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Downtown Frankenstein: Revisiting the 1971 MasterPlan

Metro Jacksonville uncovers a futuristic plan would bring a smile to the faces of George Jetson, Buck Rogers, Dr. Spock and Chewbacca.

Published July 1, 2010 in History      37 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

INTRODUCTION:

By the 1970s, right off the heals of Axe Handle Sunday, downtown had become a decaying district suffering from many of the same factors that decimated urban cities throughout the United States, such as white flight, racism, and blight.

Mix in a draconian parking meter situation, toll bridges, poor marketing along with new suburban malls and you have a potent combination for ultimate failure.

To stop the hemorrhaging, a new public entity known as the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was created.

Unfortunately, instead of successful revitalization, the DDA would end up assuming the role of a bull with downtown being its own personal china shop.

The famed 1971 Downtown Jacksonville Master Plan would be the first of many studies produced by this group that would eventually drive the final nail in the downtown’s retail scene’s coffin.

Worst of all, the DDA had no problem spending taxpayer money as if it flowed freely from the land of milk and honey.

CONSULTANT:

Rogers, Taliaferro, Kostritsky, and Lamb (RTKL) of Baltimore. This firm was known for its impressive work on the Charles Center area in downtown Baltimore.  RTKL believed downtown revitalization would be most effective by transforming the area into a mall-like environment to help rejuvenate retail sales in an area that had suffered from the competition of new suburban malls like Regency, Gateway, Roosevelt, and Normandy Malls.



A sketch of the 1971 Master Plan from a Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce brochure about downtown revitalization.


THE TRANSPORTATION LOOP SYSTEM



A major part of the plan was to separate vehicular and pedestrian traffic throughout the downtown core.  A new loop system was the solution recommended by RKTL.  Vehicular traffic would be routed around the heart of the Northbank and in the process converting the core of downtown into a large pedestrian mall. The Loop system consisted of converting Water, Ocean, Beaver, and Pearl Streets into a one way outer loop, while turning Main, Ashley, Julia, and Bay Streets into the inner loop.  Parking garages and surface lots containing at least 5,000 spaces would then be constructed along the loop streets.

PEDESTRIAN MALL



A pedestrian street or pedestrian mall is a street where pedestrian traffic is given partial or total priority over all other kinds of traffic. It is a limited form of an auto-free zone.

Under the 1971 plan, Hogan between Duval and Bay, Laura between Church and Bay and Duval/Monroe, between Hogan and Laura would have been converted into pedestrian use only.  This pedestrian only section of downtown, surrounded by the transportation loops, would be divided into three major sections.

1. New Riverfront Center
2. Laura / Hogan Axis
3. Retail Core Area


This illustration shows the entire plan of the proposed pedestrian mall concept.  Many buildings, such as the Snyder Memorial and Knight Lofts would have been demolished for this concept to be fully developed.


ELEVATED WALKWAYS



With the emphasis on completely separating pedestrian and vehicular traffic, the plan also called for a series of elevated walkways that would stretch from the river to the Cathedral Apartments off of Ocean Street.

1. NEW RIVERFRONT CENTER AREA



The Riverfront Center area would be the southern focal point of the pedestrian mall idea.  It would include a riverfront park, Convention Hotel, Exhibition Center, Sears Department Store, and a vertical financial-office complex that would bridge over Bay Street, as shown in the above section graphic.

2. LAURA / HOGAN AXIS



The Laura / Hogan Axis would serve as a retail connector and pedestrian zone between the River Center area, to the South, and the core retail area, that once surrounded Hemming Park.  The illustrations above are examples of what this corridor would resemble, when fully built out.

Another major element of the Laura/Hogan Axis was the Atlantic Bank Complex.  During this period, the bank had plans to construct new a headquarter tower on the corner of Forsyth and Hogan.  Once this tower was completed, the old Atlantic Bank complex would be converted into a retail / entertainment complex, featuring a movie theater complex and retail arcade, inside of the historic Atlantic Bank Tower.


