd,

Jacksonville

If we are speaking of current

experiences, it would definitely

be going to events in

the beautiful Main Library,

from the Makerspace to

weddings. The worst experience

involves parks filled with

trash and loiterers.

Mary Bolin,

Jacksonville Beach

I always enjoyed the lighting

of the Christmas tree at the

Landing. The music and entertainment

was a great way to

celebrate the season.

THE PULSE

Terri Quint,

Ponte Vedra

The least alluring aspect of

going Downtown is finding

a parking space that doesn’t

cost $20. There should be

several parking garages with

a $5 maximum charge and

more parking meters.

Barbara Link,

Jacksonville

The worst is having someone

panhandle you every time

you get out of your car. Then

there’s the smell of the urine

on the streets, the food trash

that goes into the river when

we get a rainstorm. Take old

military barracks and require

the homeless to take care of

them. Do the right thing to

save the city.

Lisa Elwell,

Ponte Vedra Beach

Our best: Back in the early

‘90s, we used to bring our

boat Downtown, tie up at

the Landing or at River City

Brewery and go to the restaurants

and shop at the Landing.

I used to love watching fudge

being made at the Landing.

Our worst: Going to the Florida

Theatre and being harassed by

homeless people.

By Mike Clark

What were your best

and worst experiences in

Downtown Jacksonville?

Linda Willson,

Southside

My best experiences have

involved seeing singers and

dancers I admire at the Florida

Theatre. Just visiting the theatre

itself is a treat. My worst

experiences Downtown have

involved trouble finding parking,

getting lost because of the

troublesome one-way streets,

the exhausting heat during the

eight months of summer and

no shade.

Bonnie Sinatro,

Jacksonville

My best Downtown experience

by far? One Spark! It highlighted

everything wonderful

about Jacksonville — the arts,

the music, the fun. So many

young businesses got their

start at this event, and so much

cutting-edge creativity was

showcased. Bring it back!

Karen Bound,

Jacksonville

Best experiences are good

shows at the Florida Theatre

and the Times-Union Center.

Worst experiences involve

horrendous parking for handicapped

people. I would be

enticed to come Downtown

with a block or two of ethnic

restaurants.

Harriet Pruette,

Neptune Beach

While driving near the city bus

terminal, I see people sleeping

and sprawled along the sidewalks

with plastic bags and

garbage and filth. It’s absolutely

disgusting and certainly

shows the ugliness of Jacksonville.

The city should definitely

clean up the public areas.

Pat Cassidy,

Jacksonville

My best experience is going

to Jaguars games via bus. It’s

easy and the price is great.

The worst is going to the

Times-Union Center for my

granddaughter’s dance recital.

Parking was $20 and it took

40 minutes to get out. Downtown

has too many one-way

streets, overpriced parking

and too few attractions.

Probably my best experience Downtown involves

walking across the Main Street Bridge and

watching the fireworks for the Christmas boat

parade. I really liked the waterfalls of fireworks

off the bridges. The worst? I am uncomfortable

when homeless people panhandle me.

Linda Vacca, Jacksonville

40

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


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URBAN DESIGN:

VyStar CEO Brian

Wolfburg stands in front

of the Downtown parking

garage he had painted

with murals. The credit

union is in the process of

moving its headquarters

into the former Sun Trust

building at 76 S. Laura St.

42

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


VYSTAR’S

DOWNTOWN

AFFINITY

by MIKE CLARK photo by BOB SELF

VyStar Credit Union and

CEO BRIAN WOLFBURG literally

changed Downtown. Not only

did they move their corporate

headquarters to the urban core,

they also proudly branded

a Downtown skyscraper

with their name.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 43


VyStar employees work in one of the new office areas at the credit union’s headquarters in the 23-story tower at 76 S. Laura St.

commitment to Downtown was nothing new

for VyStar CEO Brian Wolfburg.

He had regularly invested in downtown

buildings in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.

But the decision to move VyStar’s

corporate headquarters to Downtown

Jacksonville made sense on several levels,

Wolfburg explained in an interview with

J magazine.

“Downtown cores are the center

of a region,” he explained. “From the

outside, people talk about going to

Jacksonville, not Northeast Florida.”

So putting the VyStar name

on a Downtown skyscraper, the former

SunTrust building, made a statement that VyStar is in the same

league locally with other major financial institutions.

Similarly, adding the VyStar name to

the Veterans Memorial Arena makes a

branding statement.

Financially, the Downtown move

made sense. VyStar looked at building a

suburban campus at a cost of about $250

million. Yet the entire cost of the renovation

of the SunTrust building will be about

$100 million. And they’re running well

ahead of the budget.

All of this is being done without city

incentives. There are two reasons for that,

Wolfburg explained.

“We had an opportunity we wanted to

move on, we worked with all the entities in

the city, helping to facilitate the deal,” he

said. City agencies and the JAX Chamber

were helpful. Acquiring incentives would

have slowed the process.

According to VyStar officials, the main goal in

designing the credit union’s new Downtown

headquarters was to make the space “a place

where (employees) can be creative and strategic

and innovative in their thoughts.”

BOB SELF (3); WILL DICKEY (4)A

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J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


XXXXXXXXX


There is the realization that VyStar is

owned by its members. Having Duval

taxpayers subsidize VyStar didn’t make

sense, though incentives are fine for some

situations, Wolfburg said.

V

yStar’s strength locally is not

well known. Who knows that

one-third or more of all the

households in Duval, St. Johns

and Clay counties are VyStar

customers?

“We’ve been around for 67

years, but those who did know us didn’t

know how big we are or how sophisticated

we are. We can both compete

with the large regional and national and

international banks while still having the

hometown feel,” Wolfburg said.

“Also with the number of people

moving into the Jacksonville area, we

found that they weren’t aware of us. It

takes some time to understand how big a

financial organization we are.”

How big is VyStar? It’s in 49 Florida counties

and four Southeast Georgia counties

with aggressive expansion plans. Wolfburg

envisions VyStar as a Florida institution with

its corporate home in Downtown Jacksonville.

“Geographically, the location is amazing,”

Wolfburg said. “You can’t argue with

having a river running through the city and

the beauty that brings. We talked to our

board and our employees about the impact

of seeing water on a daily basis, your mindset,

how you approach your day and the

work load that you can accomplish.”

Many workers in the new building will

have a river view rather than just a cubicle

view.

To Wolfburg, this is all about the VyStar

In July, VyStar Credit Union’s name went up on its

23-story Downtown tower at 76 S. Laura St.

team. He doesn’t want this story to be all

about him. Author Jim Collins writes about

that attitude in his book “Good to Great.”

“When you have a celebrity, the company

turns into ‘one genius with 1,000 helpers,’”

Collins wrote. “It creates a sense that

the whole thing is really about the CEO. At

a deeper level, we found that for leaders to

make something great, their ambition has

to be for the greatness of the work and the

company, rather than for themselves.”

This is illustrated by the top two floors of

the new VyStar building being reserved for

employees, not top executives. Wolfburg

borrowed the idea, but it also fits his ideal

business culture, one in which everyone is

pulling together. In fact, all bonuses in the

company are based on the same metrics.

WILL DICKEY

46

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


“It is our responsibility as a

corporate citizen to invest in the

city, to help revive the city.”

Brian Wolfburg, CEO of VyStar

The Downtown move was largely led by

Chad Meadows, chief operations officer.

Judy Walz, chief marketing and planning

officer, also played an important role.

Walz has been with VyStar for 18 years and

Meadows, 16 months.

Every detail in the move was important.

In selecting colors, for instance, the decision

was to make the headquarters building

“vibrant and high energy,” Meadows said,

while still using the company’s color palette.

“The goal was 100 percent focused on

the best place to work for our employees,

a place where they can be creative and

strategic and innovative in their thoughts,”

Meadows said.

He said the financial industry has

evolved; it’s not simply transactional.

“We’re definitely pushing the limits,

especially in the credit union arena,” he

said. “Our whole focus is on the member

experience. In order to do that, you’ve got

to have a best-in-class work force, a bestin-class

environment to work in to make

sure the experience for our customers is

first class. How do we become the best-ofthe-best

across the board?”

V

yStar’s new building reflects an

innovative culture.

The parking garage, for

instance, is highlighted with

the work of six artists selected

worldwide by partner ArtRepublic.

Colorful art can be found on the

outside walls, on the roof and in corners of

the second and third floors.

“People can say why did you spend the

money doing this?” Wolfburg said. “The

amount of money is a sliver of the payback

we will get, whether it’s the community’s

perception and feeling about us as an organization

or our own employees coming to

work every day and affecting how they start

their day.”

The alley between the parking garage and

the skyscraper could be activated with things

like popup retail, a coffee shop or a farmers

market, and it will be open to everyone

Downtown. Wolfburg wants VyStar to be a

good partner Downtown and will make sure

that its activities aren’t conflicting with other

Downtown activities.

“When we put them in an office where

they are looking at the river, we are seeing an

impact on our turnover ratio and also morale.

That means reduced errors, increased

productivity,” he said.

In fact, turnover has been cut in half from

about 20 percent to 10 percent. VyStar has

set a goal of becoming a highly rated business

for worker satisfaction.

For instance, there is paid family leave,

tuition that is paid upfront and not as reimbursement,

free premiums for certain health

insurance policies and regular bonuses.

So far as the customers go, growth has allowed

VyStar to slash its number of fees. And

VyStar’s financial performance is doing well.

“We want customers to have a great experience

with us, to tell people that this is a

local organization that has done well, that by

taking out loans you’re supporting Jacksonville,”

Wolfburg said.

Part of the local support involves the

military. VyStar was created in 1952 as Jax

Navy Federal Credit Union. Though VyStar

was born with a military base, only about 10

percent of its current customers are current

or retired military.

But VyStar continues to embrace the

military as a foundational value, illustrated by

military members on the board, philanthropic

work with the military and donations to

the military as part of its payment for naming

rights to the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

W

olfburg likes contributing

to the revival of Downtown.

“If we think of Jacksonville

as the city where VyStar

was born, where our roots

are, then it is our responsibility

as a corporate citizen to invest in the city,

to help revive the city. I don’t think we’re

singlehandedly doing anything, we’re playing

a part to help revitalize the city,” he said.

“A healthy Downtown, a healthy Jacksonville

and a healthy Northeast Florida

pays back to us as one of the major financial

institutions in the region.”

As for Downtown’s drawbacks, which

Wolfburg called “opportunities,” there aren’t

enough people living there. It still has a 9-to-

5 feel, he said.

“Most other cities our size don’t have so

many great micro markets right around it —

San Marco, Avondale, Riverside, Five Points

— amazing places to live, work and play. So

they have that Downtown feel without being

right Downtown. Downtown just needs to

come up with an identity all of its own and

then do a lot of infill residential.”

Wolfburg is doing his part by investing in

historic buildings Downtown with friends

and family, something he did in Buffalo. He

chooses buildings he would like to live in.

All of the buildings he owns in Buffalo were

built from about 1890 to 1920.

So far as speeding up the reuse of vacant

buildings and lots in the Central Business

District, Wolfburg says there is no magic

bullet. He noted good progress at the Barnett

Bank Building, Laura Street Trio, Jones

Bros. and Ambassador Hotel.

“Early on you have people picking up

different properties, one off, then all of a

sudden it heats up and goes faster than you

expect,” Wolfburg said.

The next phase of Downtown development

will have to deal with all the surface

parking lots and parking garages, he said.

For VyStar, the move Downtown makes

sense on just about every important level.

“This is not just a corporate move for us,

it’s a statement of who we are, it’s an investment

in progressive things that will help

move organization forward,” Wolfburg said.

Mike Clark has been a reporter and

editor for The Florida Times-Union and the

Jacksonville Journal since 1973 and editorial

page editor since 2005. He lives in Nocatee.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 47


THE BIG

PICTURE

48

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


JAGGER AND THE

ROLLING STONES

DAZZLE 50,000 AT

TIAA BANK FIELD

PHOTO BY BOB SELF

After a 30-year hiatus from playing in

Jacksonville, the Rolling Stones, along with

the band’s 75-year-old frontman Mick

Jagger, electrified more than 50,000 fans for

a solid two hours in the July heat at TIAA

Bank Field.

From the opening notes of “Street Fighting

Man” all the way through the fireworks

at the end of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,”

Jagger looked remarkably fit and was full-on

Jagger, strutting and swirling and getting the

stadium crowd to wiggle their fingers just by

doing so himself.

Jagger joked about how long it’s been

since the Stones last played Jacksonville.

“We’ve been sharing a room at the Seahorse

Motel, drinking at Pete’s Bar, went to see a

Jumbo Shrimp game and had two camel

riders washed down with a cherry limeade.”

The crowd, as it had all night, roared.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 49


CLEARING THE WAY:

Bertram Alford, 14, digs a hole for plants as he

and other members of the Green Team Youth

Corps work along a section of the S-Line, one

of the early segments of the Emerald Trail.

T r a i l

50

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


B l a z i n g

A century after architect Henry Klutho

had a vision to create a series of parks and

greenways that would ring Downtown. Now,

that idea may be closer to becoming a reality.

By RON LITTLEPAGE Photo by BOB SELF

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 51


A rendering from the proposal to build the Emerald Trail shows what a section of might look like along an existing elevated roadway on the east end of Downtown.

An idea

more than a century in the making

that is moving closer to reality — one

that is critical to fulfilling the promise

of Downtown — requires a look back

and a look forward.

Let’s begin with Henry Klutho, the architect who helped guide the rebuilding of Jacksonville after

much of the city was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1901.

Klutho’s idea was to create a series

of parks and greenways that would ring

Downtown and unite the city’s neighborhoods

with the central business district.

Two of the dominant features would

be McCoys Creek and Hogans Creek. The

concept became known as the Emerald

Necklace.

Remnants of Klutho’s grand vision are

still present today in the underutilized

parks along Hogans Creek in Springfield.

But for the most part, the vision went

unfulfilled, and the creeks that were to be its

centerpieces were abused and neglected.

The idea, however, was not forgotten.

In 2000, the Emerald Necklace was

included in a master plan the city adopted

called “Celebrating the River: A Plan for

Downtown Jacksonville.”

It was also a major part of another

master plan adopted in 2010: “Reuniting

the City with the River.”

The ideas in the plans were good, but as

often is the case in Jacksonville, implementation

proved to be a slow process.

That began to change in 2013 when

the administration of Mayor Alvin Brown

was successful in securing Groundwork

Jacksonville — a nonprofit that partners

with the U.S. National Park Service, the

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and

the City of Jacksonville.

As its website explains, Groundwork

“is the city’s primary nonprofit specifically

created to clean and redevelop Hogans

and McCoys creeks and convert contaminated

lands into parks, playgrounds, trails

and other public green spaces.”

Since 2013, Groundwork Jacksonville

through a steering committee and working

groups has made steady progress toward

achieving those goals.

