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Food Trucks and Their Impact on Downtown Revitalization

With one full week to go before the first Jax Truckies Food Truck Championship, Metro Jacksonville explores the food truck craze, and how downtown could benefit from embracing the industry's popularity.

Published March 23, 2012 in Urban Issues      21 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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About The Jax Truckies Food Truck Championship



Metro Jacksonville's first Jax Truckies Food Truck Championship was created in an effort to promote small business growth and to encourage the City of Jacksonville to embrace the popular, rapidly growing food truck industry.  Scheduled for Saturday, March 31 and capped at a maximum of 300 to ensure short lines, tickets went on sale March 2.  As expected, due to a pent up demand by local foodies, this event quickly sold out in less than four days.




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Metrojacksonville.com presents:

Jax Truckies The Jacksonville Food Truck Championships


Come sample the best of Jacksonville's street food culture and vote on the Jax Truckies People's Choice Champion, Saturday, March 31 @ Bold City Brewery. Food trucks will be selling select menu samples so attendees can experience the food truck craze sweeping the nation. You don’t need to travel to Austin, Texas or Portland, Oregon. The food truck revolution is going on right here in Jacksonville, FL. Local food is better food!

$15 admission VIP Hour from 11AM to 12PM benefiting Second Harvest North Florida. In addition to benefitting Second Harvest, VIP Hour gets you access a full hour before the general attendees arrive. This allows our VIP guests to get food faster and fresher for a great cause!

$5 admission from 12PM to 3PM.

In addition to local foods, Jacksonville’s own Bold City Brewery will be selling local brews and other select beverages.

The Jax Truckies will crown the best food truck in Jacksonville. Guest judges include Caron Streibich from Folio Weekly’s Bite Club, Kerry Speckman of Jacksonville Magazine and Cole Pepper from the Jacksonville Backyard BBQ Championships. In addition to this professionally judged event, participants will have the opportunity to select a people’s choice award.

Admission is limited to the first 300 (50 for VIP hour) so act now to secure your spot.

This is a ticketed event. Food tickets purchased separately from admission price. Food tickets can be purchased the day of the event for $1 each or 20 tickets for $18.

If you can’t make the VIP Happy Hour benefitting Second Harvest North Florida, we will be accepting canned food donations that will be delivered directly to Second Harvest. The mission of Second Harvest North Florida is to distribute food and grocery products to hungry people and to educate the public about the causes and possible solutions to problems of domestic hunger.

Bold City Brewery is located at:
2670 Rosselle St # 7, Jacksonville, FL 32204

Follow us:

www.metrojacksonville.com/jaxtruckies
@JaxTruckies

Facebook.com/JaxTruckies

Facebook.com/Metrojacksonville


Current Contenders Line Up
 
BBQ Jax

Brucci's Pizza....Pizza, Pasta and Panini

Mike B's

Monroe's Smokehouse Bar-B-Q & Catering

Mother Fletcher's

On the Fly Sandwiches & Stuff

The Full Rack BBQ


Due to the event quickly selling out, we've created a possibility for those who were left out to participate:

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TO WIN TWO FREE ADMISSION TICKETS HERE



Why Food Trucks and Downtown Revitalization Are A Perfect Match



Several cities, such as Portland, Phoenix, and Tampa, have taken advantage of the popular industry to generate additional foot traffic and exposure for their downtown businesses in underutilized locations (ex. surface parking lots and public squares like Hemming Plaza).  This affordable method of programming within an urban setting is also known as "Tactical Urbanism."  Food Truck Rallies, events where several trucks locate within a clustered, compact, pedestrian-scale setting (something a downtown environment naturally provides) provide several benefits for their participants:

1. Economic vitality. The experience in other cities shows that food vendors attract foot traffic to commercial districts - which means increased sales and a more vibrant retail business overall. By offering low-cost, culturally diverse foods for people on the go, they typically complement - rather than compete - with sit-down restaurants and give people more reasons to frequent local shopping districts.