RETAIL CORE AREA



For most of the 20th Century, the area around Hemming Park was the retail core for the entire city.  In the 1970s major anchors in this area included Ivey's, May-Cohens, JCPenney's, and Purcells.  The 1971 plan suggested that Hemming Park should be paved over, forming a central plaza (3) for the pedestrian mall and a transit terminal for JTA buses (5).  Similar to Circle City Center in Indianapolis, an enclosed vertical retail galleria mall (1) would connect May-Cohens, Ivey's, and Purcells with a multi-level parking garage.  Other improvements included in this general area were the expansion of First Baptist Church (2) and landscaping improvements to Block 17 (4).


This illustration gives views an idea of how the Retail Galleria would extend over the intersection of Laura and Church Streets.



A view of the Retail Galleria from Church & Main Streets.  Notice the elevated courtyard and pedestrian walkway extending from Ivey's and the Universal Marion Building?  Plans called for this walkway to connect the mall to the Cathedral Apartment Towers along Ocean Street.


The 1971 Master Plan also came complete with a scale model of build out, which was anticipated to be completed within 10 to 20 years.


IMPLEMENTATION

>Now looking back, the implementation of the 1971 plan was the foreshadowing of a common pattern that continues to plague downtown today.  While the plan was estimated to be fully complete within 20 years (1991), it never was and its partial implementation can be blamed for finally sending the steadily declining downtown retail sector down faster than a prom queen at the after party.


HEMMING PARK BECOMES HEMMING PLAZA





Implementation of the 1971 plan was a very slow process.  The renovation of Hemming Park into an urban plaza was intended to be the pedestrian mall's first phase.  The the first phase of the plaza was completed in 1978 for $648,000.  However, the $2.2 million second phase, which would involve closing streets and changing the traffic directional flow was delayed at the request of retail owners because they didn't want construction to disrupt the holiday shopping season.  The money set aside for phase 2, was then diverted to fund a railroad overpass on University Blvd near Phillips Hwy.  In 1981, new funds were diverted to fund the widening of 103rd Street.  

Construction finally got underway in 1984.  Unfortunately several streets were closed during the construction phase and the project dragged on for two years.  For retailers who had been struggling for years to stay afloat, already dealing with the parking meter situation, urban blight, and aggressive marketing from suburban malls, the retail core's three major retailers (May-Cohens, JCPenney, and Ivey's) all shut down within a few months of each other.  With no major retail anchors and the Landing planned for the waterfront, the 1971 master plan was officially dead.


Several private sector projects were constructed during this era, in accordance with the plan.  They included FCCJ, Atlantic Bank (now BB&T), Independent Life (MODIS) and the sheriff's station on the corner of Liberty and Bay.  



Elements of the 1971 plan can still be seen today.  This photo above points out a few:

A.  Atlantic Bank (BB&T) - the elevated courtyard was supposed to be a part of the elevated walkway system.
B.  The stop lights and streetlights throughout downtown, come from the 1971 plan.
C.  This courtyard at the JEA complex (originally Ivey's Department Store and the Universal Marion Building, was supposed to be a part of the Retail Galleria Mall.
D.  Today's building-less Main Street is a direct result of the plan.  The plan endorsed using eminent domain to demolish structures along the "Loop" streets, so that surface parking lots and garages could be built in their place.

Not Shown: The Main Street Bridge Ramps:  This ramp system was another segment of the "Loop" system.

CONCLUSION:
**Over the past few weeks, the staff of Metro Jacksonville has spent considerable time studying several former plans that have collected dust in the bowels of city hall over the decades.  In an effort to show how much money, time and effort has been wasted over the years with consultant fees and public development ideas, it is our quest to share as much of this information with the general public as possible.  The overall goal is to raise to get to the point, where we can move on to addressing the nagging issues that have plagued the core for decades, reverse some of the negative ideas still in use and use the little money we do have to implement the current Downtown Master Plan, created in 2000 during the Delaney Administration.**

The test of time has revealed that the 1971 plan had both good and bad components.  The good, being the Retail Galleria, which would have connected three existing department stores, similar to popular downtown malls in Norfolk and Indianapolis.  The bad, being the loop system, which still diverts vehicular traffic away from the retail core today, as well as confuse the few visiting tourist who do come downtown. Then the ugly, which was the idea of constructing elevated covered walkways throughout the core, as if this community was located in Siberia or the Northpole.  A major flaw in this plan was that it did not directly deal with the negative factors that hindered retail growth in the core, such as parking meters, lack of directional signage and crime, all of which can be summed up as creating a non-user friendly and hostile retail environment.