A detailed master plan and implementation

strategy is in place, some grants and

other funding have been secured, the City

Council has approved the plan and the

administration is backing it.

Henry Klutho must be smiling.

KAIZEN COLLABORATIVE (ABOVE); BOB SELF (RIGHT)

52

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


ON THE TRAIL:

Kay Ehas, CEO of Groundwork

Jacksonville, stands along an already

converted stretch of the S-Line section

of the Emerald Trail in Springfield.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 53


“The Emerald Trail and creek restorations

are bigger than any single development

will ever be in terms of impact.”

Kay Ehas, CEO of Groundwork Jacksonville

The Emerald Necklace

First of all, it’s no longer the Emerald

Necklace. It’s the Emerald Trail.

Kay Ehas, the energetic CEO of Groundwork

Jacksonville, explained in an interview

that there are other trail systems in the country

with the name Emerald Necklace, and

one of them, the Boston Emerald Necklace

Conservancy, called to inform her the name

was trademarked.

She said that was no problem because

the name had already been changed to Emerald

Trail to better reflect the project.

As envisioned, the Emerald Trail will

include 34 miles of trails that will connect 16

historic neighborhoods, including Downtown,

to each other.

Of those trails, 19.7 miles will be new

ones that connect to trails already in place

like the S-Line, the Southbank and Northbank

riverwalks and the connection to San

Marco already under construction on the

Fuller Warren Bridge.

“One thing I really love about it,” Ehas

said, “is it connects lower income neighborhoods

to higher income neighborhoods,

which I think is important for both parties.”

What it will look like

The trails and greenways will be convenient

for pedestrians and bicyclists. McCoys

Creek will be restored as will Hogans Creek,

although that is a more challenging project.

The trails will touch on 20 schools and 22

city parks.

There will be trees, native plants and

public art.

Telling the history and stories of the

neighborhoods will be an important part of

the project.

“People are coming to us and saying let’s

figure out how we can help and work together,

which is why it needs to be a community

project,” Ehas said. “The more that happens,

the more likely it’s going to get done well.”

Construction on the new trails will begin

with a 1.3-mile segment that runs from

Stonewall Street near the Park Street viaduct

along Park and Lee streets until it connects

to the S-Line, a 4.8-mile trail built along a

stretch of an abandoned CSX railroad line, at

State Street.

“The reason we chose it is that it will connect

to the McCoys Creek trail segment and

to the existing S-Line segment,” Ehas said.

“What the residents said to us is they

want connections to get Downtown. That

solved that issue. We also thought it would

help spur LaVilla redevelopment.”

The model project is now scheduled

to be completed in September 2021 at an

estimated cost of $3.6 million.

“I think the jewel will be the Park Street

viaduct,” Ehas said. “We are taking one half

of that. It will be really landscaped so it will

be a destination as well as a trail.”

The design work is now being done on

the model project.

“There’s so much riding on this first trail

segment,” Ehas said, “because at the end of

it, the community has to say, ‘Oh, my god,

that is so fabulous we have to build more.’”

The hurdles ahead

Groundwork has been working with

neighbors and businesses that connect to

the trails to hear their concerns.

“We are closing most of McCoys Creek

Boulevard because it floods all the time,”

Ehas said. “The trail will be on the outer edge

of where that is now.

“There are some residents who are not

really happy about that. We get that.

“We had a visioning session with

residents. We had a visioning session with

developers.

“We did McCoys Creek Fest where we

closed off McCoys Creek Boulevard. We had

food, a DJ and different booths. It was a way

to share the design and get input but also to

talk about the history of the creek.”

Similar efforts will take place around the

model project once the design is complete.

“The residents and Groundwork are

concerned about gentrification like what

happened in Brooklyn,” Ehas said.

Renderings from the proposal to build the 34-mile

Emerald Trail include (L-R): an area along McCoys

Creek Blvd., a proposed walkway beneath a railway,

an area north of Chelsea Street and an abandoned

rail corridor near Liberty Street

KAIZEN COLLABORATIVE


Groundwork will “reach out to as many

residents as possible to listen to what their

concerns are, their fears, what they would

like to see, because it really has to be driven

by the residents.

“We already know that they are concerned

about being priced out. They would

like help getting their homes fixed up, and

they want jobs.”

KAIZEN COLLABORATIVE, BOB SELF

The cost

The estimated price tag for the 19 miles

of new trails is $31 million. The work along

McCoys and Hogans creeks will cost millions

more.

Much of the needed money is included

in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan

budget.

Grants are being awarded and money is

coming in to help with fundraising.

“I feel like ever since I got this job, the

universe has been with us,” Ehas said.

Why build the trail

Successful cities have trail systems that

connect neighborhoods and encourage

healthy lifestyles. The trails have also been

a boon for economic development in cities

like Atlanta, Greensboro, N.C., and Dallas.

“The Emerald Trail and creek restorations

are bigger than any single development

will ever be in terms of impact,” Ehas

said. “It should drive everything.”

The goal

For an idea that has lingered mostly on

the backburner for more than 100 years,

Groundwork has the audacious goal of

finishing the new trails in 10 years.

“That doesn’t mean everything is done,

but the big stuff is,” Ehas said. “I think a 100-

year vision getting done in 10 years is pretty

awesome.”

Jacksonville has a history of priorities

changing with administrations, and CIP

budgets aren’t chiseled in stone and can be

changed.

Will it be different with the Emerald Trail

this time around?

It will help that the project has the

support of people like veteran City Council

member Matt Carlucci, who has just returned

to the council as an at-large member.

He understands the value of the trail and

greenway system.

“In a way, it’s almost like a backyard to

people living Downtown,” Carlucci said. “It

will be a wonderful amenity as Downtown

continues to move forward.”

Another supporter is Randy DeFoor,

a new City Council member who has the

perspective of having served for six years on

the Jacksonville Economic Development

Commission.

“The Emerald Trail project will have a

strong impact on Downtown and the city

by promoting tourism and ecotourism,” she

said.

“Similar projects such as the Atlanta Beltline

support affordable workforce housing,

economic development, job creation, public

health, streetscapes, environmental cleanup

and historic preservation. I anticipate similar

results for Jacksonville.”

Developers are also excited about the

A garbage-strewn and graffiti-decorated homeless

camp under the Park Street viaduct which goes over

McCoys Creek along the proposed Emerald Trail.

Emerald Trail. One of them is John Rood,

who through his Vestcor Companies has

invested heavily in Downtown apartment

projects. He also is leading the development

of the Jacksonville Classical Academy charter

school that will produce a revived city

park near the McCoys Creek Greenway.

“Attractions are critical to developing our

urban area,” he said.

The Emerald Trail, he said, will be a

“tremendous addition to Downtown. It will

bring people from all over.”

Such support is critical to keep the Emerald

Trail moving forward.

Groundwork Jacksonville is another

important element to keep a focus on the

Emerald Trail when administrations and

councils change that wasn’t there before

when plans gathered dust on a shelf.

“That’s why it’s important that Groundwork

is here,” Ehas said, “to make sure it

continues.”

Ron Littlepage wrote for The

Florida Times-Union for 39 years, the last

28 as a columnist. He lives in Avondale.


Straddling McCoys Creek, the former Florida Times-Union property

is a parcel of land bordered by the St. Johns River, Riverside Avenue

and the Acosta Bridge. Turn the page to see what it might become.

BY FRANK DENTON

PHOTO BY BOB SELF

WATERWAY DEVELOPMENT:

McCoys Creek runs beneath the

former Florida Times-Union property

where it feeds into the St. Johns River.

56

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


WHAT’S NEXT FOR

1 RIVERSIDE AVE.?

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 57


t first glance, the old Times-Union building at 1 Riverside Ave. looks

like the perfect site for redevelopment: smack on the St. Johns and

literally over McCoys Creek with panoramic views of Downtown

and the Southbank and up and down the river.

On a second look, the 19–acre tract looks confined, boxed

in by busy Riverside Avenue, the Acosta and railroad bridges

and the Haskell Company campus. The site might be fine

A58

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


ACTIVATING 1 RIVERSIDE:

A conceptual rendering of a

possible design for the former

Florida Times-Union site.

RENDERINGS: Yves.Rathle ra studioYVESinc : conceptARCHITECTURE

for a condo or apartment or office building with limited access, but the isolation doesn’t feel like part of

a community, conjuring up images of yet another wasted opportunity for the Downtown riverfront.

Fortunately, the owners and probable developers of the site are taking a deep third look and trying

to use the 19 acres of precious land to connect and integrate with its contiguous neighbors — Brooklyn,

LaVilla, the Downtown core, the creek and the river. In fact, almost as a metaphor of the project, six of

those acres are underwater in the St. Johns.

But of course, the same factors that make the site so attractive make it equally complicated and

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 59


A conceptual rendering of a possible design for the former Florida Times-Union site at 1 Riverside Ave.

potentially controversial, as the owners’

goals and priorities are balanced with

public uses for the Emerald Trail, the

Northbank Riverwalk and the river — with

the city mediating and, if necessary, adjudicating.

The keys to connection are the hidden

creek and a dead-end street.

“Downtown Jacksonville has got an

enormous amount of potential as it relates

to some of the successes it has right now,”

said Allen Grinalds, director of real estate

for Morris Communications, which sold

the Times-Union in 2017 but retained the

property. “Specifically in the Brooklyn

neighborhood, you’ve got this energy, and I

think with that energy you’ve got opportunity

to be a part of something special.

“We recognize that the Times-Union

site has got a great location for redevelopment,

but we want to do it in concert with

the city and its vision for the city itself,”

Grinalds said. “We could do a good development

by ourselves. But we think with a

little more thoughtful planning and very

close collaboration with the city, we can

do something truly impactful as opposed

to just being another good development.

There’s nothing wrong with a good development,

but if we’re going to do it, we

want to do it right ...

“We’re fascinated with what’s going

on around us. So we have to pay attention

to what we’re going to do on the site, but

we also have to pay attention very, very

closely to what’s the long-term plan for our

neighbors so we can be a good neighbor.

And what are the long-term visioning plans

for the city. As an example, we think the activation

of McCoys Creek is a phenomenal

opportunity. And it’s not an easy process.

It’s fairly complex.”

A strategic property

Look at a map of greater Downtown,

and you can see that the western half of

Downtown actually centers on the T-U

property, which through history has made

it strategic as a commercial site. Over the

years, according to Times-Union company

records, it has been occupied by a fertilizer

company, a roller-skating facility, the Motor

Transit Co., Jacksonville Coach Co. and

Riverside Chevrolet.

Ultimately, the railroad companies that

merged into CSX owned both the land

and the Times-Union and, in 1967, built

the newspaper’s new home on the site,

just over the Acosta and railroad bridges

from CSX headquarters. Morris bought the

newspaper in 1983, then sold it to Gate-

House Media in 2017, retaining the land

for itself.

There are two large buildings, the

five-story administration building connected

by a walkway to the production

building, which housed operations —

the newsroom, advertising, circulation,

newsprint storage and the huge printing

presses.

Importantly, the complex sits directly

over, and obscures, McCoys Creek, from

Riverside Avenue to its mouth at the St.

Johns. It runs through a barrel-vault viaduct

underneath the walkway and parking

lots. People who worked in the buildings

for decades never saw the creek.

The site really wasn’t the perfect place

for a newspaper, as a transportation company

like the railroad might have noticed.

Its physical isolation near the urban core

made access very difficult for the inbound

trucks that delivered newsprint and ink

and the outbound bundles of newspapers

headed for delivery all over the region.

The city built the “jug handle” that

allowed southbound trucks to turn right off

Riverside and circle around for a straight

shot into the Times-Union. Now that the

newspaper itself has moved to core Down-

Yves.Rathle ra studioYVESinc : conceptARCHITECTURE

60

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


town offices and outsourced its printing,

the city is eliminating the jug handle and

trading that property to be an extension

of the shopping area anchored

McCoys Creek

STONEWALL ST.

JACKSON ST.

The Brooklyn

Riverside

apartments

Vista Brooklyn

apartments

220 Riverside

apartments

by Fresh Market and Brooklyn

Station.

That expansion of retailing

is just part of the remarkable

rebirth of Brooklyn, as reported

in the summer issue of J magazine

(www.jacksonville.com/

jmagazine/archive). In addition

to Brooklyn Station, more than

1,000 apartments have been built

or are under construction or

credibly planned. Park Street, the

main street of Brooklyn, is scheduled

for a “road diet,” which will

humanize it with slower traffic,

greenery and pedestrian and

bike paths. An innovative food

hall, with unique eateries and

food shops, is envisioned.

Just north, LaVilla similarly

is coming alive with development,

anchored by the Regional

Transportation Center under

construction and several new

apartment complexes, including

Lofts at LaVilla, Lofts at Jefferson

Station and Houston Street Manor.

The Downtown Investment Authority

is considering competing proposals for a

townhome project.

REVITALIZING 1 RIVERSIDE AVE.

The Brooklyn

Riverside

apartments

The Fresh Market

Winston

Family

YMCA

PARK ST.

MAGNOLIA ST.

RIVERSIDE AVE.

FORSYTH ST.

BAY ST.

WATER ST.

Prime F. Osborn III

Convention Center

Haskell

JEFFERSON ST.

1 Riverside Ave:

Former home

of The Florida

Times-Union

BROAD ST.

ACOSTA BRIDGE

St. Johns River

All that excitement would seem to stop

cold at the high-traffic Riverside Avenue.

But must it?

N

CONNECTING

People & places

As Grinalds and Robert Kuhar,

Morris vice president of property

and facilities, sat on the terrace of

BurgerFi across Riverside from the

T-U site, they talked only briefly

about the actual content of the

proposed development after razing

the existing buildings: maybe two

300-unit apartment buildings, a

200-room hotel, 300,000 square

feet of office space and “destination

retail and food and beverage”

along both sides of the creek.

What they mostly talked about,

with some passion, were the

development’s neighbors and how

to interconnect with them, to really

take advantage of the T-U site’s

potential.

“So from where we’re sitting

now, if you look to your left and to

your right, how do you get to the

river?” Grinalds asked.

Well, at the YMCA.

“For a casual visitor to Brook-

Excellence in motion.

yesterday

Dames Point Bridge

today

Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center at LaVilla

tomorrow

JEFF DAVIS

Ultimate Urban Circulator

autonomous vehicle

jtafla.com


lyn,” he said, “it should be clearly obvious

how you get to the river and enjoy it.

“Part of the development that we think

is critically important is not just our site

but circulation into our site and off our site.

Circulation from other parts of the Brooklyn

area so that folks can enjoy the amenities of

our site as well as other areas. In other words,

you need to be able to get from point A to

Just across from the former Florida Times-Union

property on the north side of Riverside Avenue,

the tree-lined McCoys Creek wanders along

through the Brooklyn neighborhood.

point B to point C in a path that’s easy, it’s

safe and it promotes circulation.

