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State of Downtown: 2011 Progress Report

Downtown Jacksonville may not be as economically depressed at many make it out to be. Downtown Vision's 2011 State of Downtown report helps shed light on where the central business district currently stands.

Published April 20, 2012 in Development      29 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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29 Comments

simms3

April 20, 2012, 07:38:27 AM
What is the purpose of the State of Downtown?  I ask because it reads very much like a marketing package that a brokerage would put out.

If I were thinking of investing in downtown and knew very little, I would come away with stronger feelings for downtown Jacksonville after reading that package and seeing the high-def photos, but there are statistics that would bother me and statistics that would seem highly biased/inflated.  And RevPar for hotels would absolutely scare me.  (a visit to downtown would negate everything I read in this package)

Anyway, I ask because I thought that this was more of an internal report meant to be a fair and honest look at the state of downtown (leave it to an actual marketing package and individual brokers' reports to do the advertising).  If it is an internal "cold hard look", then I think DVI and JEDC continue to pat themselves on the back for a job not done.  The package kept referring to "other cities", and well other cities certainly have a lot more to show for themselves.  And also, many positive things downtown are despite DVI and JEDC, not because of those organizations.

Bringing Everbank in was a real positive, but perhaps the package should have gone into what it took to lure Everbank in in the first place.  It wasn't just that Everbank decided to not renew in the suburbs and to sign a new lease and "come" downtown - it was paid to do so!  And I supported that, but the evidence that despite the low rents and abundant cheap parking (for a CBD), and the fact that it's a bank and belongs in a tower, only makes the obvious that much clearer: downtown is not exactly healthy and SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH WITH A PRETTY FLUFFY MARKETING PACKAGE AND A RIBBON TIED AROUND IT.

Let's see if we can convince the authorities to not pat themselves on the back until they truly have something to show for it.

When I see vacancies coming down, rent growth, new construction, better policies, less need for incentives to beg suburban companies to come in and that money being used instead to lure companies in other cities to relocate/expand in our downtown, historic buildings being saved and rehabbed for new uses, increased hotel occupancies and increased revpar, greenspace improvements, and MOST OF ALL HARD DATA SHOWING THE PERCEPTION OF DOWNTOWN BY JACKSONVILLE RESIDENTS HAS IMPROVED,

...then I will look for a "we did good" package (as long as it still has the message that we are never threw and should never throw the towel in).

fsujax

April 20, 2012, 07:44:59 AM
What is the Parador parking garage? i dont remember hearing about that one, is it the one being proposed across from the Landing?

simms3

April 20, 2012, 07:45:25 AM
And it's 2012.  We should be looking at maybe the last 5 years when the economy has suffered.  We should be looking forward more.  They have a list of all projects completed since 2000, downtown "Burger King renovations - $256,000".  Come on...talk about trying to build an impressive list, that is PURE FLUFF and anyone taking the time to read it would be amazed at the uninteresting stuff in there (and they should have never bolded that project, it drew my eye to it first - bad marketing mistake).

simms3

April 20, 2012, 07:57:11 AM
Here's what's scary:

Office

Downtown vacancy is 24.3% and rising, still, while rents are declining.  Net absorption was negative this year while it was positive in the suburbs (even with the Everbank deal, which probably represents a small portion of aggregate leasing activity in the city).

They bill downtown as "the most affordable CBD in Florida", but that's not necessarily a good thing.  Downtown Miami/Brickell is by far the healthiest and best submarket to be in, in FL, and it is by a very very wide margin the most expensive (and it is considered expensive in the country, too).


Residential

Condo sales psf have plummeted.  Plummeted.  New construction has stopped for now a large part of a decade, so inventory has remained the same.  The trend should actually be the other way around by now.

Apartment rents have dropped significantly.  $1.20/SF and less.  That's not sustainable for CBDs and may represent a number that is below replacement cost parameters, thereby killing potential new developments.  Also, let's not forget that multifamily developers and owners are looking almost entirely for rent growth.  Builders and lenders want to see a sustainable number and a tighter inventory, but pure owners want to see growth and it doesn't matter the starting point (could be growth from $0.50 to $0.65 and that would be a huge gain for them).



I could go on and on and just tear apart the charts, which completely destroy all the pretty language and marketing aspects of this report.

Like I said, downtown needs a cold hard look, not a "we did good for nothing" report.

vicupstate

April 20, 2012, 09:00:12 AM
It is meant to be an "Annual Report' and like any company annual report, it is going to put the best foot forward and emphasize the positive. 