2. Festive, pedestrian-friendly streets.  Food vendors bring positive activity to the street and add a festive, people-oriented feel that improves public safety. In many cities, food vendors provide a window into many diverse cultures, introducing people to new foods and to the pleasures of spending time in the public space of the city.

3. An entry point to owning your own business. Food vending can be an ideal first business.  For a modest investment, it helps an entrepreneur develop a track record and build loyal clientele.  For many immigrant and refugee communities, food vending offers a point of entry to the economy and a way to learn the food service industry.



Mayor Takes Leading Role in Downtown Tampa Experience



In November 2011, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn brought the food truck craze to downtown Tampa with an event known as Mayor Buckhorn's Food Truck Fiesta.  The idea for a regular food truck rally in downtown Tampa came about after Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn attended a food truck rally in early 2011.  In a November 2011, Tampa Tribune article, Mayor Buckhorn was quoted as saying:

"I saw the excitement, and I saw the crowds that turned out," he said. "People were waiting in line an hour and a half for food. I want to bring it downtown. It's a great day for Tampa and for foodies.  This is part of being hip. It's part of what makes a downtown cool. It's obviously bringing a lot of young people here. A lot of people from downtown buildings are excited about it. I'm excited about it."

The popular monthly event is held in Lykes Gaslight Square Park, which is located in the heart of downtown Tampa.  Like Jacksonville's Hemming Plaza, this public space occupies a full city block in the heart of downtown and has been a popular location for urban outdoorsmen (the homeless).  In addition, leading up the first rally, brick-and-mortar restaurants voiced concerns that food trucks would lure away customers.

However, the opposite ended up happening.  So many people are attracted to the rallies, a common national characteristic whenever food trucks assemble in public places, that many adjacent restaurants ended up at capacity levels due to the rally's overflow of customers.  Tampa's Mayor views events like this as a benefit for all downtown businesses, including the restaurants, because they are exposed to new customers.  This concept of "clustering complementing uses within a compact pedestrian scale setting" is something that has long been promoted by Metro Jacksonville, in affordably addressing the revitalization of our downtown.
http://www.tampagov.net/dept_mayor/foodtruck.asp
http://www.facebook.com/MayorsFoodTruckFiesta



Why Jax Truckies Food Truck Championship Won't Be In Hemming Plaza



Many have asked why the upcoming Jax Truckies Food Truck Championship event will not be hosted in a location like Hemming Plaza.

"I contacted JEDC several times about making sure an event in Hemming Plaza would conform to the rules regarding mobile vendors downtown.  Most of my attempts at contacting the appropriate parties at JEDC were ignored.  In the meantime, I contacted the Office of Special Events, who were very helpful about walking me through the process of obtaining a special events permit to conduct the event downtown.  The fee and process were all reasonable.  However, when the issue of proper insurance requirements was brought to my attention it was clear this would be financially unfeasible to conduct this myself.  This is a volunteer effort for me to provide a demonstration event to show city leaders how viable food trucks can be for downtown.  I could not find a willing partner through various downtown organizations who would host the event and thereby be covered under their existing insurance policy.  It was at that time that I decided to look elsewhere and found two very accommodating people in Stanton Hudmon at Pine Street LLC and Susan Miller at Bold City Brewery.  These are two local entrepreneurs who clearly ‘get it’ in terms of improving their community.  JEDC later did get back with me with a response to my inquiries after several weeks of being ignored, but the person I dealt with was largely unhelpful and unwelcoming.  I got the distinct impression that the City was not interested in dealing with me.
 
This is consistent with the stories I have heard from the brave individuals who have defied odds by attempting to open food trucks here in Jacksonville.  The City has largely taken a punitive approach against them, instead of working with them to ensure their success.  They, like myself, cannot understand why the City would not welcome innovative ways to grow a small business in a community that has long felt the effects of a sagging economy."
- Quote by Mike Field, Jax Truckies Food Truck Championship organizer





Unfortunately, we currently live in an environment where small business development, creativity, and innovation is forced to move forward in spite of local government.  Despite the billions spent in the name of redevelopment in downtown, this is why downtown continues to struggle after 40 years of city-backed revitalization strategies, while areas such as King Street flourish with small business growth despite little to no city involvement.