“If you only go to one place in Brooklyn

and you leave that place, we’ve lost our way

and we’ve lost an opportunity there.

“So the circulation within Brooklyn and

the connectivity to Downtown is a critically

important aspect of our development plans.

Circulation will drive really the enjoyment of

the entire neighborhood.”

Kuhar jumped in. “We need to really get

an in-depth understanding of the site and

how it works with the river, how it works with

the creek, how it works with Riverside Avenue,

Magnolia Street and circulation in and

out of the site … What is important for us to

figure out is the circulation, which is kind of

the unsexy part of this, the part about access

to the site — pedestrian, vehicular, bicycle,

how you get around, walkability.”

A field trip

For full appreciation of the

potential Grinalds and Kuhar

see, you need a field trip to

Brooklyn.

Park on Stonewall just off

Park, behind The Brooklyn

Riverside apartments, and walk

up onto the Park Street viaduct.

Stop where you see “I love you”

graffitied in blue onto the west

bridge barrier and “I love you

too!” graffitied in pink onto the

east barrier.

Look over the barrier — and

overlook the dumped trash and

probable homeless camp — and

you’ll see the hidden creek,

rushing fully after recent rains,

in a meandering path, amid lush

foliage. You can’t see where it

comes from or where it goes.

You’ll wonder: How could

we have let this wonderful

natural asset be so trashed and

forgotten?

Know that this is one end of

the fabled Emerald Necklace,

soon to undergo restoration, as

the Emerald Trail, by Groundwork

Jacksonville working

with the city. It loops all

around Downtown and ends

at the mouth of Hogans Creek

downriver.

Get back in your car, drive

south and east around the sprawling

Brooklyn Riverside complex, then turn

north on Magnolia, and you’ll find that it

dead-ends at the creek, again amid random

trash but with beautiful potential.

The magic that Kuhar and Grinalds

envision for the T-U site requires the liberation

of McCoys and Magnolia.

The big connection

Grinalds said the Morris vision hinges

on the “daylighting” of McCoys Creek, that

is, razing the T-U buildings and foundations

and letting the creek flow openly

into the St. Johns. “We recognize that as a

complex issue we need to work through in

cooperation with the city. It’s the biggest

complexity and the biggest opportunity.

“From an engineering perspective

and from a sustainability perspective, you

have to do it right. You can take down the

building, you can uncover the creek, but

if you don’t understand the hydrology of

the flood plains, if you don’t understand

the volumetrics of what’s coming down

the creek, you miss an opportunity to have

a positive impact on neighborhoods upstream.

So why wouldn’t you go through

the due diligence of really understanding

the engineering and the hydraulics of

uncovering it to everyone’s benefit?”

Kuhar said the city wants to open up

McCoys Creek to connect the river to the

Emerald Trail, and Grinalds added, “There

are a lot of details to be worked out, but

we’re in lockstep with the city in recognizing

the activation of McCoys Creek is a

great opportunity.”

To work through the needs and priorities,

the Morris team brought in the

Haskell Company, the design-build firm

that is also its neighbor to the south. Chris

Flagg of Haskell added Yves Rathle, a local

architect who has contributed design ideas

for riverfront projects from the Landing to

the Shipyards, the District and Lot J and

the Amazon proposal.

Rathle said the group has gone through

a long process of “thinking and creative

exploration. It could have been the most

creative exploration of solutions Jacksonville

has ever seen. Brainstorming and

design excellence like that happens on very

few projects.”

He said he submitted as many as 25

design options, one suggesting islands in

the river, some incorporating historical

images of the railroad bridge and newspaper

presses.

The design has changed about 30 times

and is still not final, Rathle said. “Truly, I

think anything still goes. Allen (Grinalds) is

really interested in exploring the art of the

possible.”

Exactly how

to connect

But before Morris can settle on a development

partner and a final design for the

property, it has to work through those details

Grinalds mentioned. That is not uncomplicated.

The Morris plan conflicts in several ways

with Groundwork Jacksonville’s vision for

the Emerald Trail.

For one thing, after daylighting the creek

by razing the buildings and parking lots, the

current development plan would put that

BOB SELF

62

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


A conceptual rendering of a possible design for the former Florida Times-Union site at 1 Riverside Ave.

Yves.Rathle ra studioYVESinc : conceptARCHITECTURE

new hotel astride the creek The conceptual

renderings have McCoys running underneath

the bridge ramps and the hotel,

then emptying into the St. Johns through a

riverfront plaza, the center of the entire development,

with green space on both sides,

backed by retail, food and beverage.

Rathle said the hotel covering the creek

is “a design opportunity” and could lead to

a unique feature, for example, by adding an

oculus, or circular window, in the hotel lobby

floor allowing people to look down on the

creek flow. Pedestrians still could walk along

both sides of the river under the hotel.

Another issue is how the Emerald Trail

might run through the property. Groundwork’s

plan is for an 18-foot-wide trail alongside

the creek all the way to the St. Johns.

Morris’s current plan for connecting to

Brooklyn and LaVilla activates Magnolia

Street, turning the dead end into a bridge

over the creek and, with a sweeping right

turn, running under the Acosta Bridge

ramps into the T-U site.

That design would have the pedestrian

and bicycle trail roughly following Magnolia,

crossing it twice, and running down

the north side of the site, along the railroad

tracks, to connect to the Riverwalk.

Groundwork and Morris seemingly also

disagree on the creek itself. Morris’s plan

shows the creek running straight through

what Groundwork understands to be a

42-foot-wide channel between bulkheads.

Groundwork wants a more natural 60-footwide

creek with a 30-foot “littoral shelf” on

each side.

“A littoral shelf is a shallow shelf … planted

with native aquatic vegetation,” said Kay

Ehas, Groundwork CEO. “Its purpose is to

help filter out the nutrients and minerals in

the water prior to reaching the river, provide

habitat and resting places for fish and also to

slow the flow of water.”

Ehas said Groundwork is looking at

possible ways to adapt its design closer to

the Morris concept while maintaining the

benefits of the littoral shelves.

Resolving those issues likely will fall to

the city, with the Downtown Investment Authority

mediating and maybe adjudicating.

Lori Boyer, DIA CEO, already has been

in meetings with Grinalds and Kuhar and

said their vision is “exciting … From our

perspective, both from a flood-control

standpoint and environmental standpoint

and everything else, we really want the creek

daylighted. And that also provides an attraction

and an amenity for the site, because you

can have tour boats or kayaks or whatever

enter the creek. It creates that energy for

the restaurants or the mixed-use facilities

and the hotel that they’re proposing. It’s an

important part of their development plan

that we execute on those parts.

“But by doing that, opening up the creek,

you also then don’t have access to the back

parcel or easy access to the back parcel

without creating this roadway under Acosta.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 63


So they’ve been spending a lot of time on the

logistics and the infrastructure design as to

how that would work to make sure that that

parcel between the creek and the railroad

track is viable as a development site too.”

Boyer said, “The types of uses they are

proposing, I think, are perfectly consistent

with our plan and the vision for the creek.

And the idea that it would connect both to

the Emerald Trail and to the Riverwalk is

amazing and would really, again, add some

of that excitement to the area.”

Common goals

Maybe those structural complications

are just details, because the parties seem to

agree on the essentials.

“We want to be a part of activating the St.

Johns River because it’s another phenomenal

water resource for the city of Jacksonville,”

Grinalds said. “And the Riverwalk is a great

linear feature, and it’s enjoyed by many of

Jacksonville’s finest. We think that can be

expanded by drawing people into various

entertainment alcoves, various residential

alcoves, various work alcoves so that the river

becomes more interactive.

“In other words, you don’t want to

interact with the river just when you’re on

the river. You want the river to be a part of the

sports spaces, the recreational spaces, dining,

entertainment, circulation, work, where you

live. That’s kind of the secret sauce, if you will:

to really activate the riverfront not in a linear

manner but in a three-dimensional manner

so you can get depth and it becomes much

more activated in terms of the different ways

you can enjoy a great natural resource.”

The Morris team seemed to understand

Jacksonville frustrations that so much of the

riverfront has been taken over by commercial

development at the expense of public

access and use. “Activating the green space

we recognize is very, very important,” Grinalds

said. “We could put in more leasable

square footage if we were just chasing the

bottom dollar. But we recognize that activating

the entire site with enjoyable green space

in concert with the activation of the river and

the creek is just a very important aspect.”

When will we see

shovels and cranes?

Kuhar and Grinalds were in town for

meetings with “senior city officials” about

common vision and ideas and possible city

incentives.

“We’re actively working with the city right

now to develop a timeline that works in conjunction

with the daylighting of the creek,”

Grinalds said.

Meanwhile, he said, Morris is looking for

a development partner. “We have had multiple

substantive discussions with various

development partners that have expressed

interest in the site. And those are ongoing.

What we’re essentially looking for is

someone who’s a great match for our vision

for the property. There are some local, some

national and even some international.”

Kuhar said demolition could start in the

second quarter of 2020.

“We need to complete a development

agreement with the city in the interim

prior to demolition,” Grinalds said. “We’re

working internally on our own to position

ourselves to move as quickly as possible

when that opportunity presents itself.

“The exciting thing is we feel that there’s

a great opportunity to do the entire site at

once, which is very unusual. We definitely

think that’s within the realm of the possible.

The reason that’s attractive is we’re not

interested in having a construction site for

10 years.

“We want to get this done is an expeditious

manner. We think there’s great opportunity

to do that.”

Most important, Grinalds said, is quality.

“In the aggregate, if we can’t do a first-class

development that’s our best effort, we don’t

want to do it. Frankly nor will we. It’s too

good of a site not to do it well.”

Frank Denton, retired editor of The Florida

Times-Union, is editor of J. He lives in Riverside.

Reporting the truth for more than 150 years.

#truthmatters

64 J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


Urban Living in Downtown Jacksonville

100%

occupied

100%

occupied

coming fall 2019

coming fall 2020


Growth

Spurt

With a goal of getting 10,000 residents

living Downtown, a recent housing boom

has some leaders thinking that number

will be eclipsed within the next five years

By LILLA ROSS Photo by BOB SELF

66

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


HOT PROPERTY:

The 10-story Vista Brooklyn

complex is well underway along

Riverside Ave. It will add another 300

apartments to the neighborhood.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 67


I

t’s a curious bit of Jacksonville history. The Great Fire of 1901 that

reduced to ashes what today is Downtown Jacksonville left 10,000 people

homeless. In the context of a major disaster, 10,000 is a staggering number.

But in the context of Downtown redevelopment, it’s the magic number

that will attract retail — including national chains — to the urban core.

And if Downtown had 10,000 residents in 1901, it can do it again.

Lori Boyer, the new CEO of the Downtown

Investment Authority, thinks the city

will achieve that goal in less than five years.

It’s halfway there. Downtown Vision’s

State of Downtown report issued in July

counted 5,220 residents in Downtown.

That’s 8 percent more than last year and

a whopping 52 percent increase since 2009

when the census was 2,704.

The demand for housing is there. The

occupancy rate Downtown is 96 percent.

Fortunately, four apartment buildings with

almost 1,000 units are under construction,

and several more, with about 3,000 units, are

in the wings.

Downtown Jacksonville is huge by most

metrics — almost 4 square miles. Its size

is turning out to be an advantage because

of its diversity of housing options: luxury

condos, affordable and workforce housing,

trendy lofts, subsidized housing for seniors,

market-rate townhomes and, coming soon,

micro housing in repurposed shipping

containers.

“We want a full spectrum of housing affordability,”

Boyer said. “We want something

for everybody.”

Many of the newest apartments such as

Vestcor’s Lofts are affordable and workforce

housing, which is available to low- and

moderate-income renters. It’s attractive to

developers because it comes with incentives.

“To build affordable workforce, there

has to be incentives like tax credits. That’s

true wherever you build it, in the suburbs

or Downtown,” said Vestcor President Steve

Moore.

“DIA and the Housing Finance Authority

are using the workforce model to help revitalize

Downtown, which is a great short-term

approach, good public policy that will have

long-term impact,” Moore said.

Vestcor’s Lofts at Jefferson Station, under

construction, and the proposed Lofts at the

Cathedral are mixed-income projects, which

Moore says “turns the corner” to market-rate

housing.

The current holy grail is market-rate rent

of $2 a square foot, about twice the rate of

TRACKING HOUSING GROWTH

IN DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE

27+73+l 15+85+l 58+42+l 100+0+l

Total

units

5,899

DOWNTOWN CORE

Open (520)

11 East 11 E. Forsyth St. 127 apartments

The Carling 31 W. Adams St. 100 apartments

Metropolitan Lofts 421 W. Church St. 116 apartments

Residences at City Place 311 W. Ashley St. 204 studio to 2 bedroom apartments

W.A. Knight Lofts 113 W. Adams St. 12 apartments

FSCJ Student Housing 20 W. Adams St. 58 apartments

The Residences at Barnett 112 W. Adams St. 107 units

Under construction (24)

225 Laura Street Apartments 225 Laura St. 4 apartments

Elena Flats 122 E. Duval St. 4 units

La Mesa Building 905 W. Forsyth St. 16 units

Proposed (228)

Ambassador Hotel church & Julia streets 200 units

Jones Brothers furniture building Hogan & Ashley streets 28 units

SOUTHBANK

Open (1,004)

The Strand 1401 Riverplace Blvd. 295 studio to 3 bedroom luxury apartments

San Marco Place 1478 Riverplace Blvd. 141 1 to 3 bedroom luxury condominiums

Peninsula 1431 Riverplace Blvd. 256 luxury condominiums

Broadstone River House 1655 Prudential Drive 300 studio-3 bedroom luxury apartments

Home Street Lofts 1050 Hendricks Ave. 12 for-sale units

Under construction (147)

SoBa 1444 Home Street 147 1 and 2 bedroom apartments

Planned (1,170)

The District

Units

open

3,413

UNITS Under

construction

840

Units

planned

1,646

1,170 residential units for sale or lease

Proposed

Kings Avenue Station

office and mixed-use residential

Old Florida Baptist building 1230 Hendricks Ave. office and mixed-use residential

Ventures Development Prudential Drive 185 apartments

JEFF DAVIS

68

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


a decade ago, when the average rent per

square foot ranged from 98 cents to $1.28.

Several new developments — Broadstone

River House on the Southbank and the Residences

at Barnett on Adams Street, both now

leasing, and Vista Brooklyn, 308-unit tower

under construction on Riverside Avenue —

hit that mark, according to a CBRE report.

“Once you’re over $2 a foot, then mid-rise

and high-rise developments are financially

viable,” Boyer said.

Although the city is just now reaching

NORTHBANK

that level, Boyer said developers in Charlotte

and Miami are making inquiries about

what’s available in Jacksonville.

And the answer is quite a lot.

One hotspot is the riverfront site of the old

courthouse and City Hall Annex. Boyer said

CBRE is marketing the property for the city.

