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A Look At Brooklyn's Proposed Unity Plaza

On Thursday, November 7, 2013, a request for approval of the proposed improvements to Unity Plaza will be considered by the Downtown Development Review Board (DDRB). Located at the intersection of Riverside Avenue and Forest Street, Unity Plaza is adjacent to the 220 Riverside project, which is currently under construction.

Published November 5, 2013 in Development      46 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

The Plaza will be managed by Jacksonville Unity Plaza, Inc. (JUPI) and will have oversight from 220 Riverside Development Management, COJ Parks and Recreation Department and initial input from the Department of Public Works. The design of Unity Plaza includes a number of elevation changes, seating, pedestrian promenades, stage and entertainment areas and associated needs of active open public spaces including restrooms.  Unity Plaza is anticipated to open in Summer 2014. Slides of Thursday's presentation are shown below.

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46 Comments

Keith-N-Jax

November 06, 2013, 12:51:23 AM
Looks pretty good right? I love that night time rendering.

simms3

November 06, 2013, 01:49:53 AM
Yes, this looks good.

Dapperdan

November 06, 2013, 08:00:37 AM
Bike Sharing. That is awesome.

Stephen

November 06, 2013, 08:44:20 AM
What a wonderful design !

jaxlore

November 06, 2013, 09:06:58 AM
This should be really cool. Hard to believe that much is going to fit in that little of a space.

jcjohnpaint

November 06, 2013, 10:21:56 AM
very nice

tufsu1

November 06, 2013, 01:21:07 PM
ok...I'll be the negative one....

my whole concern is that Unity Plaza ISN"T downtown.  We already have two somewhat underutilized public spaces downtown - The Landing courtyard and Hemming Plaza.  Diluting things further by adding another one doesn't seem to be a positive thing.

As for bike share, Hallmark Partners is jumping in where JTA left off (agreed upon by both parties)...they are working with a conceptual idea first floated/developed by TransForm Jax...the idea as I understand it is to get up to 30 stations (300 bikes) in the urban core area by the end of 2014....this would be followed by another 20 stations (200 bikes) in other areas of the city in later years

fsujax

November 06, 2013, 01:38:51 PM
JTA is still very much working with Hallmark Partners on the Bike Share program, the private entity is taking the lead.

tufsu1

November 06, 2013, 02:29:03 PM
thanks for the clarification...that's what I meant to say, but I guess it doesn't read that way

fieldafm

November 06, 2013, 02:57:08 PM
Quote
ok...I'll be the negative one....

my whole concern is that Unity Plaza ISN"T downtown.  We already have two somewhat underutilized public spaces downtown - The Landing courtyard and Hemming Plaza.  Diluting things further by adding another one doesn't seem to be a positive thing.


I'll see your negativity and go all in with positivity...


The current state of Hemming Plaza is nothing short of criminal.  Will that change with a new RFP to manage the park?  Unsure at this time as the first RFP was laughable, at best.

The Landing courtyard is used quite a bit... and any future renovations to the Landing (and there will be) will only further enhance the use of this space.  I am not concerned one bit about that.

Brooklyn is essentially 'mid-town'.  It's a transitional neighborhood from the urban core to an intown neighborhood which shares many urban qualities.  These types of MidTown areas are experiencing a rebirth nationwide.  For it not to be in the coversation of 'downtown' would be insane.

Brooklyn is poised to be the Southeast's next great neighborhood.  I firmly believe that.  Beyond an ash-riddled baseball field, there aren't any 'public spaces' in Brooklyn except for the Riverwalk... which is beyond excellent for what it is, a passive connection to a great natural asset-but the Riverwalk is not the same kind of public space as say an actively programmed, gathering place where the inner square and outer square act in harmony with each other like that of Unity Plaza.  UP will be a centerpiece of the neighborhood and something I believe will be the envy of many peer communities.