So on Saturday, March 31, 2012, hundreds of people will enjoy the dishes of some of Jacksonville's best food trucks in a single location, while a natural, underutilized public space like Hemming Plaza will continue to sit empty.


Article by Ennis Davis.


Mayor Buckhorn's Food Truck Fiesta images courtesy of Cafe Getaway's blog.  Cafe Getaway is a Tampa-based mobile espresso truck.  







21 Comments

fieldafm

March 23, 2012, 07:58:42 AM
Great article Lake.  I've actually met Bob Buckhorn, attended his food truck event in Tampa and eaten from Wicked Wiches(pictured).  You don't need to have phenomenal vision to do what Mayor Buckhorn has done, you just need to do some reasearch.  It would cost nothing for Jacksonville to try this.  No corporate subsidies or huge tax breaks are required, you just need the courage to try something new. 

urbanlibertarian

March 23, 2012, 08:04:43 AM
Does Downtown Vision have a conflict of interest with something like this because they are funded by taxes from downtown businesses including restaurants?

COJ, please free small businesses like this from the chains of regulatory oppression!

tufsu1

March 23, 2012, 08:30:46 AM
Hopefully this independent setup in a hip urban core neighborhood will spark interest from the City and Mayor Brown....truth be told, that's how Tampa's monthly downtown food truck festival got started too.

thelakelander

March 23, 2012, 08:40:35 AM
Does Downtown Vision have a conflict of interest with something like this because they are funded by taxes from downtown businesses including restaurants?

I'm not sure.  What would be the conflict of interest in exposing downtown businesses to hundreds of people that would otherwise not come?  In urban settings, these rallies have benefited brick and mortar businesses by putting more people in their front door.  Things like this would be more effective and positive for surrounding businesses around Hemming Plaza instead moving benches around.

urbanlibertarian

March 23, 2012, 09:17:43 AM
Does Downtown Vision have a conflict of interest with something like this because they are funded by taxes from downtown businesses including restaurants?

I'm not sure.  What would be the conflict of interest in exposing downtown businesses to hundreds of people that would otherwise not come?  In urban settings, these rallies have benefited brick and mortar businesses by putting more people in their front door.  Things like this would be more effective and positive for surrounding businesses around Hemming Plaza instead moving benches around.

I agree it would be to the benefit of every business DT but will brick and mortar restaurants see it that way?

thelakelander

March 23, 2012, 09:24:17 AM
We currently have a city council led committee seriously considering removing seating as a method to attract more people to Hemming Plaza, despite this being an easily proven failure throughout the country.  This is Jax.  Of course not.  That's where you need leadership and activist to look outside of our boundaries for success stories that prove the typical Jax naysayers wrong.  In our case, we're playing the activist role to show how easy it is to provide economic opportunity without large sums of money and over complicating urban economic development issues.  No special committees or extra layers of bureaucracy and debate.  Just the simple will to make it happen and collaborating with a mix of talented Jax citizens and businesses with the same attitude.

fieldafm

March 23, 2012, 09:41:13 AM
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I agree it would be to the benefit of every business DT but will brick and mortar restaurants see it that way?

No one is advocating for a food truck to park at a parking meter right outside the door of a restaurant.

If a restaurant business studies the issue, they can find ways to benefit.  If a food truck bazaar brings 1,000 people to an area that is otherwise dead of activity on a given night... they will benefit from the increased pedestrian activity in the area.  I have personally gone to nearby restaurants for a drink after attending food truck festivals, and that is not an uncommon experience.



If you were a retail business, wouldnt you want all these people walking past your door?  Major malls(who have food courts of their own) happily host these festivals b/c they know more people = more sales for their tennants.