She hopes to have proposals from

developers by the end of the year and says

construction could be underway before the

end of next year. Given the size and location

of the property, Boyer said it will be

Open (251)

Churchwell Lofts 301 E. Bay St. 21 apartments

Plaza Condominiums (Berkman) 400 E. Bay St. 210 luxury condominiums

Riverwalk Townhouses 141 N. Water St. 20 townhouses

BROOKLYN

Open (604)

220 Riverside 220 Riverside Ave. 294 apartments

Brooklyn Riverside 100 Magnolia St. 310 apartments

Under construction (308)

Vista Brooklyn 200 Riverside Ave. 308 apartments/retail mixed-use project

Planned (133)

Lofts at Brooklyn

LAVILLA

133 affordable and workforce apartments

Open (310)

Lofts at LaVilla 995 Water St. 130 studio to 3 bedroom apartments

Lofts at Monroe, 906 W. Monroe St. 108 affordable and workforce apartments

Houston Street Manor 130 Jefferson St. N. 72 apartments for seniors

Under construction (133)

Lofts at Jefferson Station 799 Water St. 133 studio to 3 bedroom affordable and

workforce apartments

PLANNED (70)

LaVilla Townhomes

CATHEDRAL DISTRICT

70 for-sale townhomes by Vestcor

Open (724)

Parks at the Cathedral 333 E. Church St. 51 townhomes

Cathedral Towers 601 N. Newnan St. 203 studio and 1 bedroom subsidized

senior apartments

Cathedral Townhouses 501 N. Ocean St. 177 1-bedroom subsidized senior apartments

Cathedral Terrace 701 N. Ocean St. 241 studio and 1-bedroom subsidized

senior apartments

Stevens Duval Apartments 601 N. Ocean St. 52 subsidized senior apartments

Planned (115)

Lofts at the Cathedral 325 E. Duval St. 115 affordable and workforce

apartments by Cathedral District-Jax

Proposed (173)

Ashley Square

110 one- and two-bedroom apartments for

working adults and seniors by Aging True

Container Apartments 412 Ashley St. 18 shipping containers converted

to apartments, by JWB Real Estate

Rafael Caldera

45 multifamily housing units with

ground-level art gallery and studio space

multi-use development expected to include

residential.

The success of the old courthouse/

City Hall project will determine the city’s

approach to finding a new use for the Jacksonville

Landing, which is expected to be

demolished this fall.

“The Landing will have more restrictions

and parameters,” Boyer said. “We know we

want public space and street-level engagement.

Bay Street needs a retail side, but

there’s leeway to be creative.”

And there’s the Berkman II, the partially

built high-rise abandoned in 2007. It’s a

prominent eyesore still awaiting a suitor. The

city says it is working on “viable options.”

But the success of Berkman II’s sibling,

which has been rebranded the Plaza, shows

that luxury condos, with its concierge and indoor

squash court, have a future Downtown.

As the level of market-rate housing rises,

expect to see more street-facing retail. Boyer

said Downtown has more retail than people

realize because some of it is inside office

buildings and not visible from the street. But

once Downtown reaches the magic numbers

of 10,000 residents and $2-a-square-foot

rent, expect to see national chains opening

stores Downtown, Boyer said.

LaVilla

A less obvious hotspot for development

is LaVilla. The historic black neighborhood

known for its blighted buildings is being

re-energized.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s

new Regional Transportation Center is

scheduled to open next year, positioning the

neighborhood as a multi-modal transportation

hub.

Earlier this year, DIA and JTA released

a LaVilla Neighborhood Redevelopment

Strategy that envisions using LaVilla’s rich

African-American history as the foundation

for redevelopment that will include a

Heritage Trail, an expansion of Lift Ev’ry

Voice and Sing Park and a mix of affordable,

workforce and market-rate housing for lease

and purchase.

The residential component is already well

underway. The Vestcor Companies affordable

and workforce housing — the 130-unit

Lofts at LaVilla and the 108-unit Lofts at

Monroe — were fully occupied within days

of opening. The Lofts at Jefferson Station

are under construction and expected to fill

rapidly.

And who could have imagined an

arm-wrestling match over a block in LaVilla

for the chance to build market-rate homes?

Vestcor; Johnson Commons, a joint venture

of JWB Real Estate Capital LLC and Corner

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 69


“We’re very bullish on Downtown,

and we’re cheering for everyone else

who wants to build in Downtown.”

Steve Moore, President of Vestcor

Lot Development LLC, and Blackwater

Capital vied for the block bordered by West

Adams, Johnson, Lee and Forsyth streets.

Vestcor wants to build 70 townhomes,

Johnson Commons wanted to build 98

townhomes and retail space and Blackwater

wanted to build 64 townhomes. They would

sell in the mid-$200,000s. The DIA chose the

Vestcor proposal.

Boyer expects more development

because many of the vacant parcels in the

neighborhood are city-owned.

Brooklyn

The adjacent neighborhood of Brooklyn,

another historic black neighborhood that was

an eyesore, has now become the poster child

for what an urban residential neighborhood

could look like.

The resurrection of Brooklyn began in

2014 with the construction of Brooklyn

Station, anchored by The Fresh Market. It

was followed the next year by 220 Riverside,

a six-story apartment building with 294 units

built by NAI Hallmark Partners.

Next door, NAI Hallmark Partners and

Bristol Development Group are well underway

on Vista Brooklyn, a 10-story building

with 308 apartments.

The 310-unit Brooklyn Riverside apartment

complex, built by Atlanta developer

Pollack Shores between Park and Magnolia

streets, is now occupied.

Construction is expected to begin this

fall on Vestcor’s Lofts at Brooklyn, a 133-unit

affordable and workforce housing at Spruce

Street between Jackson and Stonewall streets.

They all are in walking distance of the new

Winston YMCA and the Northbank Riverwalk.

Another shopping center, Brooklyn

Place, to be built by Ferber Company next to

Brooklyn Station, is on the drawing boards.

On the horizon is a residential/multi-use

development on the old Times-Union property

across Riverside Avenue.

Southbank

Across the St. Johns River, the Southbank

has emerged as Downtown’s highrent

district: the Peninsula condos, the

Strand apartments and San Marco Place

condos. Most condos at the Peninsula sell

in the $500,000-$700,000 range, but one is

on the market for $1.1 million.

The new Broadstone River House on

Prudential Drive is now leasing its 300

luxury apartments with rents ranging from

$1,462 to $2,575.

The city is trying to give the Southbank

a more neighborhood feel with a “road

diet” to slow down vehicular traffic on

Riverplace Boulevard and wider sidewalks

and crosswalks to encourage pedestrian

and bicycle traffic. The project includes

additional parking and signage for the

Southbank Riverwalk.

A few blocks south off Hendricks Avenue

is the new SoBa apartments, with 147

apartments renting for between $1,300 and

$1,600, opening this fall.

And then there’s the long-awaited

District, a huge riverfront development by

Peter Rummell and Michael Munz that will

include 1,170 residential units for sale or

lease. Construction, expected to start this

fall, will transform the Southbank.

And still on the drawing boards is

Ventures Development’s 185-unit apartment

building on the Southbank west of the

Acosta Bridge.

Cathedral District

People have been calling the 33-block

area on the northside of Downtown home

for more than a half century. It is aptly

named the Cathedral District because

St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral has put its

stamp on the area.

In the 1960s, the congregation established

the Cathedral Foundation, now

known as Aging True, to build three

high-rises for senior citizens. About 640

senior citizens live in Cathedral Towers, Cathedral

Terraces and Cathedral Townhomes,

which recently were renovated at a cost of

$30 million.

Aging True is pursuing financing to

build another apartment building called

Ashley Square at Ashley and Beaver streets.

The five-story apartment building would

have 110 one- and two-bedroom units for

working adults and seniors and would be

adjacent to Stevens Duval Apartments, a

historic red-brick building that was the

city’s first school.

The Cathedral also donated land for the

51-unit Parks at the Cathedral townhomes

built across Church Street from the church.

An adjacent lot on Church Street was

earmarked for a second townhome project

never built.

The Cathedral recently set up Cathedral

District-Jax, a nonprofit whose mission is

redeveloping the district with residential

and retail.

Cathedral District-Jax is working with

Vestcor on a $20 million project to transform

the old Community Connections

property into the Lofts at the Cathedral, a

mixed-income housing development with

about 140 apartments.

The project recently lost out on state

funding but is pursuing other sources,

including state low-income housing tax

credits and a Recapture Enhanced Value

grant.

Another project in the works will bring

micro housing to the Cathedral District in

converted shipping containers. JWB Real

Estate Capital plans to build 320-squarefoot

studio apartments, 18 units at 412 E.

Ashley St. Rent will start at $550.

And developer Rafael Caldera is proposing

an art-themed 45-unit apartment

project at Duval and Washington streets

that would include studio space and an art

gallery.

Central Core

A future option for housing is the adaptive

reuse of historic buildings, something exemplified

in the Central Core.

Boyer calls adaptive reuse “a different

animal” that’s not for everyone.

Downtown abounds in old buildings,

some abandoned for decades, that could be

turned into housing, retail or office. But it’s an

70

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


expensive, complicated and often time-consuming

proposition.

While construction on a vacant parcel can

begin almost immediately, an abandoned

building has to be approached with care. The

aging façade might have unique architectural

details, but its interior can hide structural

weaknesses, and its historic past can

entangle it in preservation regulations.

The majority of housing options in the

Central Core are found in historic buildings,

TODAY: including 11 East Forsyth and The

NTACT US

one: 1-904-271-2352 Carling, which date to the 1920s and are

x: 1-904-271-2352

on the National Register of Historic Places.

Vestcor financed the work on both buildings

with Historic Preservation Trust Fund

grants and low-interest city loans.

Eleven East Forsyth, originally the Lynch

building and later American Heritage Life,

opened in 2003 with 127 units.

The following year, Vestcor tackled the

old Roosevelt Hotel, which was abandoned

after a catastrophic fire that killed 22 people

on the eve of the 1963 Gator Bowl game.

It reopened in 2005 as The Carling with 100

apartments.

Three other historic buildings have been

redeveloped as loft-style apartments:

Metropolitan Lofts, 116 units, in the

Massell Building, built in 1958 on West

Church Street.

Churchwell Lofts, 21 units, in the J.H.

Churchwell building, which was built after

the Great Fire, on East Bay Street.

The W.A. Knight building, 12 units, in

the W.A. Knight Lofts, built in 1926, at 113

W. Adams St.

The 58 units of FSCJ Student Housing,

20 W. Adams St., Downtown’s first student

housing, occupies the old Lerner Building.

The historic Barnett Bank building has new

life as the Residences at Barnett, with 107

one- and two-bedroom 25 N Market apartments, Street made

possible with $9.8

Jacksonville,

million in city

FL

incentives.

32202

And, the old Jones Brothers furniture

store on North Hogan Street is in the pipeline

to be redeveloped by ACE JAX into 28

apartments and retail space.

Sports 25 & N Market Entertainment

Street

Jacksonville, District FL 32202

In the Sports & Entertainment District, Lot

J is closer to shifting off the “proposed” list.

Shad Khan has reached a tentative

agreement with the city for a $450 million

development that would include 300 luxury

apartments and a midrise apartment building

along with a hotel, office tower and the

Live! Entertainment District.

The project would be developed by Jacksonville

I-C Parcel One Holding Company

LLC, a joint venture between Khan’s Gecko

Investments and The Cordish Companies.

The deal would come with $233 million

in city incentives and still has a lot of hurdles

to clear, but if it happens, it will change the

character of the district on the eastern edge

of Downtown dominated by sports and

entertainment venues.

All of Downtown is taking on new character

and a new look

“Our skyline CONTACT is going to US look TODAY: different,”

Boyer said. “It Phone: is continuing 1-904-271-2352 to evolve.”

The demographics

Fax: 1-904-271-2352

are changing, too, as

millennials and empty nesters move to the

urban core.

“You always judge a city by its Downtown,”

said Moore of Vestcor. “It’s in our best

interests CONTACT for Downtown US TODAY: to be successful,

and Phone: housing 1-904-271-2352 is a very large piece of that.”

Fax: Moore 1-904-271-2352 said people look at Downtown

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“But that’s the great thing about Downtown.

There are great opportunities to develop and

redevelop. We’re very bullish on Downtown,

and we’re cheering for everyone else who

wants to build in Downtown.”

Lilla Ross, a former Florida Times-Union

editor, lives in San Marco.

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FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 71


ENDANGERED BUILDING:

Located at 851 N Market St.,

the Downtown Armory has

gone through a handful of

transformations over the years.

72

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


WHO

WILL

SAVE

OUR

Built in 1915, the former Florida National Guard Armory building has sat

vacant for a decade while waiting for the next chapter in its storied life.

By ROGER BROWN Photo by JEFF DAVIS

G O T H I C

FORTRESS?

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 73


“The reason why it’s worthwhile

to save old buildings is to save

the stories they can tell us.”

Alan Bliss, executive director of

the Jacksonville Historical Society

The Armory building

on 851 North Market St.:

• Is a massive hulk of

a structure that is more

than 100 years old.

• Has effectively

been a vacant Downtown

site for a decade (and counting).

• Is prone to being flooded, thanks to its

proximity to Hogans Creek.

• Has been a perennial entry over the

past few years on the Jacksonville Historical

Society’s “Most Endangered Buildings”

list.

So why does the Armory still possess an

uncanny ability to make some of Jacksonville’s

most renowned students of history

swoon at the mere mention of its name?

“It’s a splendid building,” says Wayne

Wood, a longtime local historian and civic

activist, of the Armory. “To me it’s one of

Jacksonville’s great landmark structures.”

Equally effusive is Joel McEachin, the

city of Jacksonville’s legendary longtime

senior historic preservationist — a man

whose passion for preserving history runs

so deep that the city has named an award

after him and he still works twice a week or

so for the Planning and Development Department’s

Historic Preservation Section

even after retiring last year.

“Architecturally, the Armory is a really

significant building because it has the

distinctive stylings of a Gothic fortress,”

McEachin said.

“It’s the only real military building we

have Downtown, and that’s reflected in

its design,” McEachin said. “Yet during

its history it’s been versatile enough to be

everything from a military facility to one of

Jacksonville’s major venues for shows and

concerts and other entertainment.”

With a smile, McEachin adds, “That is

pretty amazing.”

And it makes it all the more sad that the

Armory, which is officially classified as a

local landmark, has been sitting like some

100-YEAR-OLD ARMORY

RUNNING OUT OF TIME

1ST ST.

PHELPS ST.

Confederate

Park

ORANGE ST.

N

Family

Dollar

HUBBARD ST.

Confederate

Dog Park

STATE ST.

UNION ST.

BEAVER ST.

MARKET ST.

LIBERTY ST.

The former Florida

National Guard armory

at 851 N. Market St.

McDonald’s

Hogans Creek

ghostly, weed-ridden presence on North

Market Street since it was last occupied in

2010.

