Thursday, July 31, 2014
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
 

Changing the Urban Landscape in 2013

In 2012, we witnessed a renewed optimism for the future of downtown Jacksonville. Looking forward to 2013, here are five projects that have the potential to stimulate additional life in the urban core.

Published January 3, 2013 in Urban Issues      16 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature


1. Mellow Mushroom and Riverside/Avondale


The initial proposed Mellow Mushroom site plan featured a centralized greenspace for the Shoppes of Avondale and preserved a Mid 20th century structure.

The opening of a pizza restuarant in the Shoppes of Avondale has turned into a heated community separating fight highlighting Jacksonville's historical tendency to shoot itself in the foot, when it comes to truly embracing density and urbanism.

While this project sits a couple of miles outside of downtown Jacksonville, districts such as the Shoppes of Avondale, Park & King, and Five Points, are real life local examples of the vibrant atmosphere most desire for the urban core.  However, as continued redevelopment comes, segments of the community are working to stop it from happening.

So the continued Mellow Mushroom and Park & King debates are much larger than Riverside.  How we resolve this situation in 2013 will provide us with insight to future political and local ideological challenges that downtown will eventually face.

Is Riverside/Avondale Ready For Mellow Mushroom?



2. Brooklyn: Downtown's Trendy Neighborhood?


Unity Plaza with 220 Riverside in the background.

How we handle Brooklyn's issues in 2013 could forever alter the path of downtown's revitalization. Formerly one of downtown Jacksonville's densest neighborhoods, Brooklyn is now a shell of its former self.  This is set to change as the 220 Riverside, Unity Plaza, and Riverside Place projects get underway.  Overnight, a few blocks of this neighborhood will be transformed from complete Rust Belt style urban abandonment to a dense collection of a mix of uses featuring an urban public square, 600 multifamily residential units and 80,000 square feet of retail and restaurants.

While these projects won't officially be completed until 2014, we should find out this year if they have the ability to spur additional development throughout the neighborhood, as well as generate a resolution on the role that mass transit can play in downtown's renaissance and tying the together the downtown's core with the vibrant Riverside/Avondale Historic District.  

The Role Of Mass Transit In Brooklyn's Renaissance



3. JTA Downtown BRT Phase One


Map of the Downtown Transit Enhancement Project

If things remain on schedule, the downtown phase of JTA's long desired Bus Rapid Transit system will be breaking ground this Spring.  As a part of this project, Jefferson and Broad Streets will be completely rebuilt between the Acosta Bridge and State Street.  While we still don't buy the wolf tickets of BRT significantly spurring any type of market rate private sector transit oriented development, the project does put the spotlight on LaVilla.

Downtown's LaVilla was Florida's first major urban and enlightened African-American community.  Many inaccurately refer to it as the Harlem of the South.  However, it can be argued that Harlem was the LaVilla of the North.  It was the site of the country's first documented blues performance.  It was home to one of the largest red light districts in the South.  There was even a black-owned streetcar line in a city that most today believe was severly conservative with Jim Crow politics a century ago.  Despite efforts to destroy it, many of it's few remaining buildings fronting the pending streetscape projects are of national significance.  While city leaders routinely focus the future of downtown on the riverfront, we have a great opportunity with these downtown BRT corridors and the Skyway to integrate downtown revitalization and the adaptive reuse of nationally significant historical landmarks with existing mass transit investments.



4. Addressing Hemming Plaza



Well-maintained, used and accessible parks play a role in increasing real estate values. Just as well-maintained parks can support the economy, poorly-maintained spaces that lack amenities to attract well rounded usage can negatively impact the surrounding urban environment.  Nationwide, the most successful urban parks are well-maintained, integrated with their surroundings and programmed for around the clock vibrancy.  

The future of Hemming Plaza, the Northbank's heart and soul, could be decided in 2013. For years, the City of Jacksonville has struggled finding a solution for Hemming Plaza, that ignores taking full advantage of the concept of programming. Despite public surveys suggesting that Hemming Plaza's amenities, such as benches, tables, and trees should remain and be better utilized with programming, Councilman Don Redman has introduced legislation to do the exact opposite.  This year, we should find out if Hemming Plaza will become an economic anchor of Northbank's renaissance or another obstacle that must be overcome.

Hemming Plaza Tables & Chairs On Their Way Out?



5. Downtown Investment Authority CRA Plan


Downtown's Broad Street.