Additionally, many brick and mortar restaurants are using food trucks to EXPAND their businesses.  Take a look at LA, for example.  Many high end restaurants purchase a food truck rig in order to expand their brand and reach customers they normally would not be able to capture in their current locations.  Even chain restaurants are using food trucks to expand their reach.  Two weeks ago, I walked past a Red Robin food truck in Southern California. 

An example of a brick and mortar who is using food trucks to expand their business:





Furthemore, many food trucks will eventually open a brick and morter location after testing the waters of the viability of their concept.

Here are three properietors that started with a food truck on a shoestring budget, and now have fabulous restaurants:






urbanlibertarian

March 23, 2012, 04:19:12 PM
We currently have a city council led committee seriously considering removing seating as a method to attract more people to Hemming Plaza, despite this being an easily proven failure throughout the country.  This is Jax.  Of course not.  That's where you need leadership and activist to look outside of our boundaries for success stories that prove the typical Jax naysayers wrong.  In our case, we're playing the activist role to show how easy it is to provide economic opportunity without large sums of money and over complicating urban economic development issues.  No special committees or extra layers of bureaucracy and debate.  Just the simple will to make it happen and collaborating with a mix of talented Jax citizens and businesses with the same attitude.

I would love to see COJ relinquish some of it's power to tell people what to do but I'm not holding my breath.  Mayor Brown has done a good job of right-sizing city government so far maybe we'll see some deregulation as well.

Garden guy

March 23, 2012, 06:23:29 PM
I had some of the best ribs from a truck the other day..I like the love that can be bestowed upon the food when theres not so much worry of the full restaurant for the owners. Id love to see a whole block full of  these guys..add some tunes and what a lunch while standing.

urbanlibertarian

March 25, 2012, 03:13:15 PM
Remember Kennedy from MTV?  Well, below is her piece about a proposed law in California that would prohibit food trucks near schools.

http://reason.com/archives/2012/03/25/california-assemblyman-wants-to-treat-fo

Quote
Are Food Trucks Really Like Child Molesters?
California law would ban noveau chuckwagons from locating near schools.

Kennedy | March 25, 2012

The food police division of the California General Assembly is at it again, and this time the fella who knows the least about culture and food in blossoming metropoles is having the loudest say. Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-27) has declared food trucks an enemy of the state, a destroyer of schools, and buster of belts.

Monning hails from the hamlet of Carmel, which is known as much for its food trucks as it is for its hip-hop massage parlors. You can't swing a dead cat in downtown Carmel without hitting a soap store or a charming B&B. Monning hates your tastebuds. He has crafted an idiotic piece of nonsense called AB 1678 that seeks to ban food trucks from setting up within 1,500 feet of public schools. That is a perimeter only 500 feet smaller than the one imposed on dangerous child molesters. Monning's explicit motivation? "California’s children face unprecedented levels of obesity," he's written, and by banning food trucks, he is simply "engag[ing]parents, students, school personnel and mobile food vendors in shaping a solution."

Food trucks have proliferated out of necessity and convenience. I cannot tell you the sheer joy of walking a screaming newborn and coaxing a reluctant bulldog around the block while starving and sleep-deprived with engorged breasts threatening to geyser—and then having the good luck of running into a food truck. There is something inherently healing about a chorizo-and-egg taco, hot sauce running down your tired chin when your sanity and will to brave an entire sit-down meal have left you.

The luscious lure of delicious on-the-go chow is an old one, and the explosion of the food-truck culture is hardly mysterious to anyone whose palate has been challenged by something truly adventurous and inspired from within the corrugated walls of a rolling eatery. Whether it's cupcakes, humbow, Vietnamese/Mexican fusion, vegan, or grilled cheese, cooks and connoisseurs have taken up the challenge in places ranging from Los Angeles to Seattle to New York to Miami. Food restrictions are nothing new, especially in the land of totalitarian school czars who banned whole milk and Gatorade from cafeterias almost a decade ago, and a state where trans fat and Robitussin have been categorized as Class 1 drugs. Who knew food truck operators were the new playground drug kingpins, mainlining corn syrup and lard into unwitting young veins?