What’s encouraging is that might soon

change.

During the summer the city opened a

bidding process to see if any developers

were interested in taking over the property

— and it drew some intriguing and exciting

proposals.

For example, B&H Fine Foods, a Boca

Raton-based firm, has proposed turning

the 80,000-square foot Armory into a

farmer’s market that will also have other

food-related features.

Local developer Rafael Caldera,

meanwhile, has floated an idea to open

an architecture school in the Armory that

could draw some 1,000 students.

And REVA Development Corp., a Fort

Lauderdale developer, wants to use the

Armory as a site as workforce housing —

along with a sizable facility for artists.

Such heightened interest is a welcome

departure from just a few years ago when

only the Sons of Confederate Veterans

were intrigued enough to attempt to

acquire the Armory and turn it into a museum

— an idea that proved to be a damp

firework that quickly fizzled out

Still, for now anyway, the Armory continues

to sit silent and dormant.

“It’s too bad, because it has so much

charisma,” Wood says of the Armory.

“We just have to find some way to give it

a chance to really display that charisma

again.”

Alan Bliss, the executive

director of the Jacksonville Historical

Society, is fond of offering

a simple yet powerful reply

whenever he’s asked why it’s worthwhile

for the city to save and preserve many of its

older buildings.

“The reason why it’s worthwhile to save

old buildings,” Bliss says, “is to save the

stories they can tell us.”

And the Armory’s walls can definitely

tell volumes of spellbinding tales.

Built in 1915 to serve as a training and

recreation site for the local members of the

Florida National Guard, the Armory was

almost like a hybrid military facility/early-day

Dave & Buster’s. It had everything

from a mess hall, drill area and rifle range

to a bowling alley, billiards room, fireplace

and swimming pool — in addition to a

large auditorium and stage.

Because of its multi-use capabilities, the

Armory gradually morphed from a strictly

military site to become a prominent social

one, too: In the decades after it was first

built, it went on to host concerts by music

notables ranging from jazz great Duke Ellington

to Hall of Fame rocker Janis Joplin.

In short, the Armory has been an iconic

location that’s had more than its share of

cultural icons inside it.

But during the 1970s the Armory’s use

gradually changed from social to merely

JEFF DAVIS

74

J MAGAZINE | SUMMER 2019


INSIDE THE FORMER FLORIDA NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY

Today, the armory at 851 N. Market St. is a shell of its former self. Built in 1915, it originally had everything from a mess

hall, drill area and rifle range to a bowling alley, billiards room and swimming pool — in addition to a large auditorium.

PHOTOS BY WILL DICKEY

76

J MAGAZINE | SUMMER 2019


functional. For several years it served as an

office site for the city’s parks and recreation

department until persistent flooding issues

led to it being vacated in 2010.

The most obvious challenge

to reviving the Armory is Mother

Nature: The building sits on a

flood plain, making it highly

susceptible to significant flooding.

“That’s just the reality of being so close

to Hogans Creek,” Bliss says of the Armory.

“It’s not as though you can easily just

move a building that massive to another

location, either. It would be a heavy lift,

literally and figuratively.”

Wood says that the Armory’s bulky size

is “its biggest positive because that opens

up so many possibilities, but also the biggest

negative” in any effort to revive it.

“When you have something that huge

that has been unoccupied for so long,”

Wood says, “it will naturally need a lot of

work to be really ready for adaptive reuse.”

Christian Popoli, a city planning supervisor,

said that in addition to flooding

issues, the Armory’s “masonry has suffered

from degradation over the years,” which

would require considerable attention from

any developer willing to take on the site.

And McEachin said that while the

Armory “is in reasonably good shape” for

a century-old building that hasn’t had

anyone in it on a regular basis for years, “it

will probably need tremendous upgrades

inside it — and they may cost a bit because

of the Armory’s size.”

Given the real and daunting

challenges that would be part

of trying to revive the Armory,

the logical question must be

asked: Is it realistic to think that it actually

can be brought back to life?

Surprisingly, perhaps, the general view

seems to be: “Sure it could — why not?”

“It’s very realistic,” McEachin says of a

potential Armory rebirth. “It will take work

and investment. But absolutely, the opportunity

for adaptive resuse is there.”

Popoli notes that because the Armory

is an officially designated local landmark,

both the city and the State of Florida have

various tax programs that can be brought

to bear in supporting any effort to develop

the site.

And a bullish Wood sums up the Armory’s

potential in terms as grand as the

old building itself.

“It is,” Wood says, “a wonderful, expansive

blank canvas that’s just waiting for

something magnificent to be created on it.”

Roger Brown is a Times-Union editorial

writer and member of the editorial board.

He lives Downtown.

JEFF DAVIS

Downtown’s ‘most endangered buildings’

What does it take

to make it on

the Jacksonville

Historical Society’s

annual list of “Most Endangered

Buildings” across Downtown?

For Alan Bliss, the renowned and

personable executive director of the

Jacksonville Historical Society, the

criteria are pretty clear.

“They have to be properties that

are at real risk of being demolished

because they are in an advanced

deteriorating state,” Bliss says, “or

properties that have no clear plan for

them to be used in a way that retains

and reflects their original character.”

And why are endangered buildings

actually worth saving?

“The reason why it’s worthwhile

to save old buildings,” Bliss says, “is to

save the stories they can tell us.”

And there are plenty of stories

that can be told about the 11 buildings

that — along with old Duval County

Armory on North Market Street —

comprise the Jacksonville Historical

Society’s 2019 list of most endangered

buildings.

They are:

Dr. Horace Drew’s

residence

245 W. Third St.

• The longtime home of local

physician Dr. Horace Drew, who

also owned a Downtown printing

business during the early 1900s.

Built in 1903, the Snyder Memorial Methodist Church sits vacant.

The Universal

Marion Building

21 W. Church St.

• Built in the early 1960s, it had

a revolving restaurant on its top

floor for years. In recent years it

has served as JEA’s headquarters.

Snyder Memorial

Methodist Church

226 N. Laura St.

• Built in 1903 and famed

as the site where civil rights

activists attacked during Ax

Handle Saturday in 1960 were

able to find safety.

Ford Motor Company

Assembly Plant

on Wambolt Street

• Built in the early 1920s and used

by the Ford Motor Co. until the

late 1960s.

Moulton & Kyle

Funeral Home

17 W. Union St.

• Built in the early 20th century

and empty for the past six years.

Annie Lytle Public School

1011 Peninsular Place

• Condemned in 1971.

The Florida Baptist

Convention Building

218 W. Church St.

• Conceived by famed architect

Henry J. Klutho and vacant for

decades.

Fire Station No. 5

347 Riverside Ave.

• Built in 1910 and inactive for

more than 10 years. It’s now a

prime candidate for demolition in

the near future.

Three shotgun houses

on Church and Jefferson streets

• All three of these one-story

houses were originally located

on North Lee Street. All three

survived the Great Fire of 1901.

They were eventually relocated to

their current LaVilla site by the city.

Genovars Hall

644 W. Ashley St.

• Built in 1895 and a famed jazz

club.

Claude Nolan Cadillac

937 N. Main St.

• Built in the early 20th century.

All of them may be old buildings

in a physical sense — but surely the

stories they can all tell are timeless.

Both the buildings and their

stories are worth saving.

– ROGER BROWN

SUMMER 2019 | J MAGAZINE 77


The

Great

Space

Chase

78

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


Each day, more

than 7,000

Downtown

parking spots

go unused.

They are

just not where

you’re looking.

IBy Carole Hawkins

Illustration by Jeff Davis

‘m running late

for a meeting

running at City

Hall, and the traffic

lights have chosen

this one moment to all turn

red. Everyone’s crowding into

the left lane on Forsyth, and

I wedge in behind them to

take my turn. Finally, a left on

Hogan, I’m getting close.

I look to the curb, where an

unbroken line of parked cars

hits me like a hand in the face.

“And, don’t even think of

trying to park on Laura or

Adams,” a voice in my head

whines as I throw a glance at

two of Downtown’s most perennially

clogged corridors.

I drive past City Hall to

Church Street, a route usually

overlooked by less experienced

Downtown drivers. I turn just

in time to see a car backing into

the last parking space for three

blocks. Curses! »

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 79


“The perception of Downtown’s

parking shortage is actually an

accessibility and proximity issue.”

Vicky Gagliano, Project Manager

for Tim Haahs & Associates

I circle the Hemming Park area twice. There’s supposed to be a

public parking garage somewhere near the library, but I’ve never

been able to find it.

I duck into a small private garage. It has one public space left, and

I’m saved. Until next time.

RANKING RATES

A look at how Jacksonville’s hourly parking

meter rates stack up against seven peer cities.

Plenty of parking (but not here)

There’s plenty of parking Downtown. Just maybe not where

you’re looking.

The core district — which stretches from Hemming Park and

the Courthouse down to the Riverwalk and The Landing — has an

on-street parking shortage. That’s according to a new study performed

by Tim Haahs & Associates for the Downtown Investment

Authority.

It vindicates public sentiment

that Downtown parking is

not so easy to be had during the

busy workweek.

But the study also vindicates

a position long held by city

leaders, who’ve said there’s

enough parking to take care of

everyone. Drive almost anywhere

Downtown other than

the core, and there’s plenty of

parking all day long. City garages,

too, have excess space.

The trick is getting people to

go there.

If we could, it would open

up more curbside parking for

visitors and give Downtown

motorists a little more breathing room. It’s not as tough a problem

as it might seem.

DIA’s consultant, after crunching Downtown’s parking numbers,

offered some suggestions: Raise the price of a Downtown parking

meter to $2 an hour. Lure some commuters to the metro’s perimeter

with economy parking lots.

DIA is considering just that.

HOURLY

PARKING

CITY POP. METER RATE

Savannah 146,444 $1-$2

Miami 463,347 $1.50-$1.75

Tampa 385,430 $0.25-$1.50

Birmingham 210,710 $1

Orlando 280,257 $1

St. Petersburg 263,255 $1

Jacksonville 892,062 $0.50

Gainesville 132,249 $0.25-$0.50

Getting the facts straight

A Times-Union survey in 2017 found 10 percent of people don’t

come Downtown more often because it’s hard for them to find

parking. Thirteen percent identified more and better parking as one

of the top improvements they’d make to Downtown.

Many city leaders believed it was just a perception issue. Others,

like Jack Shad, former head of the city’s Office of Public Parking,

theorized Downtown workers could be feeding parking meters all

day long, instead of going into higher-priced parking garages. That

might squeeze out Downtown visitors, looking for a quick, convenient

spot.

During his tenure, Shad installed and tested a row of smart

meters — electronic devices that detect when cars are occupying

parking spaces. If deployed city-wide, smart meters could one day

help enforce the two-hour parking time limit curbside and also show

leaders where parking demand is most intense.

The city last fall ran a second round of smart meter tests, but no

recommendations have come of it so far. About the same time, the

city hired Tim Haahs & Associates and charged it with assessing

parking capacity Downtown.

“It was to respond to the

EXPIRED

SOURCE: TIM HAAHS & ASSOCIATES

public perception that there

wasn’t adequate parking

Downtown,” said DIA CEO

Lori Boyer, “and to determine

whether in fact there is adequate

parking.”

Getting the facts straight

matters. Building new parking

garages is expensive, and parking

fees alone often don’t support

the cost, said Tim Haahs

& Associates’ Project Manager

Vicky Gagliano, who spoke at

DIA’s June meeting.

Also, building more parking

Downtown may not pay off

in the long run. Times are

changing for personal transit. People are using Uber and Lyft to get to

hotels and airports, instead of the traditional drive-and-park options.

Driverless vehicles could soon appear on the scene. Imagine a future

where those cars bring commuters to work and then return home

until they’re needed again at end of the day.

It’s possible cities might one day need fewer parking spaces, not

more. Throw a new parking garage at a problem today, and the result

in the future could be less than great. Fortunately, Jacksonville won’t

have to.

Downtown has a parking surplus of 7,121 spaces, the study

found. The problem is most of the excess is near the stadium (3,554

spaces), or else it’s in parking garages and lots (3,161 spaces), not

curbside in the metro center.

“The perception of Downtown’s parking shortage is actually an

JEFF DAVIS

80

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


J MAGAZINE

accessibility and proximity issue,” Gagliano said.

That’s an easier fix.

Relocating demand

Best practices in city parking say at least 1

in 7 curbside parking spaces should be

open in order to keep motorists from

driving in circles. In Jacksonville,

the core district’s count comes

in undersupplied at 1 in 8 open

spaces. That’s true even while

city garages in the core have a

few hundred spaces left.

One reason why parking

spaces at meters are full and

spaces in garages are empty

is because the pricing structure

for parking fees is upside

down, the study said. Now, it

costs 50 cents an hour to park at

a curbside meter — the place where

visitors want to park to browse a nearby

shop, or to run into a café for a quick cup of

coffee. It costs $1 to $3 an hour to park in a garage.

The parking rates at the meters should be priced high

enough to encourage turnover, said Gagliano.

“Your most expensive asset should be your street

parking, because it’s the most convenient parking,” she

said. “It’s the first thing people hit, followed by surface

lots and then, garages.”

Out of seven peer cities, only one has street-side

parking rates lower than ours, the study said. Raise

Jacksonville’s meter fee to $2, and cost-conscious

drivers, especially those staying for a longer period of

time, will seek out the garages.

There are other changes Jacksonville could make, too.

Park and ride

The city currently offers low- and no-cost

parking to several groups of people

who park in garages at the core. It’s

the area with the highest parking

demand.

City workers park in garages

at a discount, a benefit for

their government service.

Jurors get free parking in

the Courthouse garage. The

city holds 300 spaces every

day for them, even though

they mostly serve only on

Mondays.

Those groups can keep

their perks, but they could

be moved to parking lots in the

stadium district, which are virtually

empty during business hours.

If the city offered economy parking there,

it could lure cost-conscious commuters out to the quiet metro perimeter,

too. The city could pair the new commuter lots with a bus

circulator to shuttle people between parking and the Downtown

core.

Absent from the report, though, was the city’s earlier idea of deploying

smart meters. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen sometime in

the future, Boyer said. She’s most interested in using smart meters

to help drivers find parking spaces via a phone app. Drivers also

could use their phones to pay.

“Everybody operates with their phone,” Boyer said. “It will be

just when we moved from coin-operated meters to credit card

meters.”

Next steps

Boyer said the parking study’s two biggest suggestions

— correcting the parking meters’ upside-down

pricing and creating economy parking lots — are the

most important takeaways for now. But, it’s too soon

to say exactly what will happen.

How much would a new bus circulator cost?

Would commuters be charged for it, or would it be

part of the economy parking package? The Jacksonville

Transit Authority would have to weigh in.

Also, the city doesn’t technically have control over

the parking lots at the stadium. The city owns the land, but

SMG, the company that manages TIAA Bank

Field, holds the lease for the parking.