For those that want to be a part of the planning process for the future of Downtown Jacksonville, 2013 presents great opportunity. Before Mayor Alvin Brown's Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) can help significantly advance the revitalization dreams everyone desires, a Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) plan must be developed.

This is a plan that addresses the unique needs of a targeted area and in the Jacksonville's case, the targeted area is downtown. Typically, these plans include the overall goals for redevelopment, as well as identifying the types of projects planned for the area. Examples of traditional projects include: streetscapes and roadway improvements, building renovations, new building construction, flood control initiatives, water and sewer improvements, parking lots and garages, neighborhood parks, sidewalks and street tree plantings. CRA plans can also include redevelopment incentives such as grants and loans for such things as façade improvements, sprinkler system upgrades, signs, and structural improvements.  Despite not being a "brick and mortar" project, this may be the most significant issue on this list in determining the future of downtown Jacksonville.


Honorable Mention: Jax 2025



What kind of Jacksonville do we want to create? Twenty years ago, Jacksonville residents came together for the Jacksonville Insight process, which resulted in River City Renaissance and many improvements downtown. Today, however, Jacksonville lacks a shared vision of what the city could be and how we will get there.  With this in mind, the Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. (JCCI) has launched a community-owned initiative destined to create an implementable shared vision for Jacksonville and wants every resident's help by at least participating in a community survey:

Click here to take the community survey.

With the first community visioning event planned for 9am on January 19, 2013 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, this visioning effort will be the perfect opportunity for all citizens to get involved with determining Jacksonville's future.

Click here for more information.

Editorial by Ennis Davis







16 Comments

Noone

January 03, 2013, 05:13:01 AM
Nice list. And our St. Johns River our American Heritage River a Federal Initiative runs right through the middle of this new DIA/CRA in the USA.

Bill Hoff

January 03, 2013, 07:21:58 AM
The large mixed use development on the 1400 block of Main Street will also have final word in Fall of 2013.

Mathew1056

January 03, 2013, 09:20:36 AM
My pet peeve with the upcoming BRT development is that it primarily runs along an area already served by the Skyway. Instead of complimenting existing downtown transit by extending out into populated areas, the city is opting to build a useless phase 1 project that will only add to traffic in the urban core. It will be interesting to watch this cluster play out.

cline

January 03, 2013, 09:56:32 AM
^JTA also thinks it's a good idea to move forward with plans for BRT down Philips (Southeast Corridor) which would duplicate any future plans for Commuter Rail on that corridor. 

thelakelander

January 03, 2013, 10:18:06 AM
^I'm slowing coming to the realization that the FEC commuter rail project should be put to death if BRT, Amtrak, and possibly AAF comes online by the end of the decade.  What would be the point of investing in commuter rail along a corridor where three other modes pretty much provide transit service to every commuter rail stop outside of Nocatee? I'd rather see an investment on another corridor where such as service would not have to compete for transit riders.

I'm not as concerned about the downtown BRT project on the Northbank as I am on the Southbank.  The upgrades to Jefferson and Broad should be a plus, although it's still foolish and shortsighted to rebuild those streets without adding bike infrastructure.  The duplication of the Skyway on the Southbank and still not being able to tap into Baptist Medical and Aetna are challenges we'll have to overcome.

thelakelander

January 03, 2013, 10:23:19 AM
Btw, the original BRT worth pursuing is the leg to Arlington and Regency. Unfortunately, it's being treated as the 4th wheel.

JeffreyS

January 03, 2013, 11:55:33 AM
I think the downtown BRT could become more useful if instead of the Acosta Bridge it utilized the Fuller Warren.  The new route would incorporate Brocklyn park, unity park, 220 riverside, BCBS, FIS, LPS, riverside Everbank, Baptist Medical swing to San Marco Square and finish at Kings Ave Parking. The skyway and BRT could compliment one another.

cline

January 03, 2013, 12:46:40 PM
^I'm slowing coming to the realization that the FEC commuter rail project should be put to death if BRT, Amtrak, and possibly AAF comes online by the end of the decade.  What would be the point of investing in commuter rail along a corridor where three other modes pretty much provide transit service to every commuter rail stop outside of Nocatee? I'd rather see an investment on another corridor where such as service would not have to compete for transit riders.


I would tend to agree.  This corridor appears to be positioned to potentially be well served by transit.  If we're dealing with limited Federal dollars, I would like to see it used on the Southwest corridor which, in my opinion, would be the most viable option for commuter rail in terms of potential ridership. 