In any event, this was only the first of several, after 1970, that have combined to form the downtown that exists today.

This article was originally published 2006, October 12.







37 Comments

duvaldude08

July 01, 2010, 12:36:12 PM
WOW. I always wonder how different downtown would be if retail would have stayed. Retail leaving downtown is also the reason the skyway seems to go nowhere. The route it was planned for had retail in its path. Once the skyway was completed, retail was gone. Our downtown decline is an unfortunate story.

finehoe

July 01, 2010, 12:53:20 PM
Why were planners in the late 60s - early 70s so enamored with elevated walkways?  It seems self-evident now that having people go up a level just to walk around is foolish, but they thought it was the key to urban revitalization back then.

duvaldude08

July 01, 2010, 01:02:47 PM
Yeah I dont understand the elevated walkway idea either. Im glad that didnt come to frutation. Would have been a little weird  :-\

stephendare

July 01, 2010, 01:11:39 PM
Yeah I dont understand the elevated walkway idea either. Im glad that didnt come to frutation. Would have been a little weird  :-\

Its a technology thing.  Think of the emissions coming from cars in 1971.  You cannot imagine how foul the air was.  Most of the buildings were still there, and the fumes were trapped---not to mention the smell of badly handled garbage from all the restaurants, hotels, offices and homes.  In the high heat of summer, street level in jacksonville could be suffocating if you werent in one of the parks.

duvaldude08

July 01, 2010, 01:13:35 PM
ahh I see said the blind man  8)

Captain Zissou

July 01, 2010, 01:15:41 PM
Charlotte has a system of elevated walkways and shops called The Overstreet Mall.  It's convenient for bank employees, but does nothing to add to vibrancy downtown. Most businesses in 'the mall' are closed weekends anyway.  I imagine it came from this line of thinking.

finehoe

July 01, 2010, 01:22:05 PM
Its a technology thing.  Think of the emissions coming from cars in 1971.  You cannot imagine how foul the air was.  Most of the buildings were still there, and the fumes were trapped---not to mention the smell of badly handled garbage from all the restaurants, hotels, offices and homes.  In the high heat of summer, street level in jacksonville could be suffocating if you werent in one of the parks.

That explanation sounds rather fanciful to me.  These things were proposed (and built, in some cases) all over the country, not just the steamy South.  Besides, is one-story above the street really going to remove you from the emissions and fumes from down below?

Doctor_K

July 01, 2010, 01:32:10 PM
Yeah I dont understand the elevated walkway idea either. Im glad that didnt come to frutation. Would have been a little weird  :-\

Hover-converted cars. :D

stephendare

July 01, 2010, 01:50:38 PM
Its the reason.

Actionville

July 01, 2010, 01:52:07 PM
I thought the elevated walkways were intended to better accommodate streets for high speed automobile as opposed to pedestrian use (i.e. get em out of the way of cars)

finehoe

July 01, 2010, 01:55:06 PM
^^ Bingo!

archiphreak

July 01, 2010, 02:27:23 PM
I get lots of warm fuzzies everytime I look at that Master Plan....then I walk outside my downtown office, look around, and the warm fuzzies are no more.  Jacksonville has had so many chances to be a real major Metropolis....when will it happen?  It's all there, means, motive and opportunity.  Who will step up to take advantage?

stephendare

July 01, 2010, 02:32:21 PM
I thought the elevated walkways were intended to better accommodate streets for high speed automobile as opposed to pedestrian use (i.e. get em out of the way of cars)

This is partially the reason as well, but remember that air quality has always been a major concern for planners.  Air quality and safety were the primary reasons mentioned in the studies.

stjr

July 01, 2010, 02:40:14 PM
Quote
Construction finally got underway in 1984.  Unfortunately several streets were closed during the construction phase and the project dragged on for two years.  For retailers who had been struggling for years to stay afloat, already dealing with the parking meter situation, urban blight, and aggressive marketing from suburban malls, the retail core's three major retailers (May-Cohens, JCPenney, and Ivey's) all shut down within a few months of each other.  With no major retail anchors and the Landing planned for the waterfront, the 1971 master plan was officially dead.