It makes sense to activate those lots

during sleepy business hours. But

doing so would take a contract

renegotiation.

Another source of

economy parking could be

the stadium district’s two

garages. Those buildings

are owned by Metropolitan

Parking Solutions. But the

garages are city-funded,

so an agreement with MPS

is possible too. It would take

another negotiation.

Then there’s the idea of a rate

hike on Downtown’s curbside parking

meters. It could be a sensitive subject.

“They recommended $2 an hour … I’m

looking at some of the other cities, and there are some that

are higher,” Boyer said. “But going from 50 cents to $2 an

hour? I think you’d have to do outreach with Downtown

merchants.”

Finally, there’s the issue of timing. DIA wants to

start work this year on converting several one-way

Downtown corridors into two-way streets. It’s a project

that would also give Downtown better wayfinding

signs, like the big blue ones that help people find a

parking garage. That’s work that ought to come first,

Boyer said.

“I wouldn’t want to say [to drivers] ‘OK it’s $2 at a

meter, and good luck trying to find some other place to

park,’” she said. “That’s not the message we want to send.”

Better signs would, indeed, be a good place to start. If Jacksonville

did that, then when all the curbside parking spaces near

City Hall are full, maybe I could finally find my way to the Library

Garage.

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.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 81


READY TO ROLL:

Steph Dale, the owner of Go Tuk’n,

stops in Hemming Park with one of

her company’s vehicles that they use

to shuttle tour passengers.

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Ride &

Shine

Say hello to the

Go Tuk’n. Think

of it as an Uber

for Downtown

sightseeing.

My shirt

was already beginning to stick to my

damp back on a hot, windless July

morning. Bay Street was surprisingly

quiet for a weekday. Light traffic, a few

buses. No taxis. I exchanged “Good

mornings” with fewer than a half-dozen

pedestrians.

I stood outside Bold City Brewing

waiting to be picked up in a tuk tuk vehicle

from the Jacksonville Beach-based

company Go Tuk’n. They offer a variety

By DAN MACDONALD

Photos by BOB SELF

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 83


Go Tuk’n’s Anthony Hall and Steph Dale head Downtown after a stop at Hemming Park in one of the company’s three-wheeled vehicles.

of ways to see our city and the Beaches

communities or make getting from point A

to point B a different experience.

It was the morning of the Rolling Stones

concert when I was taking the three-hour

Downtown historic tour. That is why the

appointed meeting spot was Bay Street

rather than by the Jaguars statue at TIAA

Bank Stadium. T-shirt-garbed parking lot

guardians can be rather strict about vehicles

without passes parking in the massive lot

the morning of a concert.

Go Tuk’n is the creation of Steph Dale.

In her previous life, she had leading roles

in corporate human resources for several

firms. A year ago, she began her new

business that was inspired by her travels to

Puerto Rico and throughout Europe.

A tuk tuk has many uses. It’s a taxi. It

hauls goods. Some might think of it is as

a motorized rickshaw. Throughout Asia,

Central America and various tourist isles,

this is a primary form of transportation. It is

a descendant of the rickshaw, a cart pulled

by a human. Tuk tuks got the name from the

sound the small engine made as it puttered

down the road.

“I just didn’t want a stinky one,” Dale

said, noting that most run on diesel fuel.

Hers are street-legal, battery-operated with

a range of 70 to 100 miles on a charge. Top

speed is 30 mph, making for a leisurely ride

through city streets. Think of it as taking a

horse and buggy ride without having to feel

sorry for the poor draught horse clopping

along on a miserably hot, muggy day.

W

hat makes a tuk tuk

different from a golf

cart is that a tuk tuk

generally is a threewheeled

vehicle that

doesn’t have a steering

wheel. Rather, it is

driven like a motorcycle with handlebars

and a hand-operated throttle.

“Think of it as a low-speed motorcycle,”

Dale said.

Dale’s vehicles are covered but have

clear plastic roofs to allow tourists to

have an unobstructed view. In the warm

months she advises customers to bring

bottled water and an umbrella (just in

case), and the seats are heated for colder

night comfort.

She worked on her business plan and

concept for six years. She found E-Tuk,

out of Denver, that makes electric tuk tuks.

The vehicles are 13 feet long and 6 feet

wide and weigh 3,000 pounds. She has the

exclusive license from E-Tuk to operate its

tuk tuks in Northeast Florida. The basic tuk

tuk costs around $30,000 before all of her

additions are installed.

Before starting Go Tuk’n she had to

work with the state government to allow

the vehicles to transport passengers on

public streets. In addition to operating Go

Tuk’n, she has a travel agency.

Besides the city historic tour, there are a

variety of ways to use a tuk tuk. The company

offers pub crawls, scavenger hunts and

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J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


other historic tours for Riverside and Avondale

and several specially suited for children.

Spontaneity makes Go Tuk’n a crowd pleaser

for tourists. Instead of having to book a week out,

visitors can make a spur-of-the-moment decision

to book tuk tuk packages within two hours

of a scheduled tour. An exception is the popular

9 p.m. Brewery & More tour that must be booked

a day in advance.

One of Go Tuk’n’s cheerleaders is

Katie Mitura, vice president of

marketing and communications

for Visit Jacksonville. She sees

the service as a way to show visitors

our vast city in a reasonable

amount of time. She said visitors

come to her office on Laura Street looking for

ways to discover Jacksonville. Go Tuk’n shows

them the sights and gives them some history

about the architecture after the Great Fire of

1901.

“We have limited opportunities in Jacksonville

that will tell you about our history and what

makes us unique. It is so great that this tour

opportunity is there,” Mitura said.

That’s where my driver, Stacey Parker,

comes in. Her tour starts at the stadium, the

Gator Bowl to us locals. She regales her tour

with facts about the stadium (for instance, for

a short time, we had the largest scoreboard in

the world, and it is still the second largest in

the NFL). Newcomers will be both confused

and amazed at the extravagance of swimming

pools in the stadium and the influence Daily’s

Place has had on the city.

The tour gets more instructive as we motor

through the Downtown district. If anyone comes

away with any catchphrase from the Downtown

Historic Tour, it is “Look up.” Jacksonville’s

architectural beauty is about 20 feet or more

above the sidewalk. You’ll see dragons, animals

and sculptures of wise-men. You’ll notice how

most buildings are the same height. You’ll learn

that our first “skyscraper” wasn’t one at all: The

6-story Dyal-Upchurch building at the corner of

Main and Bay streets doesn’t have steel supports,

which are needed to be a skyscraper, she said.

However, it is estimated that it took nearly one

million bricks to build.

You’ll also learn why Jacksonville should be

more aptly named Cowford, which it was called

for a time. At low tide, cows were herded across

the St. Johns River in Downtown, near what is

now The Plaza condominiums across from the

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Parker also takes this opportunity to note

that, while the city is named after Andrew Jackson,

the regional governor at the time, he never

stepped foot in the city named in his honor.

The tour of City Hall, the former Cohen

Building, is worth the price of admission. The

TOURING THE

URBAN CORE

Go Tuk’n gives tourists and

residents plenty of reasons to

jump in their electric vehicles

and enjoy Jacksonville. Prices

vary by the tour, ages, numbers

of passengers and day of the

week.

WEBSITE: www.gotukn.com

PHONE: (904)322-8444

Here is a glimpse of some

of the Go Tuk’n tours:

Historic/

Architecture

Tours

This three-hour tour is

sanctioned by Riverside

Avondale Preservation, which

receives a part of each fare paid.

• The tour focuses on the area’s

architecture and history.

Riverside Arts

Market Tour

If you don’t have time for the

three-hour tour, take this onehour

tour that will spark your

curiosity.

• It’s rather popular. You’ll want

to book early in the week.

Downtown

Jacksonville

City Tour

Until you take this tour, you’ve

never realize how much art is

on the streets of Downtown

Jacksonville.

Downtown

Kids Historical

Scavenger Hunt

Cruising through city streets

will prove to be a fun

experience.

• In an hour’s time, the young

ones will be taught about their

city while trying to spot tricky

Downtown sites and objects.

JACKSONVILLE

Brewery Tours

Tours happen both in

Downtown and at the Beaches.

• Each tour visits three to four

breweries, tap rooms and bars.

• The tours are customizable.

• The first drink at each stop

is free.

– DAN MACDONALD

fact that the city had the foresight to take a

huge, intricate building that was the center

of commerce and turn into the center of city

government is a head turner. City Hall is one

of Downtown’s treasures. Across the street, she

explains that, at the dedication of the statue of

the Confederate soldier in Hemming Park, descendants

of Gen. Robert E. Lee and President

Ulysses S. Grant were in attendance.

W

hile it would have made

it a four-hour tour, I was

disappointed we didn’t

enter at least one of the

underground tunnels that

linked the city’s banks in

the day. The underground

passageways connected buildings so deposits

could be made without fear of a robbery under

the street. It’s a rather cool Downtown site that

should be exploited.

Another oversight is the city’s food trucks.

The tour should offer visitors a chance to taste

the variety of Jacksonville foods offered at the

food park near the soon-to-be-demolished

Jacksonville Landing, across from the Omni. A

chance to taste Jacksonville barbecue or its take

on Asian cuisine is a postcard moment for many

visitors.

The final stop will have a much different

look in the coming months. Parker revved the

engine and pushed the tuk tuk over the Main

Street Bridge to Friendship Fountain. When it

was dedicated in 1965, it was one of the largest

self-contained fountains in the world. She

apologizes that the once famous fountain is now

a mere spitting image of its past glory. Maintenance

costs have reduced it to a fancy water

fountain, Parker said.

A quick two-step to the River City Brewing

Company, she parks the tuk tuk and encourages

visitors to get out and photograph our river and

Downtown. Soon the Jacksonville Landing will

be demolished and gone from future pictures.

While locals take it for granted, visitors know

it as the iconic beauty shot taken from blimps

during televised Downtown sporting events.

Afterward, will a strip of grass in front of our

skyline really be worth the trip across the Main

Street Bridge?

Is the tour a valuable experience? In the fall,

winter and spring — yes. The summer heat may

cause some concern for comfort. But you’re

moving most of the time, and that creates a

nice breeze. You’ll learn about Jacksonville and

appreciate the art that is all around us, albeit 20

feet above our heads.

Dan Macdonald was a music and entertainment

writer for The Florida Times-Union and Jacksonville

Journal in 1984-1996 and the Times-Union food editor

in 1997-2007. He lives in Jacksonville Beach.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 85


Digital

Directions

By SHELTON HULL

Illustration by J MAGAZINE

From events and attractions

to dinner and drinks, staying

connected to Downtown

can be a daunting task

Downtown is growing, upward and

outward, with a new generation of bars, clubs and restaurants,

more retail spaces, a changing skyline and a diverse array of

entertainment options available for visitors of all ages, all races

and all cultural backgrounds.

Those of us who frequent Downtown regularly are already

well aware of all this, but what about those who are new to the

area? Well, maybe not so much. Like almost everywhere else

in our state, Downtown Jacksonville is always keen to maximize

its tourist dollars, but that is easier said than done.

The past few years have seen a dramatic phase-shift in mass

media on local and national levels, and that has changed the

way people get their information, whether it’s about politics

or nightlife. In the old days, the best way to find out what was

going on in any city at any random moment was to pick up the

daily newspaper (especially on a Friday) or the local alternative

newsweekly, both of which had extensive listings of upcoming

events and advertisements that highlighted special attractions.

Now, times have certainly changed, and while those traditional

outlets are still doing their thing, much of the emphasis

for promotions has shifted to social media, which allows businesses

the ability to target their promotions to a wider, more

diverse audience in real-time, at just a fraction of the usual cost.

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In this city, a lot of news is disseminated

through word-of-mouth and social media.

Spot shows and pop-up shops often materialize

faster than social media, but locals

are kept abreast by their peers.

If you’re a visitor, however, or one of

those lucky few people who’ve managed to

avoid being saturated by our all-pervasive

social-media culture, you’re more likely

to be caught unawares, and that leads to

missed opportunities for them and for the

city.

FINDING good info

But you still have options. Outlets like

Folio, The Florida Times-Union, EU, Buzz,

Arbus, Jacksonville Magazine and Void

remain useful for news about the city and

what it offers locals and tourists like. Their

listings tend to be the most up-to-date, and

the array of attached articles provide vital

context about the various goings-on, while

their voluminous archives will show what

you’ve already missed.

While it is unfortunate that Downtown’s

digital presence is not as streamlined and

accessible as it could be, the good news is

that everything is trending upward. Tourism

numbers in the area for 2018 were the best

ever, and the same goes for tourism overall

in Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties too.

Hotel occupancy rates through last September

were up nearly 2%; daily rates and

overall revenue were also up by 5% and 7%,

respectively. So, more people are coming,

and they’re spending more money.

The Visitors Centers

New visitors to Downtown are bestserved

by making their first stop, of course,

the Visitors Center, currently located at 208

N. Laura St., almost directly across from

Chamblin’s Uptown, although it will be moving

to the ground floor of the Wells Fargo

Center sometime early next year. It’s open

from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through

Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends.

The center is always a fun place to stop

by when you’re Downtown. It contains all

of our local publications (including this

one), as well as maps, flyers and brochures

that encompass virtually the full range of

leisure-time activities available in the urban

core and beyond. It’s also conveniently

located near Hemming Park, City Hall, the

Federal Courthouse and the former Jacksonville

Landing. It’s one of three Visitors Centers;

the other two are at 381 Beach Blvd. at

Jacksonville Beach and in the baggage claim

area at Jacksonville International Airport,

which is a very nice touch, indeed. (You can

also call the Visitors Center at 800-733-2668,

and someone will mail you a hard copy of its

Visitors Guide.)

Official websites

Visit Jacksonville is active across the span

of social media (visitjacksonville.com), and

so is Downtown Vision (downtownjacksonville.org).

Both groups offer regular email

blasts about the latest news and notes, but

that’s only useful if you’re already on their

mailing lists. New visitors will need to be

referred to those sites. JAX Chamber also

has a fairly detailed calendar on its website

(myjaxchamber.com), but it’s secondary to

what Visit Jacksonville offers. The Chamber

site is of greatest relevance to the business

community and would-be investors, of

which there are plenty these days.

Downtown Vision’s site is probably the

most user-friendly of the bunch. The front

page features an up-to-date list of whatever

events are happening on that particular

day, and it allows you to look up activities

based on the date. There’s also a sidebar

that includes links to articles about the latest

developments Downtown, although most of

those links were inactive at press time. There

are handy tabs for reporting problems or for

submitting event listings of your own.

Maybe best of all, there’s a link that

allows you to keep track of our Downtown

Ambassadors, the helpful, orange-shirted,

Segway-riding public servants who have

been the unsung heroes of the urban core

for years now. These folks have logged

nearly 30,000 man-hours on our streets,

provided more than 1,000 escorts for the lost

and umbrellas for the wet, removed 350+

pieces of graffiti and nearly 800 tons of litter.