CityLife

November 06, 2013, 03:03:33 PM
I agree with Field, and hope that Unity Plaza can show the city what could be done at Hemming if it is properly managed/programmed. Also think it will draw more Riversiders out of Hipsters Paradise and into the greater downtown area.

tpot

November 06, 2013, 03:05:33 PM
I hope the city won't be responsible for maintaining Unity Plaza.......if so this will be an overgrown mess within 12 months of completion.......just take a look around the city......

fsujax

November 06, 2013, 03:10:03 PM
I do not believe the City will be responsible for maintaining Unity Plaza, if so I would be worried too. I could just imagine the pond being green and full of scum. I do think Brooklyn could be a great neighborhood and acts as a good transition from Downtown to a more residential neighborhood.

ProjectMaximus

November 06, 2013, 03:16:53 PM
tufsu, I don't see it diluting current parks and programs in the CBD...rather I optimistically see it as a catalyst for more programs returning to Hemming if it can prove a need and feasibility.

I am excited. Maybe I should go back to Asia and return in 2016 to find a completely different environment! Lol, Jax is undergoing a golden transformation...just wish I could hit fast forward on the process.

Scrub Palmetto

November 06, 2013, 04:20:49 PM
Well, I half expected another building further beating all the meaning out of the word plaza! *cough* Berkman

(If the above isn't warning enough, this post contains an uncharacteristic amount of cynicism. My apologies ... It's just one of those days!)

It looks really nice, but to be honest ... I don't really "get" it. It feels like the way we do things now is build massive roads that lead to massive retention ponds, and then putting lipstick on them is supposed to excite us. Inwardly, there are some good features. Outwardly, I would say it's not even close to making the best of an already awkward location. It's like a side yard to a single place rather than something central to several. I think it will only remain that way for the foreseeable future because of the way connections seem like an afterthought rather than smooth-as-butter, as should be expected when the word "plaza" is adopted. Forest serves as a wall, and that's whether there were anything immediately across it to begin with. The design seems to be giving a great deal of attention to the Magnolia and Forest corner, but Magnolia doesn't even at least offer a crossing at Forest of any legal sort. At the same time, the design appears to be directly ignoring its most "duh" pedestrian connection at Riverside & Forest in favor of a park entrance further up Riverside oriented towards its parking spaces. Ever heard of a drive-to "plaza"?

When does the pond at Forest and Park get its lipstick? (Like I said ... one of those days! Please forgive me!)

Tacachale

November 06, 2013, 04:45:00 PM
^Scrub, I think you make some very good points, but as we often do on this site there's a risk of letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Is a big retention pond awesome? No, but it's better than a bunch of small retention ponds at every development, which we easily could have gotten. What I see here is some badly needed infill that turns one of its more "pragmatic" design elements into a major focus instead of a something to be kept out back where the drivers can't see it. I see an attempt at including a public space in a private development, which we've missed out on repeatedly in the past. And I see a commitment to maintain and program this space, which is something that's sorely lacking. All in all a big net positive for the Old City and especially for Brooklyn.

Scrub Palmetto

November 06, 2013, 05:31:05 PM
Tacachale, you gave me a phrase I need to say repeatedly in my head: "public space in a private development... public space in a private development..." I'm very picky about public spaces, but I do have to remember this is part of a private development, and as such, it has a variation of goals and should be critiqued with a variation of standards. I agree, it's definitely a net positive for Jax. (I'll let my cynicism resurface just to say, "Heck, almost anything is.")

That said, I think we should take the perfect-as-enemy-of-the-good "danger" with a grain of salt. Neither have much real meaning, as perfect doesn't exist, and good is what everyone thinks they're building, so it's essentially the status quo. There's a greater beauty in the word better, because it's not so black and white, and it really doesn't have enemies. For instance, this project is better than it could be, and that's worth acknowledging, but it also could be better, and that's worth acknowledging, too. I see no problems in this site having a reputation of striving for this 6-letter B-word; I think it's a big part of MJ's worth, really.

tufsu1

November 06, 2013, 07:53:53 PM
I sure hope all the boosters are right

Bill Hoff

November 06, 2013, 10:09:55 PM
One small example of competing interests would be the Christmas Tree.

