Metro Jacksonville takes a look back over 2007 to see where the year took us. In 2007 Jacksonville celebrated great successes and struggled with grand failures.
Metro Jacksonville 2007
In 2007 Metro Jacksonville toured many of Jacksonville's neighborhoods and points of interest. We covered Fairfield, East Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Farmers Market, the Park and King Shopping District, Edward Waters College, Gateway Mall, Downtown art walk, Dancey Terrace, San Marco, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Downtown's Cathedral District, Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach, New Springfield, the Normandy Mall, Brentwood, the Trout River waterfront, Panama Park, North Shore, Jacksonville University, the Shoppes of Avondale, Riverside, and the Westside. We showed you Springfield at night and ventured inside the notorious Park View Inn.
We even escaped North Florida to bring back ideas from Tampa, Chicago, Augusta, Boston, Asheville, Raleigh, Atlanta, Toronto, Charlotte, Savannah, Norfolk, Dublin, Columbus, Detroit, Knoxville, Ottawa, Lakeland, Richmond, and San Diego.
We looked at convention centers and courthouses in Austin, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Denver, Erie, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Louisville, Memphis, Mobile, Nashville, Raleigh, Savannah, and Tampa.
We published suggestions on how to redevelop the Hogan's Creek parks, reconnect FCCJ's campus with downtown and Springfield, revitalize Laura Street with a lighting and signage plan, redevelop the Jacksonville Landing with simple design changes, and embrace the concept of urban connectivity to help revitalize downtown. †
We featured historical aspects of Jacksonville, covering the Great Fire of 1901, Prairie School architecture, the silent film industry, Jacksonville's forgotten trolley system, Old City Cemetery, the city's most endangered historic structures, the bridges of Jacksonville, the Maritime Museum, Jax Beer, the Jacksonville Terminal, Durkee Field, Philip Randolph, Jax Beach Ocean View Pavilion, Norman Studios, the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, Historic Downtown churches, the James E. Merrill residence, and the 1926 downtown construction boom.
We analyzed the Peyton administrations accomplishments to date. We created a list of Jacksonville's Wonders and Blunders.
We rolled out a website redesign that facilitated improved story commenting and user discussion.
We relentlessly covered JTA's Bus Rapid Transit plan, gaining mainstream media attention in the process.
We saw Mayor Peyton re-elected to another term, running nearly unopposed after Mike Weinstein's sudden withdrawal.
We saw record breaking homicide and traffic fatality rates. Citywide budget cuts closed libraries early, cut meals for the homeless, and introduced a variety of new fees that homeowners are now required to pay.
The problematic County Courthouse project suffered another setback when the contractor ran into financial trouble and the entire project had to be scrapped. Although many millions have already been spent, the city is no closer to construction than they were five years ago. The cost has almost tripled.
In the midst of the budget crunch, we saw the Peyton administration spend nearly one million dollars on the creation of an unnecessary park along Main Street.
We aw city hall award illegal contracts to friends and numerous instances where accountability and record keeping were so poor that the Mayor himself felt compelled to publicly apologize.
We saw our City Council under investigation for Sunshine Law violations.
We saw Jerry Holland, the Duval County Supervisor of Elections, potentially violate election laws by opening a ballot box to retrieve a ballot.
We saw many high profile downtown construction projects vaporize as a result of the nationwide housing boom gone bust. Cameron Kuhn, the Orlando developer who bought several downtown high-rises with intentions of revitalizing the urban core, has seemingly left town.
We saw downtown parking lot operators, such as Central Parking Systems, illegally issuing look-a-like parking tickets in a revenue grab scam. We saw the City of Jacksonville look into the issue and find no problem with the practice.
We saw KBJ Architects, one of Jacksonville's leading architecture firms, demolish a historic church as a result of their longstanding neglect. The drive for the demolition of two more historically significant structures continues: Fire Station Five and Annie Lytle Public School Number Four.
We saw a portion of the Northbank Riverwalk collapse and remain closed for the entire year. The temporary solution to stabilize the structure has become a permanent fix.
We saw Jacksonville host, and then lose, the ACC Championship.
We saw a catastrophic parking garage collapse at Berman Plaza II and a dramatic chemical plant explosion at T2 Labs on the Northside.
We saw the death of Jackie Brown, a local activist and business woman who was the only person willing to oppose John Peyton in the mayoral race.
We saw Jay Jabour removed from the city council because he did not meet residency requirements.†
We saw JTA stumble forward with their misguided mass transit plan, publicly revealing their intentions to turn shopping centers and office buildings into bus stops. JTA continues to struggle defending their indefensible plan.
We saw Duval County School System Superintendent Joseph Wise fired.
We saw Friendship Fountain, a historic city landmark, remain neglected and only partially operational.
We saw the city Parks Department move forward with converting the S-Line right of way into a recreational trail.
We saw the the city's parking enforcement department purchase a van that automates the ticketing of downtown visitors instead of buying smart meters to help alleviate the hostile downtown parking environment.
We saw the St Johns Riverkeeper issue warnings on the health of the river and a movement by Central Florida to withdraw millions of gallons of water per day, potentially endangering the river even further.
Despite these problems, progress shined through.
We saw JAXPORT land two major deals with Asian steamship lines Mitsui OSK and Hanjin. The economic impact of these deals have the potential to be larger than anything Jacksonville has previously seen.
We saw the rebirth of Klutho Park in Springfield. Because of dedicated residents hard work it now has a well maintained baseball field with stands and a scoreboard, a renovated bandstand, and a new fountain.
We saw Kings Avenue Station and the DuPont Trust Headquarters break ground despite the market downturn.
We saw the election and installment of a new city council.
We saw the completion of Hendricks Avenue in San Marco and 8th Street in Springfield along with the ground breaking of the Main Street streetscape and infrastructure work.
We saw the continued revitalization of our core downtown neighborhoods.
We saw many of our peer cities successfully execute downtown revitalization and mass transit plans, giving us an ample supply of examples to learn from.
We saw commuter rail come to Jacksonville for a day when Corrine Brown and John Mica brought a railcar to Jacksonville on their way to Orlando.
We saw Bay Street begin to come to life. The Dive Bar and Nicky G's opened up alongside Mark's and TSI. Another club called the Metropolitan is planned.
2008 is sure to be another interesting year. Jacksonville promises to provide no shortage of issues to tackle.