The Bridge painting projects and Highway repair projects inflate the numbers significantly, but even so, there is more going on than I thought.  I didn't know the Parador garage was a 'go', for instance.  Is it?

The 51,000 employment number is not in agreemnet with the "Employment by Area' graphic by a substantial amount (37k vs. 51k).

Everyone knows that DT has struggled, but there are some signs of life, primarily the Brooklyn projects.   

Captain Zissou

April 20, 2012, 09:12:15 AM
Almost half of the money for the 'proposed projects' is the overland bridge project.... WHY?  Also, the transportation center.  i am positive that nothing will happen over there for at least the next year.  Isn't the ambassador hotel project dead?  For new construction, the only real project was the Wolfson Tower.  The rest were all city funded except for Farah and Farha which was just remodeling and the destruction of a historic building for a smoking courtyard. 

The numbers are incredibly inflated and do not reflect the current state of DT.  In my opinions, the main positives are a renewed focus on DT and the resurgence of the nightlife scene.  Otherwise, there is really nothing to celebrate.

Chris and Stephen are going to love picking those numbers apart.

Bativac

April 20, 2012, 09:19:01 AM
The numbers are incredibly inflated and do not reflect the current state of DT.  In my opinions, the main positives are a renewed focus on DT and the resurgence of the nightlife scene.  Otherwise, there is really nothing to celebrate.

Quoted for truth, also simms's comment "DVI and JEDC continue to pat themselves on the back for a job not done."

As usual - there seems to be a ton of discussion about downtown with little actually happening. (outside of the resurgent nightlife in some areas).

Tacachale

April 20, 2012, 10:01:28 AM
This reads like every annual report I've ever read, and I've read A LOT of them. You have to get through the candy coating to get to the real deal.

There are some actual positives here. The most significant may be the one they talk the least about - the growth of downtown nightlife venues and the apparently improved attendance at them. That is positive small business growth and it's impressive in such a struggling environment. The Laura Street streetscaping and facade improvements and the park improvements are also a plus.

Also, looking at the raw data for 2011, we shouldn't overlook the impact of developments started but not yet completed. The EverBank move will have an impact on downtown office vacancy and on local businesses. The Brooklyn developments should also be significant.

I would have hoped for more results from the mayor's office by now, though it's nice he hasn't dropped his focus on downtown.

fsujax

April 20, 2012, 10:03:27 AM
There's good news and not so good news. I am at the Landing three nights a week and have noticed store fronts filling up and more activity in the courtyard. The river taxi was full of people last night leaving the Landing.

tufsu1

April 20, 2012, 10:55:52 AM
Almost half of the money for the 'proposed projects' is the overland bridge project.... WHY?  Also, the transportation center.  i am positive that nothing will happen over there for at least the next year.

from what I know, JTA is still planning to start on the new Greyhoud terminal this year

mtraininjax

April 20, 2012, 03:53:34 PM
Quote
There's good news and not so good news. I am at the Landing three nights a week and have noticed store fronts filling up and more activity in the courtyard. The river taxi was full of people last night leaving the Landing.

Amen brother, Brown should go to the Landing and work his way North and South from the River. If the people are at the Landing, they could move block by block up the streets. Not the way he is proposing to fix Hemming and pray people show up. Totally arse-backwards!

Quote
I would have hoped for more results from the mayor's office by now, though it's nice he hasn't dropped his focus on downtown.

He either does not know how to run the city government or he is being cautious, probably a bit of both. We all remember what Peyton screwed up in his first year, so Brown is probably not wanting to be too ambitious, but waiting an entire year to build a downtown team, probably did not win many new downtown voters (which is a problem since there are so few downtown residents).

Anti redneck

April 20, 2012, 04:13:05 PM
What is the purpose of the State of Downtown?  I ask because it reads very much like a marketing package that a brokerage would put out.

If I were thinking of investing in downtown and knew very little, I would come away with stronger feelings for downtown Jacksonville after reading that package and seeing the high-def photos, but there are statistics that would bother me and statistics that would seem highly biased/inflated.  And RevPar for hotels would absolutely scare me.  (a visit to downtown would negate everything I read in this package)

Anyway, I ask because I thought that this was more of an internal report meant to be a fair and honest look at the state of downtown (leave it to an actual marketing package and individual brokers' reports to do the advertising).  If it is an internal "cold hard look", then I think DVI and JEDC continue to pat themselves on the back for a job not done.  The package kept referring to "other cities", and well other cities certainly have a lot more to show for themselves.  And also, many positive things downtown are despite DVI and JEDC, not because of those organizations.