An issue that needs to also be considered is the impact and planning of construction on downtown.  The rebuilding of streets, Hemming Park, and the Skyway did as much or more to drive the final nail in the coffin for downtown retail.  Retailers can not lose their customer base for months and years at a time and survive.  That doesn't seem to be of much importance in scheduling and executing downtown construction projects.

Also, one of my beefs with the Skyway is that it's superstructure and supports act as a psychological  barrier between store fronts and street activity/interaction.  Evidence includes the decimation of retail on the streets the Skyway is routed on.  Per the map below, May-Cohens, Furchgotts, Levy-Wolf, & Rosenblums all bordered Hogan.  Not shown is JC Penney and Woolworths.  Also, as I recall, was stalwart jeweler, Underwoods.  All gone around or by the advent of the Skyway which ironically was suppose to support them (according to Skyway "visionaries").  Importantly, no one lined up to replace them after the Skyway was completed and in the 20-25 plus years hence.


finehoe

July 01, 2010, 03:14:34 PM
This is partially the reason as well, but remember that air quality has always been a major concern for planners.  Air quality and safety were the primary reasons mentioned in the studies.

This from wikipedia:

Quote
Besides pedestrian safety and convenience, the chief reasons assigned by urban planners for skywalk development are decrease of traffic congestion, reduction in vehicular air pollution and separation of people from vehicular noise.

duvaldude08

July 01, 2010, 03:45:28 PM
Quote
Construction finally got underway in 1984.  Unfortunately several streets were closed during the construction phase and the project dragged on for two years.  For retailers who had been struggling for years to stay afloat, already dealing with the parking meter situation, urban blight, and aggressive marketing from suburban malls, the retail core's three major retailers (May-Cohens, JCPenney, and Ivey's) all shut down within a few months of each other.  With no major retail anchors and the Landing planned for the waterfront, the 1971 master plan was officially dead.

An issue that needs to also be considered is the impact and planning of construction on downtown.  The rebuilding of streets, Hemming Park, and the Skyway did as much or more to drive the final nail in the coffin for downtown retail.  Retailers can not lose their customer base for months and years at a time and survive.  That doesn't seem to be of much importance in scheduling and executing downtown construction projects.

Also, one of my beefs with the Skyway is that it's superstructure and supports act as a psychological  barrier between store fronts and street activity/interaction.  Evidence includes the decimation of retail on the streets the Skyway is routed on.  Per the map below, May-Cohens, Furchgotts, Levy-Wolf, & Rosenblums all bordered Hogan.  Not shown is JC Penney and Woolworths.  Also, as I recall, was stalwart jeweler, Underwoods.  All gone around or by the advent of the Skyway which ironically was suppose to support them (according to Skyway "visionaries").  Importantly, no one lined up to replace them after the Skyway was completed and in the 20-25 plus years hence.




Agreed. I think Jacksonville has a long history of dragging our feet when it comes to planning of major projects. 30 years later we are still dragging along.

Captain Zissou

July 01, 2010, 03:49:54 PM
Does anyone know a timeline of when all the department stores closed and when the skyway was built?? 

Wacca Pilatka

July 01, 2010, 03:58:23 PM
Does anyone know a timeline of when all the department stores closed and when the skyway was built?? 