This program has proven to be one of the

city’s best investments in recent years, and

almost everyone agrees that expanding their

numbers would be a great idea.

interactive planner

The Visit Jacksonville website offers a

“Trip Planner” (jacksonvillefl.visitwidget.

com), an interactive widget trip planner that

visitors plan their itineraries. It is easily the

definitive online resource for such a purpose

and a link worth sending to anyone you

know who’s coming to town.

For all intents and purposes, this is easily

the most detailed and comprehensive event

calendar available for the average user, and

newcomers will find it of optimal value.

The site is surprisingly easy to navigate,

offering a variety of options for parents,

children and swingin’ singles alike. Options

are arranged on a sidebar in several convenient

categories: “Active & Outdoors,” “Arts

& Culture,” “Nightlife,” “Live Performance,”

“Family Events,” “Fairs & Festivals” and

“Sport Events.”

The items within are all GPS-tagged,

allowing you to plan your trip with maximum

efficiency. There are also tabs for

tours, hotels, restaurants and bars, etc. You

can lay everything out on your desktop and

then print it out, or you can download their

app, which allows you to do all this from the

convenience of your smartphone.

Getting the word out

To the uninitiated, our city’s online

presence seems to be a hopeless muddle of

primitive websites with outdated information,

slow load-times and more pop-up

ads than a game of Whack-A-Mole. But it’s

really not that bad, and collectively, they

do achieve the utilitarian goal of getting

newcomers around the area safely and with

the bare minimum of backtracking and

wasted gas.

What we need now is not necessarily any

new websites or apps, but simply a more

concerted effort to get the existing resources

out there in front of people, and that comes

back around to word-of-mouth.

Branding is always an existential concern

in a city with so much history and so

much space to navigate. One step would be

to maybe change the URL for the Visit Jax

widget to something easier to remember,

perhaps incorporating the widget into the

regular website, and advertising it prominently

Downtown on light-posts and such.

It’s great having street signs that indicate

the general direction of prominent local

landmarks, but we can always do with more

of that. It would also be nice if all these

sites included links to each other, thereby

ensuring that visitors got a more holistic

view of the entire setup. This is one area

in which competition should definitely be

encouraged.

As stated earlier, last year’s tourism

figures were at all-time peaks, and all indications

are that 2019 will exceed those numbers.

With an estimated 300,000 new people

moving to Florida every year, and many of

them flooding into Northeast Florida, the

need for information will only increase, and

we are on the right track.

The bad news is that there are no easy

shortcuts to promoting a weird, wonderful

city like ours, but the good news is that once

they visit for the first time, odds are good

of them returning, over and over and over

again.

Shelton Hull has written for Folio Weekly

for 22 years. He also appears regularly on WJCT.

He lives in Riverside.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 87


CORE

EYESORE

ASPHALT LOT

NETS LITTLE

DOWNTOWN

IMPROVEMENT

10 N. PEARL ST.

BY FRANK DENTON

Which was or is the greater insult to the

optics and optimism of Downtown: the old,

dilapidated and depressing Greyhound Bus

Station that was at 10 N. Pearl or the new,

black and bleak parking lot that succeeded it?

The answer is that ugly is in the eye of the

beholder.

In April 2018, Greyhound moved its

operations six blocks west on Forsyth to a

sleek new building as part of the blossoming

Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center,

and its old building went on the market.

Up stepped a Miami entity called AK

Pearl LLC, which in December paid $2.78

million for the 121-acre property and razed

the building built in 1956.

Good so far. But then the new owners

slabbed down some asphalt, threw up a

fence and declared it yet another cursed

parking lot.

The fence includes some ominous warning

signs — “No trespassing. Violators will

be prosecuted” per city ordinances — which

turned out to be ironic since the parking

lot itself is illegal. [Continued on page 97]

PHOTO: BOB SELF

Spot a Downtown eyesore and want to know

why it’s there or when it will be improved?

Submit suggestions to: mclark@jacksonville.com.

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FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 89


A new vision

for MOCA

By CHARLIE PATTON

CULTURAL OASIS:

Visitors fill the lobby area inside

MOCA Jacksonville during a recent

event at the Downtown museum.

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“We want people to see we are

art-centered and art-focused and

immediately see this is a museum.”

Caitlin Doherty, director OF THE

Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville

MOCA Jacksonville (2)

The Museum of Contemporary

Art Jacksonville occupies a

significant space Downtown,

at the corner of Laura and

Duval streets across from

Hemming Park and just around the corner

from City Hall.

But the location has one significant disadvantage.

It occupies a building, renovated

in the early 2000s, that was originally built as

the Western Union Telegraph

Building in 1930-1931.

Its exterior doesn’t call

attention to the fact there is a

museum inside. And the only

gallery space on the first floor is

the Haskell Atrium Gallery, an

elevated space that can’t really

be seen from the street.

“You can walk past it now

and not realize it’s an art museum,”

said David Engdahl, a

MOCA board member who is a

sculptor and retired architect.

“It doesn’t have a strong

visual presence,” said Dita Domonkos,

a board member who

is an interior designer.

Engdahl and Domonkos

are members of a task force charged with

developing ideas for turning the first floor

lobby into a lobby that says “we’re a museum,

an art museum,” said Caitlin Doherty,

MOCA’s director.

Ben Thompson, MOCA’s assistant

director, who is spearheading the task force

planning a makeover, said “the project has

been in the making for years.”

He credited Doherty, who became

director two years ago, with making a firstfloor

makeover a priority.

The first step in that makeover surprised

many people. The museum closed NOLA

MOCA, its first-floor restaurant.

Then the museum spent eight weeks

conducting polls and seeking ideas from

visitors, particularly during the May Downtown

Art Walk that brought about 1,000

visitors to MOCA.

One of the findings was that many

people who ate at NOLA MOCA had never

visited the museum.

This bothered Engdahl.

“We’re in the museum business, not the

restaurant business,” he said.

Still, the plan never was to end food

service permanently.

A rendering of MOCA Jacksonville’s proposed sidewalk cafe on Laura Street.

A restaurant will be reopened, but it will

be a fast casual restaurant. Orders will be

placed at a counter. There will no longer be

table service.

Some menu favorites will probably

return, like chicken salad and quiche. But

the menu will generally be simpler than

NOLA MOCA’s menu was. The name will

probably change to Café MOCA.

The café also will probably have different

operating hours than NOLA MOCA

had. It will be open whenever the museum

is open including on weekends.

The café will exhibit works from MO-

CA’s permanent collection. In addition to

seating inside the café, there will be tables

and seating on the street.

MOCA has continued to offer catering

even while the restaurant was closed, and

that will continue.

MOCA’s gift shop closed in July last year,

ostensibly so Troy Spurlin, a former MOCA

employee who owns an interior design

company and a furniture store in Five

Points, could open a retail store in the gift

shop’s space.

But that plan fell through, Doherty said:

“We had a parting of the ways.”

Over the last year the space

has occasionally been used for

exhibiting art. Now a section

of the old gift shop space at

the corner of Duval and Laura

streets will become a permanent

gallery.

Thompson said that while

that gallery could exhibit many

kinds of art, the curatorial

staff is interested in using it to

exhibit regional art.

Meanwhile a somewhat

larger central lobby area “will

be much more visitor-focused

and much more visitor friendly,”

Doherty said. “The space

will feel more enlivened.”

“It will be more of an inviting

community space,” Engdahl said. “It will

be more comfortable with lounge seating.”

“Our main goal is to create a very flexible,

adaptable space,” Domonkos said.

Doherty’s vision includes more signage

on the outside of the building. There is

currently a sculpture in front of MOCA but

there are sculptures throughout Downtown,

including in Hemming Park.

“We want people to see we are art-centered

and art-focused and immediately see

this is a museum,” Doherty said.

Plans currently call for the changes to be

completed by early September.

Charlie Patton retired last year after more

than 41 years with The Florida Times-Union,

spending his last nine years covering the arts. He

lives in Riverside.

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 91


QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

By Frank Denton

‘Tiny steps

for tiny feet’

Sherry Magill sees benefits in

harvesting low-hanging fruit

S

even years ago, when Downtown seemed destined

to remain just a barren office complex

from which almost all life disappeared after 5

o’clock, not many people could see much potential in its

acres of parking lots and old empty buildings.

One of them was Sherry Magill, then president of the Jessie

Ball duPont Fund, the private, Jacksonville-based foundation that

awards about $13 million in grants

SHERRY

MAGILL

WORK:

Retired. Visiting professor

this fall at the University of

North Carolina at Chapel

Hill.

FROM: Prattville, Ala.

LIVES IN: Avondale

nationally. Magill traveled to many

other cities in her work and saw

vision and progress elsewhere

that was missing in Jacksonville.

But she saw opportunity

here in one particular old empty

building, the Haydon Burns

Library, built in 1965. It was designed

by Taylor Hardwick, who

in rebellion against the lifeless

Downtown tried to create “a

bright spot in a drab urban environment.

He wanted a building that would attract people

and create in them an interest to enter and find out what was

going on inside,” according to a book about his work.

The library certainly didn’t blend into the bleakness. At

the end of the Mid-Century Modern era of architecture,

Hardwick had laced the exterior with rows of bold vertical

concrete fins and backed it with colorful — green! — tiles

and huge windows opening the library to the street. Writer

Tim Gilmore later wrote the quirky public structure “felt like

yesterday’s idea of the future.”

After two generations of service, the library in 2005 gave

up its books to the new Main Library on Hemming Park, and

the Haydon Burns building deteriorated and began to feel

more like today’s idea of the past.

Magill saw potential and opportunity. She persuaded her

trustees to buy the building, restore the exterior and convert

the huge interior into a center to house local nonprofits and allow

them to collaborate and save money at the same time — while also

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92

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


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saving a community landmark. It opened in 2015

and now houses 22 nonprofits and hosts many

community gatherings.

The duPont Center is a model and inspiration

for the new Downtown.

For her vision and work, Magill, now retired

after 26 years at the fund, received the Times-

Union’s EVE of the Decade Award in June.

I interviewed her in the center’s Rich Magill

Seminar Room, which she and her husband endowed

in honor of her late brother.

You really are a Downtown pioneer. What did

you see about the opportunity Downtown

that caused you to step out front and take the

chance?

A couple of things. One was I knew of a project

in downtown Wilmington (Del.) that houses

numerous nonprofits. The Jessie Ball duPont

Fund was a small financial partner in that project

because we did a lot of grant making in Wilmington,

and I was in and out of that building all the

time. So I understood what it could mean for the

community and nonprofits.

But specifically about Downtown Jacksonville,

the Jessie Ball duPont Fund was committed to

Downtown. Its offices were always Downtown.

Over 20 years, I watched the demolition of what

I considered great buildings Downtown and the

creation of a lot of asphalt parking lots. In my

work, I traveled to a lot of American cities, and

there was a renaissance going on, but not here.

And so I wanted, and the trustees agreed, to

house nonprofits in one location to drive down

their rents. ... We wanted to help Jacksonville save

Downtown.

What was the response outside the foundation

to the idea?

The collective response, the majority response

was: It’ll never happen. That’s a horrible building.

It’s ugly. On Twitter and Facebook, oh, they’re

going to put a bunch of homeless people in there.

You just had to ignore the naysayers. And then, of

course, there were champions, particularly after

the fact.

Looking back, what would you have done differently?

That’s a tough question ... I think we were

carefully ambitious and naïve about that corner

over there, the retail space (on the first floor, along

Ocean Street). We tried for over two years to get

somebody to come in there. We were going to

be very favorable in terms of rent structure and

the kinds of things we were willing to do. And we

just couldn’t get any takers. I always wanted that

to be a semi-bar because of the proximity to the

Florida Theatre. And in the fall and winter, that’s a

beautiful space with a nice overhang. So to have to

have glass of wine and nice hors d’oeuvres there,

but we just couldn’t find the right match. I believe

“I think we

have to get

back to some

studies in

the past that

have been

done that

have begged

us to turn

these oneway

streets

into twoway

streets

and widen

some of these

sidewalks

and put up

great shade

trees. We

never seem

to execute,

don’t seem

to figure out

how to do it.”

it will happen one day if this part of town begins

to take off.

One other thing I would say about what I

would have done differently. This bothers me as a

taxpayer and a citizen and someone who worked

Downtown a long time. The city has built these

major chiller plants (to produce air conditioning).

One serves Downtown. We talked to JEA about

connecting this building to that chiller plant and

not building a new chiller plant in this building

because it was our understanding it was part of

the rationale for building that chiller plant. All the

buildings at that time, this would have been five

years ago, all the buildings on that plant are public.

So, the library, the courthouse, the city hall…

The reason it didn’t happen for us is we were

told by JEA that we would have to pay for the infrastructure

all the way down to this building, which

was going to be close to $2 1/2 million. We could

build a new chiller plant for half a million. So if I

had all the time in the world, I would have fought

that, because think of what’s happening. We can

centralize air conditioning for all these businesses,

reduce their cost of redeveloping these buildings

if they didn’t have to pay for the infrastructure. I

did ask, if we paid for the infrastructure and the

people across the street wanted to hook in, what

would they have to pay for? “Oh, just from the

hookup to their building.” Well, that’s just illogical

to me.

What is your vision for Downtown?

I think we have a great opportunity, ironically

because we have so much open space that is poorly

used, because we’ve got so many surface parking

lots that are inefficient, hot and I think prohibit

our ability to be imaginative about all this space. I

was just in Birmingham of all places as part of the

civil rights tours two weeks ago, and what they did

with the area where Bull Connor and the police

dogs attacked people, that’s a beautiful little park

now, right across from the Civil Rights Museum.

You don’t have to go far, Savannah, Charleston,

the greenery, every major city I go to now that

looks interesting to me, the landscape comes first.

You go to Vancouver; those people love their trees.

Every street is tree-lined.

I think we have to get back to some studies in

the past that have been done that have begged us

to turn these one-way streets into two-way streets

and widen some of these sidewalks and put up

great shade trees. We never seem to execute, don’t

seem to figure out how to do it. We worry too

much about growing the homeless population

Downtown. You’re not going to go to any major

great city in the world and not have a certain percentage

of poor that live on the dodge. That’s not a

problem of Downtown space. It’s a problem of not

having a smart housing policy. It’s a wage problem.

We keep trying to solve the wrong problem.

So my vision for Downtown is great open

public space along the river. We’ve got to get off

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J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


the river. This is ridiculous. We now have a new

ordinance that says, what, you’ve got to be 25 feet

from the river? I promise you 25 feet is not far

enough. It’s just not far enough. So all this expanse

along this great river right Downtown, I see that

as a great public park. You cannot go to a major

city that does not have a great park. Every great

city has a great gathering place. And that ought to

be public and not private. I see wetlands and tree

lines and non-commercial.