Bringing Everbank in was a real positive, but perhaps the package should have gone into what it took to lure Everbank in in the first place.  It wasn't just that Everbank decided to not renew in the suburbs and to sign a new lease and "come" downtown - it was paid to do so!  And I supported that, but the evidence that despite the low rents and abundant cheap parking (for a CBD), and the fact that it's a bank and belongs in a tower, only makes the obvious that much clearer: downtown is not exactly healthy and SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH WITH A PRETTY FLUFFY MARKETING PACKAGE AND A RIBBON TIED AROUND IT.

Let's see if we can convince the authorities to not pat themselves on the back until they truly have something to show for it.

When I see vacancies coming down, rent growth, new construction, better policies, less need for incentives to beg suburban companies to come in and that money being used instead to lure companies in other cities to relocate/expand in our downtown, historic buildings being saved and rehabbed for new uses, increased hotel occupancies and increased revpar, greenspace improvements, and MOST OF ALL HARD DATA SHOWING THE PERCEPTION OF DOWNTOWN BY JACKSONVILLE RESIDENTS HAS IMPROVED,

...then I will look for a "we did good" package (as long as it still has the message that we are never threw and should never throw the towel in).

Sounds to me like they are just trying to keep the people of Jacksonville mislead. Jacksonville will never change its ways. If I had the power, I would declare Jacksonville a failed city, make it cease to exist and have it start all over again. Kinda like pressing the reset button. Too bad we can't do that in real life.

Keith-N-Jax

April 20, 2012, 07:01:44 PM
Good article, but nothing will change here and I have accepted that. Thats why I have planned to leave once I finish school. For those of you who like it here, good for you. Being born and raised up in Jax its so sad to see the city not further along than where it is now. If you're ok with Jax and its supposed future all the power to ya, but life is too short. The people of Jax deserve better.

tufsu1

April 20, 2012, 09:48:25 PM
Amen brother, Brown should go to the Landing and work his way North and South from the River. If the people are at the Landing, they could move block by block up the streets. Not the way he is proposing to fix Hemming and pray people show up. Totally arse-backwards!

you might have noticed the Hemming issue is being led by Council, not the Mayor

Anti redneck

April 20, 2012, 10:16:11 PM
Amen brother, Brown should go to the Landing and work his way North and South from the River. If the people are at the Landing, they could move block by block up the streets. Not the way he is proposing to fix Hemming and pray people show up. Totally arse-backwards!

you might have noticed the Hemming issue is being led by Council, not the Mayor

What the mayor needs to do is go in and clean house on that council. They're holding him and the city back.

Adam W

April 20, 2012, 10:47:30 PM
Good article, but nothing will change here and I have accepted that. Thats why I have planned to leave once I finish school. For those of you who like it here, good for you. Being born and raised up in Jax its so sad to see the city not further along than where it is now. If you're ok with Jax and its supposed future all the power to ya, but life is too short. The people of Jax deserve better.

I think it will change. It changed from what it was once to what it is today, so it's possible to change to something else. At least I hope so.

One thing that irks me a bit is that it seems a lot of what passes for 'progress' is actually just bars opening up. I'm not saying that's all that's happening in Jax, but it seems that everyone I know drinks an awful lot. I guess it's good that Burro Bar opened Downtown and that 1904 bar is opening, but there has to be more to do than just get drunk all the time. Especially in a city where you're forced to drive everywhere.

Timkin

April 20, 2012, 11:22:41 PM
Good article, but nothing will change here and I have accepted that. Thats why I have planned to leave once I finish school. For those of you who like it here, good for you. Being born and raised up in Jax its so sad to see the city not further along than where it is now. If you're ok with Jax and its supposed future all the power to ya, but life is too short. The people of Jax deserve better.

I think it will change. It changed from what it was once to what it is today, so it's possible to change to something else. At least I hope so.

One thing that irks me a bit is that it seems a lot of what passes for 'progress' is actually just bars opening up. I'm not saying that's all that's happening in Jax, but it seems that everyone I know drinks an awful lot. I guess it's good that Burro Bar opened Downtown and that 1904 bar is opening, but there has to be more to do than just get drunk all the time. Especially in a city where you're forced to drive everywhere.