Well, they're not. Food trucks are a prime example of a free-market reflection of creativity and culture. As everyone fancies themselves the next Tom Collichio, Wylie Dufresne, or Anthony Bourdain thanks to the popularity of shows like Top Chef and No Reservations, we all want to try something different and stretch the limits of our mouths, man. But who has the scratch to drop $700 at Craft?


Gourmet food trucks allow you to nibble on crafted morsels under the stars and reward mobile tinkerers for their vision and vittles. They let you support local economies and add good grub to your lives. And they have come a long, long way from 19th-century chuckwagons rolling over unpaved, unsafe trails. Nowadays, the trucks and their chefs de cuisine are brave enough to roam the mean streets of white suburbia and dish up Korean pork-belly tacos that Kim Jong-un will never comprehend. The evolution of food trucks is the equivalent of Jack In The Box turning into the French Laundry or Chez Panisse. Vizzi's has truffle flavored popcorn, Umami will make you want to punch an old hobo for one of their port-and-Stilton burgers, and let's not get started on the fetishists who turn up their noses at the Kogi truck as they obsess over Korean barbecue. This stuff is creative, relatively inexpensive, and super competitive. It's got to be better than Waffle House grits at 2 a.m.

So why on earth would anyone stand in the way of gastronomical progress with silly, poorly conceived legislation aimed at saving kids from access to good food?

Because assembly people are bored and useless as pee-flavored lollipops, and they feel the only way to earn their salaries is to write new bills that waste time, money, and kill industry in the name of lookin' out for the fat kids. "We can move to protect our children and the public heath of future Californians now," frets Monning. "Or we can all pay for it later." But this type of heavy handed food intervention never works, and it eats away at a liberty more basic than speech: the freedom to choose what we put in our bodies. Or let our kids put into theirs.

There is no more sacred relationship than that of the stuff which crosses your vestibule by your own choosing. Why is some kook from Carmel telling you not to enjoy your delicious, intoxicatingly inspired ingestibles if they are hawked less than 1,500 feet from any public school? I don't know if you've been to San Francisco, L.A., or Orange County lately, but there are a ton of public schools. Some are empty not because the kids are out chasing the Bollywood Bites truck but because they're bad schools with crappy teachers who've let themselves become chattel to an oppressive union.

If losing children to food trucks is that big of a problem, I'd invest a little more time and energy in figuring out the glitches and holes in public schools. Or, better yet, encourage school choice and charter options across the board. Encourage prosperity and ingenuity, don't smother it with the dry and fussy teat of big, ineffectual government. Coq-au-vin-blocking mobile meal units does nothing to protect children and stave off childhood obesity (note that Monning's ban doesn't shutter brick-and-mortar convenience stores). It does, however, discourage yet another fledgling sector from thriving in California, a state headed for a fiscal meltdown faster than flaming Athens, and one that's flying to hell on a hand cart loaded down with the highly regulated and super-fatty food served up in the Golden State's K-12 cafeterias.

At least whatever they serve in hell has to be better than what they're forcing on these whelps in school.

Kennedy is host of 98.7 FM’s Music in the Morning in Los Angeles.

http://reason.com/archives/2012/03/25/california-assemblyman-wants-to-treat-fo

fieldafm

April 23, 2012, 02:37:36 PM
What does downtown have a large supply of? 

People?  No  :(



According to DVI's State of Downtown Report, 2011 marked the 2nd year in a row downtown 'visits' have declined.
 

Surface parking lots?  YES!



According to Downtown Vision (DVI), more than 50% of downtown Jacksonville's streetscape consists of "dead space".