JeffreyS

January 03, 2013, 12:50:34 PM
I would prefer the BRT on Phillips put to death so Amtrak, AAF and Commuter rail could share stations.

cline

January 03, 2013, 12:56:44 PM
^That's probably not going to happen as it's already in design.  It also not really BRT, it won't have a dedicated lane or anything.  It will just have nicer shelters and intersection improvements.  Oh and those awesome bus shelter pads that connect to nothing.

JeffreyS

January 03, 2013, 01:04:56 PM
If that is the case then we can do that and move the shelters and BRT route later if the other rail modes prove successful and we and to add some commuter service.  Move the BRT to a feeder line coming from the beach.

Jason

January 03, 2013, 01:32:12 PM
I'm not as concerned about the downtown BRT project on the Northbank as I am on the Southbank.  The upgrades to Jefferson and Broad should be a plus, although it's still foolish and shortsighted to rebuild those streets without adding bike infrastructure.  The duplication of the Skyway on the Southbank and still not being able to tap into Baptist Medical and Aetna are challenges we'll have to overcome.

Agreed.  That corridor would be much better served by running down San Marco Blvd to the Square and then a future extension down Hendricks/San Jose.

Ocklawaha

January 03, 2013, 02:07:02 PM
I've long been a proponent of BRT on San Marco/San Jose, the area is a rich mix of residential, restaurant, retail and office space that could be nicely stitched together with a BRT system.

There is simply no reason to move forward with BRT on Riverplace, Kings, Philips, when it is directly under the Skyway for the entire urbanized portion of the route.  There is nothing on Philips which with the exception of a scattering of tacky industries and 24 hour, adult only hotels, has absolutely nothing to dictate a end run between Downtown and The Avenues. As far as proof of demand, Philips doesn't even have an end to end bus route on it today, sound's like rich ground for 10 minute headways!

The Philips BRT route is not only bad, it is counter productive to future mass transit in the city. It takes momentum away from better choices like the Arlington Expressway, San Jose, Beach and/or Butler. It has none of the synergies that will become apparent in the north BRT route. It will be a poor performer which will keep future funds out of the hands of those who appear to, 'not know what the hell they are doing.' It could do irreparable damage to the Skyway, and as Lake has pointed out, damage commuter rail prospects. This is another classic case of Jacksonville charging right off the cliff armed with just enough information to completely screw the pooch.

JTA? TIME TO PULL YOUR HEADS OUT!

Toddhigginbotham

January 04, 2013, 06:28:16 PM
BRT? Really? If you look at the list of cities that use bus transportation systems, you get cities like Louisville and Birmingham. The future of transit is rail. Just look what Charlotte has done with their new light rail. Why not instead of spending all this money on bus rapid transit, lets invest in cleaner, safer, more efficient light rail like the Skyway, which has much more potential.

JeffreyS

January 04, 2013, 07:02:42 PM
Welcome to the Fray Todd. We advocate for rail and the prosperity it brings. Search the site and you will find a seemingly endless supply of articles for the advancement of fixed transit here in Jax.

thelakelander

January 04, 2013, 07:22:29 PM
BRT? Really? If you look at the list of cities that use bus transportation systems, you get cities like Louisville and Birmingham. The future of transit is rail. Just look what Charlotte has done with their new light rail. Why not instead of spending all this money on bus rapid transit, lets invest in cleaner, safer, more efficient light rail like the Skyway, which has much more potential.

^You'll find no argument here about the benefit of rail.  Most here, understand that what JTA is calling BRT is simply reliable regular bus service in major cities (although good bus service is needed too). 

I'm also a proponent of modifying a few existing bus lines to BRT style service without spending the big bucks or asking for additional federal help.  Go to the federal well for more impactful rail projects such as streetcar or commuter rail to feed riders into the skyway since it doesn't have the capacity to become a citywide circulator.  However, they've already received funding for the downtown BRT lines. It's unrealistic to think that we'll be returning the cash.
View forum thread
Welcome Guest. You must be logged in to comment on this story.

What are the benefits of having a MetroJacksonville.com account?
  • Share your opinion by posting comments on stories that interest you.
  • Stay up to date on all of the latest issues affecting your neighborhood.
  • Create a network of friends working towards a better Jacksonville.
Register now
Already have an account? Login now to comment.