    There SHOULD be more to do than get drunk all the time.  Perhaps that is why many get drunk all the time.. there is nothing more entertaining?  :o

Anti redneck

April 21, 2012, 12:01:39 AM
Good article, but nothing will change here and I have accepted that. Thats why I have planned to leave once I finish school. For those of you who like it here, good for you. Being born and raised up in Jax its so sad to see the city not further along than where it is now. If you're ok with Jax and its supposed future all the power to ya, but life is too short. The people of Jax deserve better.

I think it will change. It changed from what it was once to what it is today, so it's possible to change to something else. At least I hope so.

One thing that irks me a bit is that it seems a lot of what passes for 'progress' is actually just bars opening up. I'm not saying that's all that's happening in Jax, but it seems that everyone I know drinks an awful lot. I guess it's good that Burro Bar opened Downtown and that 1904 bar is opening, but there has to be more to do than just get drunk all the time. Especially in a city where you're forced to drive everywhere.

    There SHOULD be more to do than get drunk all the time.  Perhaps that is why many get drunk all the time.. there is nothing more entertaining?  :o

+1 million

Anti redneck

April 21, 2012, 01:21:06 AM
I stated this before. If downtown wants to see some life, they should do what they did at town center. Do not put in a town center clone, but something different with it's own vibe. That's a sure say to see some good progress downtown. Build somewhere for workers to go when they get off, somewhere to go to watch Jags games on Sundays, something for everyone! Let's see a movie theather go up, whether it be an AMC or Joe's Movies. Let's see a theme park. They should try and talk Adventure Landing into expanding downtown. Let's see an aquarium. Let's see some scenery coming into downtown, put in more palm trees coming in. This is Florida. Let's enact more beautification projects. Advertise more on the things that already are downtown! Why should it be up to the people to go out and try to find things for themselves? Get rid of the ordinances that keep businesses already there from putting signs out! Why is that in place anyway????? Allow downtown to be lit up at night. Why turn off the lights at midnight? Allow the St. Johns River to be used! Yes, people see we have a river. Why are they not allowed to use it? Set up jet ski rentals along the river. They will most likely rent out. Maybe even wind surfing! Most of this is not even on the agenda! Why not? City council? You know how that should be over-ridden? Let the people vote on it! If the people were allowed to vote, we might see some real progress, then. Who's on the same page with everything I just said?

deathstar

April 21, 2012, 02:11:34 AM
I sure hope the plans for Riverside Avenue tidy up that spot, because I rode through there yesterday and it's ROUGH. Who would want to live in a gem in the middle of an area like that? Downtown needs a huge overhaul.. dare I say another 1901 fire so investors could come in and rebuild the bloody thing and make it right.

peestandingup

April 21, 2012, 02:21:11 AM
I agree with most here. Jax isn't doing nearly enough & is in a lot of ways a failed city, at least at its core. And IMO, if you don't have a thriving core, then you can't call yourself a city. Its something else, some good some bad, but not a "city". More like a collection of suburbs pretending to be one. And they really are fluffing this report up. I mean, I understand it & realize they have to do that as its pretty much all they can say, but they keep talking about the low crime & abundant parking. Really?? Well, thats probably because there's no one down there. And they charge for parking everywhere, write tickets, etc. So yeah, no shit. :o

There's a lot of fish to fry, but I agree that they should start with the Landing & work their way from there. As much as people here like to make fun of it at times, it really is about the only place you can go in town with your family, or you know, if you happen to wanna go downtown & not go bar hopping. Yes, its dated & some of the stuff there sucks. But its got the river, its got the views, the Riverwalk, etc. Expand on that. The city should run its own water taxis & integrate that into transit. I'm sorry, but connection is key here when you have a river running through the middle of your town & you can't have people paying $4 a person to ride with a private company just to the other side of the river that I could almost throw a rock to.

Anti redneck

April 21, 2012, 03:21:23 AM
Please, would someone with the power read this thread? May we, the people of Jacksonville, whether they live here or are from here but moved away for certain reasons, please see progress? This thread goes along with the "young profesionals fleeing Jacksonville" thread. If downtown was a place to go, less people would flee! Would the idiots who run this city please stop it! Stop acting like we don't know what we're talking about. Stop ignoring your citizens. You don't know everything! If you hate downtown, please relieve your duties! Why can't the voters be allowed to have a voice with our future?