What can you do about that?  Pop-up parks-food truck style:







Quote
The city has set up a "pop-up park" next to Surrey Central SkyTrain Station as part of a new program called PARKit!. The program transforms asphalt parking space into places for people to hang out. In the case of the City Centre space, the city has added synthetic grass, furniture, plants, a deck area and a place for buskers, entertainment, and, you guessed it, food cart vendors.Photograph by: AMY REID , Surrey NOWFor a short while, Surrey will be home to food trucks.

The city has set up a "pop-up park" next to Surrey SkyTrain Station as part of a new program called PARKit!.

The program transforms asphalt parking space into places for people to hang out.

In the case of the City Centre space, the city has added synthetic grass, furniture, plants, a deck area and a place for buskers, entertainment and, you guessed it, food cart vendors.

"These temporary parks offer green space enhancements over the summer months and contribute to neighbourhood character and sense of community," said Mayor Dianne Watts, adding that the space is a place for people to sit, enjoy an outdoor lunch or just hang out.

Different food vendors will appear every few days, which will include Salvadoran pupusas, Vietnamese food and bubble tea.

The project also incorporates a social enterprise component.

The city invited Pacific Community Resource Services to participate in the event. The society provides a range of youth support services in the Surrey, including a program to hire and train youth to obtain employment. For this event, the youth will be selling Pacific Dogs - hot dogs with a West Coast flare.

The "park" currently set up in City Centre is located on City Parkway, by the Surrey Central SkyTrain Station, and will be open from April 17 to 26, with vendors open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.That leads right into the Party for the Planet on April 27-28, where more food vendors will be set up at Central City Plaza.

The city says it plans to have PARKit! pop up in more places this summer.


Food truck schedule for City Centre PARKit!:


April 21-22 - Num Num Food Cart (Vietnamese)

April 23-24 - Bubble Gallo (bubble tea and lemonade)

April 25-26 - Guanaco Truck (Salvadoran)

April 17-26 - Pacific Dog (organized by Pacific Community Resources Services. Hot dogs with a West Coast flare. This is a tent, not a truck.)


During the Party for the Planet on April 27-28, a few different vendors/food trucks will be spread around Central City Plaza. Those include Mr. Frosty (ice cream), Guanaco Foods (Salvadoran) and Off the Wagon (sandwiches and salads).



Read more: http://www.thenownewspaper.com/PHOTOS+Food+trucks+Surrey+park/6493961/story.html#ixzz1stE8g4o9



Sometimes, you just need the courage to try something new. 

fieldafm

July 23, 2012, 10:20:17 AM
BIG NEWS today.  Startign today, On The Fly will now have a permanent and legal spot DOWNTOWN!!!



By this time next week, we hope to make another exciting announcement regarding a second downtown spot :)

tufsu1

July 23, 2012, 10:23:31 AM
awesome news....great work!

fsujax

July 23, 2012, 10:33:39 AM
Yes!

Tacachale

July 23, 2012, 11:26:22 AM
Awesome news!

Captain Zissou

July 23, 2012, 03:16:04 PM
Great for downtown!!! I hope I can get down there soon for the ahi tuna bowl!!

tayana42

July 23, 2012, 10:58:45 PM
Hope they are successful and that inspires more food trucks.

aaapolito

July 24, 2012, 06:40:00 AM
I told everyone in my office about On the Fly, and several of them walked over from our LaVilla office building. 

I'm going for lunch today.  I hope to see a good crowd.

thelakelander

July 24, 2012, 08:13:57 AM
From yesterday...



What are some other downtown locations where you think they can successfully co-exist with brick and mortar businesses?

Lunican

March 14, 2013, 03:39:43 PM
Food Truck Economics

http://blog.priceonomics.com/post/45352687467/food-truck-economics

thelakelander

March 14, 2013, 03:52:04 PM


I stopped by the Taste Buds truck today at Park & Rosselle. While I was there, I probably saw about 20 people order from a truck in a random parking lot.  I imagine a real truck court lined up around a public space like Hemming or the new county courthouse would bring a pack of people everyday.
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