Furchgott's and Levy's closed before Skyway construction began.  I think Furchgott's was 1984 and Levy's, 1985.  Cohen's didn't close until 1987, shortly after the Landing opened.  Not sure about Penney's and Ivey's.  They still appear on a 1988 downtown Jacksonville map I have, but that map has a slew of errors in it and I was sure they closed well before that, and before Cohen's.  Sears closed around 1981 per an article I saw a long time ago in the T-U about the discovery of a mural or tapestry that was on the wall in there.  The pictures at the front of "Old Hickory's Town," which must from 1982 because the Southern Bell building is nearing completion, still show the Sears signage on the building, and then the building's demolition is evident in a subsequent picture.  No idea about Rosenblum's or Purcell's.  Woolworth's hung on a long time, didn't it?  As in, until the final breaths of the Woolworth's chain in the 90s?

stephendare

July 01, 2010, 03:58:42 PM
The Department stores all closed simultaneously during the conversion of Hemming Park to Hemming Plaza, by Jim Gilmore.  The entire center of downtown was dug up to put in pavers, and in the process, closed the interior to traffic for 18 months longer than anticipated.

The Plan was implemented in 1982 and finished in 1984.  At the beginning of the project there were 4.8 million square feet of retail in downtown, and three years later there were less than a million.

It was tragic.

The Skyway came 8 years after there wasnt anything there anymore.

Captain Zissou

July 01, 2010, 04:04:49 PM
So the skyway had nothing to do with the closing of the retail, as stjr claims??

duvaldude08

July 01, 2010, 04:17:34 PM
So the skyway had nothing to do with the closing of the retail, as stjr claims??



I dont think thats what stjr meant. The contruction of everything just drugg on too long (the skyway and the "master plan") and in the meantime, retial died, quick. This is still the trend in Jacksonville. We drag our feet on everything, then miss the boat time and time again. And we must almost remember that the opening of regency also killed downtown retail. JcPenney, Sears and May-Choen all ended up Regency.

finehoe

July 01, 2010, 04:35:21 PM
So would this be a fair statement?:

The only thing accomplished from this plan was the destruction of Hemming Park, which far from "saving" retail downtown in fact sped up its demise.

stephendare

July 01, 2010, 05:00:11 PM
that is correct.  the skyway had nothing to do with the closing of the retail.

It was the shortsighted application of a use pattern that no one had ever asked for, and which had never been tried, and has consequently, never worked.

There was a fetishistic belief in open plazas and a contractor driven belief in outdoor aesthetics that drove the conversation, and which bore little connection to retail, financial or organic usages.

The Skyway did spring from a similar kind of thinking, make no mistake about it, and if you understand that the buildings were all supposed to be connected with elevated walk ways and moving sidewalks, then the skyway makes more practical sense.  The only institution that stayed with the original plan, naturally was first baptist.  Although they have never been connected directly to the ASE.

stjr

July 01, 2010, 06:35:32 PM
So would this be a fair statement?:

The only thing accomplished from this plan was the destruction of Hemming Park, which far from "saving" retail downtown in fact sped up its demise.

I think so.  I loved the "old" Hemming.  It was historic, charming, and an indigenous vestige of the old South's easy going ways.  Today's Hemming is "institutional" and really has little charm to it.  It seems to me this was a Jake Godbold project.  Whatever, you are right that it backfired big time.  I think if one dug up the T-U articles at the time, you might find that the retailers gave plenty of warning that this could ruin their businesses.  But, no one listened.  Has anything changed?

Re: My Skyway comment, the ultimate point was that retail (or much of anything else) has not been attracted to it after 20 years in spite of the promises made that it would have the opposite effect.  Seems to me some of the deadest stretches of activity in Downtown run under its tracks and I blame that on its architecture's impact on street level.  It's construction, like Hemming Park, assured the demise of what little was left on Hogan.

By the way, other buildings that featured a second level plaza that may have been intended to fit the featured plan are the Bennett Federal Building and the old Duval Federal Building, remodeled and now incorporated into the Bank of America block.  The Bellsouth/ATT building was also built during the period when this plan may have still carried water and I believe that it also was engineered to work around it as I recall (it's been awhile since I was in it) that its main floor might be it's second floor.


thelakelander

July 01, 2010, 07:18:40 PM
No form of mass transit will attract development if the city actively works against it. Skyway, streetcar, commuter rail, LRT, won't matter. We should make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes with future projects.

finehoe

July 02, 2010, 09:47:05 AM
By the way, other buildings that featured a second level plaza that may have been intended to fit the featured plan are the Bennett Federal Building and the old Duval Federal Building, remodeled and now incorporated into the Bank of America block.  The Bellsouth/ATT building was also built during the period when this plan may have still carried water and I believe that it also was engineered to work around it as I recall (it's been awhile since I was in it) that its main floor might be it's second floor.