The Landing has traditionally had the big tree Downtown. I believe Unity Plaza has said that they plan on having a bigger tree.

We may have an arms race. : )

spuwho

November 06, 2013, 11:08:45 PM
Unity Plaza will create new vibe for Brooklyn

http://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/showstory.php?Story_id=540977

Wednesday, November 6, 11:10 AM EST

By Carole Hawkins, Contributing Writer

An outdoor amphitheater and entertainment hub under construction in Jacksonville's Brooklyn neighborhood goes way beyond what's normally expected of an amenity for an apartment-retail complex.
But the purpose behind Unity Plaza, being built next to a new mixed-use development at 220 Riverside goes way beyond selling apartments. 

Jacksonville native Alex Coley, a principal at Hallmark Partners and the site's developer, calls Unity Plaza a community service project disguised as a real estate deal. 

"I believe real estate in the new millennium will be one of conscious capitalism, where you will do well by doing good," he said.

When finished, the private nonprofit urban park will feature an amphitheater that seats 2,000 and an amenity deck the size of a football field.

It will host events 260 days a year.

City leaders say the development fits into Downtown revitalization plans by making the city more appealing to a new kind of residential consumer, one that values quality of life.

"Right now, a lot of people don't see Jacksonville as a first-tier market," said Ted Carter, executive director of Jacksonville's Office of Economic Development.

"But national demographic trends show people are moving out of high-cost, dense, high-traffic cities and coming to the Southeast, where there are low taxes and a great quality of life, where you can really have a family life," Carter added.

Some of those people are already in Jacksonville, according to Coley.

Almost 8,000 employees work within six blocks of the site, at such places as Florida Blue, EverBank and Halcrow.

He cited a Forbes article that said 90,000 people have moved to Jacksonville in the last decade to work in the technology and professional services area.

"These are a highly compensated, highly skilled pool we call cultural creatives, and when they move into a community, they demand a certain level of services," he said. "Unity Plaza is designed to meet that level of service. It creates a cool place for them to work and play."

Riverside-Brooklyn is one of about a half-dozen areas the Downtown Investment Authority has identified as potential catalyst sites for revitalization. 

"There's great momentum going on in Riverside-Brooklyn," said Aundra Wallace, the authority's CEO.

One of the things Downtown Jacksonville real estate lacks now is financial comparables that make it attractive for capital markets to underwrite projects, Wallace said.

Successful projects in Riverside and Brooklyn will give Jacksonville those market-rate comps.

"If we do that, financial markets will not view Downtown as a risk, because we can show them they can get a great rate of return on an investment," he said.

Hallmark Partners donated 2.5 acres from its 11-acre site for Unity Plaza and plans to fund the nonprofit entity from a portion of its retail rents.

Coley said he hopes the project will set a standard the city can use with other Downtown developers.

"We wanted to deliver best-in-class real estate property that also makes a serious contribution to the community," he said. "With this we're building a community our kids can come home to."

ProjectMaximus

November 07, 2013, 12:03:20 AM
^^yeah it's definitely far better than what we often end up with. 260 events per year is ambitious, but without a doubt adds life to the neighborhood.

tufsu1

November 07, 2013, 08:42:53 AM
One small example of competing interests would be the Christmas Tree.

The Landing has traditionally had the big tree Downtown. I believe Unity Plaza has said that they plan on having a bigger tree.

We may have an arms race. : )

just like the Town Center is having a Vetereans Day parade....which is co-sponsored by COJ even though there's a parade downtown

fieldafm

November 07, 2013, 08:51:05 AM
Town Center is having a Veterans Day Parade?  That's news to me.