(The city has sodded the site of the old courthouse

and city hall annex.) I’m going to be cynical.

We’ve got a football season coming up, and it can’t

look like it looks. Not from the blimp! If you told

me they were planning a park and planting trees,

I’d get very excited about it.

Personally, what do you do Downtown now?

Now that I don’t work, what I do now is not that

much Downtown. I’m beginning to understand

how there’s a disconnect with Downtown.

What would you LIKE to be able to do Downtown?

Walk. Can you buy an ice cream cone Downtown?

I’d like to see a historic trail. There are

precious few historical markers here. Other cities

do a great job of telling their stories of people and

place, and we don’t do that here.

You wrote a piece on the blog you cofounded,

JaxLookout.com, about what you called

“low-hanging fruit” to improve Downtown.

I complained for years about the parking

meters. Just go to St. Augustine, and they have

smart meters. You can use Apple Pay in most

cities. I don’t think we’re intentional about this.

The parking meters in front of the Supervisor of

Elections office, they’re quarter meters. Something’s

wrong with that. Think about what that

office does; there’s something wrong with that. I

know the parking meters are expensive for the city

to implement, but I think we’re hurting ourselves.

If we’ve got to have the parking meters, make them

modern.

People over and over and over tell us they don’t

know how to park Downtown. It’s incredibly easy,

but if you never come down here and that’s all you

hear … and the signage is terrible. If you’re coming

here from somewhere out of town and don’t know

where to park, it’s not obvious.

I think you could do some simple things. I’ve

said for years, implement the two-way streets. And

do a little pressure washing. The garbage cans are

deplorable. You’ve been to Asheville; their garbage

cans on the street, they recycle. Do we recycle? I

have no idea. It tells you we care about the place.

Nothing public down here says we care about the

place. And that’s what I mean by low-hanging fruit.

You’re a southerner. Have you seen a Southern

city you consider a model for Jacksonville, where

“I complained

for years

about the

parking

meters. ...

The parking

meters in

front of the

Supervisor

of Elections

office, they’re

quarter

meters.

Something’s

wrong with

that. Think

about what

that office

does; there’s

something

wrong with

that.”

the downtown’s a success?

Charleston. There are some things about

Charleston we can’t replicate: They don’t term-limit

their mayor, and they’ve got (former Mayor Joe)

Riley. But we certainly can replicate the thinking.

So people here say, look at the aquarium in

Charleston. But it didn’t start with the aquarium.

It started with saving the housing. There was a

plan to tear down that historic housing in historic

Charleston, and Riley and other forces stopped

that.

Now obviously, we don’t have Downtown housing,

but you can develop it. I kind of laugh, we all

say, oh, isn’t it great LaVilla’s coming back. LaVilla’s

gone. What historically was LaVilla? It wasn’t a

place, it was a community.

Charleston, a coastal city, embraced its slave

history and race history and acknowledged it. I

wouldn’t say celebrated it but acknowledged it in

a public square. People naturally after they reach

a certain age are interested in what was the past

about, and we’re kind of missing that.

The study the duPont Fund commissioned

while I was there by the National Trust for Historic

Preservation was about Downtown Jacksonville.

It’s a study I am very proud of, and it has a shelf life,

and it talks about how you bring back the economy

by saving your architectural history, because

your architectural history is part of who you are

as a people. They made this observation, aha, I

get it about Jacksonville, why we’re not Savannah,

why we’re not Charleston, that is, this developer

mentality. We’re kind of stuck thinking our salvation

is becoming like the rest of Florida, and that’s

new development and shiny and not really very

interesting architecturally and no sense of past, just

the present. Their observation was that Jacksonville

still had an opportunity to have an architectural

history. And if you do, it’s right down here. The

developer mentality isn’t that.

So yes, we need this Downtown housing absolutely

because we have to make sure that millennials

can afford to live Downtown because it’s where

they want to live. There are such great properties.

Everything doesn’t have to be a new little box.

Who do you see as people who have to provide

leadership if Downtown is to be revitalized?

Organizations?

Well, I think philanthropy has done what it can

do. I think of those that have endowments, and in

our community, that’s the education community

and the hospital community. They must have a

greater presence on the Northbank. I think what

Cynthia Bioteau tried to do with FSCJ on historic

properties is admirable. And if duPont can do this

and Cynthia can do that and the Bedell Law Firm

(can do its former Carnegie Library building on

East Adams), tiny steps for tiny feet.

You’ve got to do these smaller projects. I think

the National Trust study says that. LISC is doing

everything it possibly can, and the fact it’s devoting

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 95


part of its attention to historic Downtown is really

helpful. All these little infill things. I would say DIA

has to get into the business of these little infill projects.

Building new infrastructure for the District?

We have infrastructure here. We have property

here. We’re just not intentional about it.

You grew up in a small Alabama town, and you

said one of the reasons you took the duPont job

in 1991 was you wanted to get back to the South.

What is about the South that appeals to you?

Sense of community. Camaraderie. Common

purpose. Things to work on that matter.

Jacksonville is part Florida and part southern.

What is your characterization of that?

I describe Jacksonville as a great big small town.

I found Jacksonville to be very welcoming of people

from elsewhere and not closed in that sense. I

found that very exciting, and I think that’s still true.

I like to put down roots and work on community

challenges, and I think Jacksonville lets you do that.

Downtown leaders have set a goal of 10,000

people living Downtown, and apparently we have

about 5,000 living here now ...

And 48,000 parking places.

All those new apartment buildings open or being

built in Brooklyn, LaVilla, the Southbank and

elsewhere Downtown should get us much closer

to the 10,000.

You can live in San Marco and not come

Downtown. You can live in Brooklyn and not come

Downtown. I don’t think San Marco and Brooklyn

are Downtown. I have a very narrow geographic

area, which is simply the Northbank. I think we

hurt ourselves, and I know what the studies say,

but we should get rid of all the parking meters

Downtown… I can live in San Marco, I can go

to lunch in San Marco, I can go to dinner in San

Marco — I don’t have to pay. The only place in

the entire county, if you are a worker, where you

have to pay to park is here! Well, that’s prohibitive

to people living and working Downtown. It just is.

You have to pay to park. Why do you not have to

pay to park in San Marco or Brooklyn? I’ve never

understood.

The idea seems to be, and Aundra Wallace used

to tell me this, if you build Brooklyn and build the

District and build that out, it’ll eventually come

here, and that’s what we all think is happening.

Well, what’s it going to look like? Are we going to

save some of these properties that are vacant that

is starting to happen now? I worry about the next

recession, which is going to happen, stopping every

bit of that. Then we’re back to another 10 years.

I still want to believe, tiny steps for tiny feet,

so pick some of the low-hanging fruit, make it

more attractive, green up the place, be intentional

about a major public park Downtown. We pride

ourselves on having the largest park system in the

“I describe

Jacksonville

as a great

big small

town. I found

Jacksonville

to be very

welcoming of

people from

elsewhere and

not closed in

that sense.

I found that

very exciting,

and I think

that’s still

true. I like

to put down

roots and

work on

community

challenges,

and I think

Jacksonville

lets you do

that.”

country, and none of them are Downtown. Go

to Chicago and look at Millennial Park, and look

how many people it attracts. It’s right on the water.

I think we’re making a mistake in saying we’ll

have people living right on the water’s edge, and

eventually we’re not going to want to.

What about Jacksonville makes you throw up

your hands?

The political leadership. It just isn’t very visionary,

it’s not. And it’s not engaging. You know,

people want to be engaged in the places where

they live. People are naturally just problem-solvers,

particularly Americans. We used to be a

can-do people, we can do anything. We’re kind of

losing that, but I think the political class has a very

narrow understanding of community life. In this

community, boy, it’s about money. We ignore the

work the nonprofit sector does. It really struggles,

and they do a great job. So the short answer is:

political leadership.

What can you say to ordinary people about

believing in Downtown and its revitalization?

Like all of us who love Downtown, you hear

the same refrain: “nowhere to park,” so you’re

constantly saying, well, that’s not true.

“I get lost” — I think that goes back to the

one-way streets, because on a two-way street, if

nothing else, you can turn around and go back the

same way you came. People get a little confused if

they’re not down here all the time.

“Nothing to do.” Well, Jacksonville competes

with itself: We have the beaches, some great

restaurants, lots of things to do. It’s hard for

us, because we’re not on the beach. I think the

beaches compete with us. The “nothing to do,”

well, you just keep trying — there are some great

restaurants, there’s the Symphony, there are the

museums, there are things to do. But I don’t know

what people mean when they say nothing to do. I

don’t know what they want to do.

I think this Emerald Necklace idea has such

promise. It’s sad to me that Groundwork has to

raise so much private money to do something

that’s definitely a public good. I’m not saying

there shouldn’t be any private money in it, but the

burden there is long and hard. And I don’t understand

why philanthropy from outside Jacksonville

would care about it… Why can’t we do this? Are

the creeks too far from the center of town? …

We’ve got to begin to think about activating the

creeks, and activating them is not putting motorboats

on them. It’s cleaning them up, making them

little park areas where people can visit, walkable,

bikeable. I love what Groundwork is trying to do.

I think it’ll be important to all of us. I just think we

need to move faster on it. That’s probably an old

person talking.

Frank Denton, retired editor of The Florida

Times-Union, is editor of J. He lives in Riverside.

96

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


Core Eyesore

Continued from page 89

The Downtown Investment Authority

quickly called out “AK Pearl LLC” in a “To

Whom It May Concern” letter, saying that,

while the demolition of the building had a

city permit, the parking lot was not allowed

in the Central Civic Core and was constructed

without permits.

“The property was to be grassed in

accordance with … Jacksonville Code of

Ordinances,” pending presumed legal redevelopment.

Guy Parola, operations manager of DIA,

asked for a response to the letter “prior to

enforcement actions.”

AK Pearl is one of the business entities

used by Miami real-estate investor Ramon

Llorens, who in recent years has bought a lot

of Downtown Jacksonville property: the 1.48

acre parking lot at 317 Water St. next to the

Omni Hotel, a 2.78 acre parking lot at Hogan

and West Bay streets, the parking garage at

336 W. Bay and the TIAA Bank Center, which

happens to be across the street from the

illegal parking lot.

Llorens, who could not be reached for

comment, presumably has a grand plan for

the area, or at least an appreciation for the

investment potential of Downtown.

Mark Rimmer, a Llorens representative,

has asked for a meeting with the DIA “to

discuss the future development plans for the

lot,” and Parola responded that he will ask

the code enforcement administrator to also

attend the meeting “so that we can move

forward along a path to compliance and

redevelopment.”

A look at Jacksonville’s new Greyhound bus station

at W. Forysth and N. Pearl Streets in the 1950s.

Meanwhile, the parking lot is about

half full of cars, along with some industrial

equipment apparently being stored there.

While we’re glad to see the investment

interest in Downtown renaissance, particularly

from high-rolling out-of-towners, we

want them to do something constructive —

and legal — with their property.

TINES-UNION ARCHIVE

FALL 2019 | J MAGAZINE 97


THE FINAL WORD

Warriors and the

battle to reshape

our Downtown

DEBBIE

BUCKLAND

EMAIL

DBuckland@

BBandT.com

n yoga, there’s a pose called

I Warrior II. It is a standing pose,

with feet spread wide, arms outstretched

parallel to the horizon. One knee

is bent with the thigh parallel to the ground,

knee stacked over the ankle. Shoulders are

squarely stacked over the hips. The head is

turned to face the same direction as the bent

knee, with the head and gaze focused over

one or the other of the outstretched arms/

fingers.

Try it … too far forward and your knee is beyond

your ankle … too far back and your knee is behind

your ankle. You find yourself leaning back in space

no longer properly grounded — wobbly. Either way,

you lose your ability to feel settled and powerful in

the pose.

I had a teacher once correlate the stability (or not)

of Warrior II to the living of life — which can sometimes

feel like a battle. A stable and capable warrior

is settled, grounded in the present, balanced and

strong, ready for whatever comes her way.

She’s not stuck in the past (too far back in the

pose). She also won’t be served by getting too far

ahead of herself (too far forward in the pose), compromising

her power in the moment. She also doesn’t

worry about the spectators. They have no skin in her

game — they’re just there for the spectacle.

Warrior II is also how I see our work to improve

Downtown Jacksonville. We must be balanced in our

efforts, grounded in realities, ready for the future. We

all want our Downtown to be world class. It is a battle,

and we are playing to win.

The warriors are on the field — solving problems,

pushing through obstacles, living and learning from

their mistakes. The strong ones don’t look back —

they know you don’t win battles in the past. And they

certainly don’t come into the game from a place of

cynicism.

Here’s the thing. In our battle for a better Downtown

– we are the warriors. It’s up to us. You and me.

“They” are “we.”

Do you want to be a wobbly warrior unbalanced,

stuck in the past, or do you want to be part of the

solution?

What our Downtown needs is for you — dear

reader, yes you! — to get in the game.

Our Downtown needs people. People to come to

First Wednesday Art Walk. People to show up and

buy coffee at Vagabond or Urban Grind. People to

bring their children to MOSH and go to MOCA for the

art. People to visit any one of the many bars Downtown

for a happy hour drink with friends after work.

We need people living Downtown. We know that

10,000 residents is the tipping point for bars, restaurants

and businesses to succeed. When businesses

have plenty of customers, they succeed. When business

and commerce thrive Downtown, more people

will want to live there. Residential and retail developers

will take note and continue to build because their

investment can expect a reasonable return.

So please resist the temptation to fire off an angry

tweet or toss a conversation grenade complaining

about what “they” are not doing to revive our Downtown.

Because “they” are us and “we” is you…

Be a warrior for Downtown. Don’t badmouth,

come out. Visit Downtown on Saturday for a stroll on

the Riverwalk ending at the Riverside Arts Market.

Check out the string of murals dotting Downtown

buildings or one of the public art installations. Grab a

bite in many of our Downtown restaurants. Or swing

by one of the museums — MOCA, Cummer, MOSH.

You might find me practicing yoga in our new

Corkscrew Park under the Acosta. Looking for the

perfect balance in Warrior II.

Debbie Buckland is BB&T market president

for Jacksonville and 2019 JAX Chamber chair.

She lives in Atlantic Beach.

98

J MAGAZINE | FALL 2019


MOVING

TOWARD

HEALTH

TOGETHER

At the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, our cause is strengthening

community and we’re committed to transforming lives by

nurturing spirit, mind and body.

Every day at the Y, we’re supporting kids, adults, seniors and families through programs and services that protect,

teach, connect, heal, nourish and encourage. We’re here to fill the gaps in community needs and give everyone the

opportunity to realize the power of their full potential.

Join the movement. There’s a Y near you.

Downtown Jacksonville/Riverside Locations:

YMCA at the Bank of America Tower

Winston Family YMCA

Outdoor fitness at Corkscrew Park

Learn more about how the Y is moving toward a better us at FCYMCA.org.


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