This is correct.  When the Duval Federal Building first opened, their ads bragged that they were "the first" to conform with the plan.

thelakelander

July 02, 2010, 09:54:43 AM
Where exactly in the BOA block is the old Duval Federal Building located?

MaxOmus

July 02, 2010, 10:23:45 AM
"steadily declining downtown retail sector down faster than a prom queen at the after party."

heh, where'd that come from...

finehoe

July 02, 2010, 10:26:49 AM
Where exactly in the BOA block is the old Duval Federal Building located?

The corner of Bay & Hogan.  You'll notice that the second or third story protrudes over the sidewalk.  This used to be the elevated skywalk part of the building and was open-air.  When the building was redone, they enclosed it and expanded the office space outward.

ricker

September 02, 2010, 07:13:35 AM
well how are we doing with getting the crusty cooks holding tattered purse strings to respond to our collective nudge toward a cohesive blend of the systems available to get us moving about this great expanse in a memorable yet safe and at times entertaining manner?

HisBuffPVB

July 09, 2013, 10:54:02 AM
Hemming Park was rehabbed in 1977 using CETA funds, it was not until about five years later that the concept of Hemming Plaza around the park was initiated. The old park had been in decline for some years, terrible public restrooms on the east side, below street level, far too many plants that were not well maintained in the park, it had become an eyesore and included in the park was a small tourism center, hardly ever used. Central to the park was the Confederate monument, there have been at least three efforts to move that, all have failed due to lack of public support. At the time the park was rehabbed, there was an effort to save downtown shopping and many people would not come downtown due to the homeless and others who seemed to be attracted to the park,(sound familiar?) The park on the east side was also the central loading and unloading zone of all the city busses who came downtown.

stephendare

July 09, 2013, 11:44:00 AM
Hemming Park was rehabbed in 1977 using CETA funds, it was not until about five years later that the concept of Hemming Plaza around the park was initiated. The old park had been in decline for some years, terrible public restrooms on the east side, below street level, far too many plants that were not well maintained in the park, it had become an eyesore and included in the park was a small tourism center, hardly ever used. Central to the park was the Confederate monument, there have been at least three efforts to move that, all have failed due to lack of public support. At the time the park was rehabbed, there was an effort to save downtown shopping and many people would not come downtown due to the homeless and others who seemed to be attracted to the park,(sound familiar?) The park on the east side was also the central loading and unloading zone of all the city busses who came downtown.

Good description, HisBuff, but if you search your memory and compare what was actually happening with today, there are striking differences.

In 1977, Reagan had not tossed the mentally ill out on the streets and the actual level of homelessness wasn't even a blip on the radar.  The term homeless itself wasnt really in widespread usage until the 1980s. (excellent article on the subject here:  http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2010/09/18/the_invention_of_homelessness.html) and I was in Hemming Park a lot during that era.  While people would have talked about 'bums', it was mostly just black people and preachers hanging out.  But there were a bunch of people who didnt particularly care for black people just running around unsupervised in broad daylight.

Also the bathrooms had become a magnet for gay hookups and quick blowjobs.  Thats what led to the city deciding to close all outdoor public restrooms.

Hemming Park was in transition between two different groups of people, but the conversion to a plaza and the crazy ad valorem taxes on inventory in downtown only killed downtown.

But the real causes for the discomfort had to do with a fear of race and the crazy ideas and dysfuntional social approach to gay people in general.