For the record, yes I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated at how a "city" like Jacksonville can possess such a mentality! It's the only one of its kind. It's almost sickening!

JFman00

April 21, 2012, 07:32:05 AM
My favorite line from the piece on First Coast Connect a couple weeks ago: "You can't be a suburb of nowhere."

Adam W

April 21, 2012, 07:39:32 AM
I stated this before. If downtown wants to see some life, they should do what they did at town center. Do not put in a town center clone, but something different with it's own vibe. That's a sure say to see some good progress downtown. Build somewhere for workers to go when they get off, somewhere to go to watch Jags games on Sundays, something for everyone! Let's see a movie theather go up, whether it be an AMC or Joe's Movies. Let's see a theme park. They should try and talk Adventure Landing into expanding downtown. Let's see an aquarium. Let's see some scenery coming into downtown, put in more palm trees coming in. This is Florida. Let's enact more beautification projects. Advertise more on the things that already are downtown! Why should it be up to the people to go out and try to find things for themselves? Get rid of the ordinances that keep businesses already there from putting signs out! Why is that in place anyway????? Allow downtown to be lit up at night. Why turn off the lights at midnight? Allow the St. Johns River to be used! Yes, people see we have a river. Why are they not allowed to use it? Set up jet ski rentals along the river. They will most likely rent out. Maybe even wind surfing! Most of this is not even on the agenda! Why not? City council? You know how that should be over-ridden? Let the people vote on it! If the people were allowed to vote, we might see some real progress, then. Who's on the same page with everything I just said?

Downtown is an ideal location. It's equally convenient for everyone. Maybe if you live on the Southside, the St Johns Town Center is easily accessible, but Downtown is never that far away for lots of people. And if Downtown were to develop, it would could have a very positive impact on our public transportation aspirations.

Another thing to keep in mind: a lot of young people want to live in a city. You can't really get much in the way of urban living in Jacksonville, unless you want to live in an overpriced apartment in a wasteland. I used to work Downtown and would walk home to Riverside at night (I got off work after 8PM). It felt like 28 Days Later.

Bill Hoff

April 21, 2012, 04:31:24 PM
I sure hope the plans for Riverside Avenue tidy up that spot, because I rode through there yesterday and it's ROUGH. Who would want to live in a gem in the middle of an area like that?

Oh, I don't know.

Maybe the same kind of people who moved to Riverside in the 90's. Or Springfield in the early 2000's.

You know, "crazy" people.  ;)



ChriswUfGator

April 21, 2012, 05:35:48 PM
I sure hope the plans for Riverside Avenue tidy up that spot, because I rode through there yesterday and it's ROUGH. Who would want to live in a gem in the middle of an area like that?

Oh, I don't know.

Maybe the same kind of people who moved to Riverside in the 90's. Or Springfield in the early 2000's.

You know, "crazy" people.  ;)

Well, I mean, it depends on the people doesn't it.

The kids in Lord of the Flies weren't crazy just because they happened to be on an island...

tufsu1

April 21, 2012, 11:18:01 PM
Amen brother, Brown should go to the Landing and work his way North and South from the River. If the people are at the Landing, they could move block by block up the streets. Not the way he is proposing to fix Hemming and pray people show up. Totally arse-backwards!

you might have noticed the Hemming issue is being led by Council, not the Mayor

What the mayor needs to do is go in and clean house on that council. They're holding him and the city back.

I'm pretty sure the Mayor doesn't appoint the Council....like him, they are elected by the voters!

thelakelander

April 22, 2012, 05:38:05 AM
I sure hope the plans for Riverside Avenue tidy up that spot, because I rode through there yesterday and it's ROUGH. Who would want to live in a gem in the middle of an area like that?

Oh, I don't know.

Maybe the same kind of people who moved to Riverside in the 90's. Or Springfield in the early 2000's.

You know, "crazy" people.  ;)

What's so rough about it?  It's virtually abandoned with 90% of the land being vacant from all of the demolitions over the last decade.  It's not like it's the Eastside of Detroit or Chicago's Southside.

urbanlibertarian

April 22, 2012, 06:22:41 PM
Wow!  I just don't understand the pervasive negativity.  The state of DT could be improving more quickly but it is improving.  Slow progress is not failure.  The expanding nightlife is very welcome and should feed on itself and grow.
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