What made early Jacksonville a sustainable community didn't happen by accident.
Following the Civil War, Jacksonville's port and railroads flourished due to the demand for lumber and forest products to rebuild the nation's war-torn cities.
With thousands employed in industries along the riverfront, the need for complementing residential, retail, hospitality and even red light districts became apparent.
Because this took place in a era before the automobile became king, the result was a dense walkable urban environment.
In other words, growth wasn't contrived, it was organic.
Primarily due to federal subsidies facilitating what is now known as sprawl, this sustainable development pattern and economic model had been destroyed by the time of Jacksonville's consolidation in 1968.
In the following decades, we've enacted a number of policies and land development regulations with a one-size fits all mentality, despite our borders being larger than the cities of Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland, Las Vegas and Miami combined.
As a result, we've created a financially unsustainable economic future for Jacksonville.
Over the last half century, we've used our massive land area as an excuse for failed downtown revitalization efforts and subsidizing unsustainable growth. However, our context tells a different story. In reality, we're a 30 square mile rust belt city surrounded by 717 square miles of low density suburbs.
Furthermore, that rust belt city has lost 50% of its population since 1950. In the meantime, what’s been overlooked is what made Jacksonville a successful city 100 years ago. An economic model that facilitates organic sustainable growth and development.