HisBuffPVB

July 11, 2013, 08:42:12 PM
The term "homeless" goes back to early 70's probably became more prevalent in the recession of 74, which genterated the CETA jobs program as well as the CETA public works programs. It became far more noticeable after they turned so many out of the state mental institutions beginning about 79 and put them, primarily in Springfield in halfway houses, these folks, zonked on thorazine and other drugs were released to wander around town including Hemming Park. First real notice in this country of homeless probably goes back to the depression and the number of men some living in Hobo camps riding the rails and searching for work. Did not seem to be a center for gay solicitation, in those days, that was more in Riverside park and Friendship park. Maybe it was in Hemming. By 78, Downtown development or redevelopment had not been on the radar screen long, only four years after Amelia Island Conference.

stephendare

July 11, 2013, 09:00:57 PM
The term "homeless" goes back to early 70's probably became more prevalent in the recession of 74, which genterated the CETA jobs program as well as the CETA public works programs. It became far more noticeable after they turned so many out of the state mental institutions beginning about 79 and put them, primarily in Springfield in halfway houses, these folks, zonked on thorazine and other drugs were released to wander around town including Hemming Park. First real notice in this country of homeless probably goes back to the depression and the number of men some living in Hobo camps riding the rails and searching for work. Did not seem to be a center for gay solicitation, in those days, that was more in Riverside park and Friendship park. Maybe it was in Hemming. By 78, Downtown development or redevelopment had not been on the radar screen long, only four years after Amelia Island Conference.

The redevelopment plan was put in place by the creation of an independent tax on downtown following a conference in 1969, just after consolidation.  That led to the redevelopment plan of 1971, with the participation of Bob Broward and the son of Jacksonville's first City Planner (and the man who spread the gospel of city planning throughout the southeast after graduating from MIT and moving here in the early part of the century.), George Simons Jr.  (In fact, I use the drawings from that plan as my screen saver on my laptop.)

The Hobo camps ---which dated back to the early days of rail, btw. were over behind the Union Terminal.  There was a bamboo forest back there to mitigate the sounds of the trains, and generations of hobos had cut fishing poles and camped out back there.

One of the most diverting three weeks of my younger days was spent camping out with the hobos listening to hobo stories and jumping on a few trains with them. 

But there just wasnt a big 'homeless' population downtown.  People were afraid of 'bums' and 'tramps', but those guys primarily hung out along old Riverside Avenue in the days of the neighborhood's decline, prior to the 1970s.

HisBuffPVB

July 11, 2013, 10:15:32 PM
I don't remember an independent taxing district downtown, in fact, Lex Hester was opposed to independent districts, and this was a number of years before Tax Increment Financing districts. I remember the 71 plan but as you have probably discovered, the city did hot have a planning department until 80, before that it was a planning commission with little power other than to advise and recommend. We did not have a Downtown Development Authority Director before Don Ingram and I think he came in 71 from Atlanta. Lex believed as he wrote, in a very strong Mayor with very strong Departments led by professionals, something that has not continued and has really declined in the past few years.

stephendare

July 11, 2013, 10:20:46 PM
I don't remember an independent taxing district downtown, in fact, Lex Hester was opposed to independent districts, and this was a number of years before Tax Increment Financing districts. I remember the 71 plan but as you have probably discovered, the city did hot have a planning department until 80, before that it was a planning commission with little power other than to advise and recommend. We did not have a Downtown Development Authority Director before Don Ingram and I think he came in 71 from Atlanta. Lex believed as he wrote, in a very strong Mayor with very strong Departments led by professionals, something that has not continued and has really declined in the past few years.

71 would be the year of the plan, obviously (consider the title of the article) and Lex was one of the ones who explained the timeline to me. Good guy, amazingly organized mind. 

You might be surprised to learn that we actually have the oldest planning board in the southeast---  Grace Trout was one of the first members of the association. (as well as the board of public health) 

The commission proposed and the plan came together in '71.  It was all financed with an ad valorem tax placed on inventory downtown---which caused everyone with a branch store to quickly shift their merchandise outside of the boundaries of the tax.  Also there was a very small sliver of an increase downtown millage rates.  It was one of the reasons that downtown became a 'discount' center.  To avoid the stupid taxation on downtown only businesses.

Ive come around to the idea that the very worst idea that the city ever had was to establish the DDA.

HisBuffPVB

September 11, 2013, 02:57:32 PM
In 1971, the city did not have a Planning Department, there was a planning commission located in the Courthouse with advisory capacity only.
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