Far be it for me to miss an opportunity to bash Special Events... but I think you may be confused.  The new Microsoft Store at the SJTC is sponsoring COJ's Veterans Day Parade downtown.

tufsu1

November 07, 2013, 09:11:57 AM
Town Center is having a Veterans Day Parade?  That's news to me.

Far be it for me to miss an opportunity to bash Special Events... but I think you may be confused.  The new Microsoft Store at the SJTC is sponsoring COJ's Veterans Day Parade downtown.

ah..maybe that's what it is...just saw something about Town Center and Veterans Day parade...and was co-sponsored by COJ

I-10east

November 09, 2013, 11:25:00 AM
The developer is upset over the delay in approval. I'm no real estate wiz by no means, but that doesn't sound good. Ongoing issues like this makes city seem indefensible when people say "Jax will find a way to screw it up". Hopefully everything goes according to plan ASAP.

www.jaxdailyrecord.com/showstory.php?Story_id=541007

Bill Hoff

November 09, 2013, 11:57:37 AM
System dysfunction, making the process friendlier, and a developer-COJ liaison all came up in the recent downtown improvement meetings held last week.

icarus

November 09, 2013, 12:38:35 PM
Law requires notice of pending action before hearing.  The department was trying to accommodate the developer by scheduling both the conceptual and final approval for the same hearing rather than two separate hearings.

Unfortunately, someone in the department only noticed the conceptual approval for the hearing which would have been the normal course of events in the process.

I hardly see this is an issue at all.  The developer is forced to wait for a second hearing which is what he would have normally had to do anyway.  Miscommunication .. nothing more.

thelakelander

November 09, 2013, 12:54:01 PM
So they have to wait until next month? What's the impact on the construction process or project completion date? Time is money. Especially, if they are already in a rush to be available for an event by a certain date.

Tacachale

November 09, 2013, 01:01:06 PM
The article makes it sound like they just have to wait for Tuesday. But yes, this was an easily avoidable error on the city's part.

BNewton

November 09, 2013, 04:16:54 PM
I'm very excited to see this and other Brooklyn projects come final!  I really love the "band shell" idea and the bike sharing.  The bike share will allow visitors to the city as well as folks from all around Jacksonville a convenient way to explore the area.  I say well done.

tufsu1

November 09, 2013, 09:43:32 PM
So they have to wait until next month? What's the impact on the construction process or project completion date? Time is money. Especially, if they are already in a rush to be available for an event by a certain date.

I was at the meeting...Hallmark folks were not pleased to put it mildly....this was a "mistake" on the part of COJ that the DDRB couldn't ignore...so yes, there will be a special meeting next week to finalize

hightowerlover

December 17, 2013, 11:29:20 PM
Are any other locations on board for the bike sharing. I love the concept but it only really works when you have multiple sites to pickup / drop off.  I could see this working if they sign five points, the landing, main library, mosh, San Marco, bay st, the stadium, etc.  Gives visitors the exposure you can't get by a car.

thelakelander

December 17, 2013, 11:33:26 PM
Yes, if bike share is determined feasible, there would be multiple urban core bike station sites.

Noone

December 18, 2013, 01:59:32 AM
Unity Plaza will create new vibe for Brooklyn

http://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/showstory.php?Story_id=540977

Wednesday, November 6, 11:10 AM EST

By Carole Hawkins, Contributing Writer

An outdoor amphitheater and entertainment hub under construction in Jacksonville's Brooklyn neighborhood goes way beyond what's normally expected of an amenity for an apartment-retail complex.
But the purpose behind Unity Plaza, being built next to a new mixed-use development at 220 Riverside goes way beyond selling apartments. 

Jacksonville native Alex Coley, a principal at Hallmark Partners and the site's developer, calls Unity Plaza a community service project disguised as a real estate deal. 

"I believe real estate in the new millennium will be one of conscious capitalism, where you will do well by doing good," he said.

When finished, the private nonprofit urban park will feature an amphitheater that seats 2,000 and an amenity deck the size of a football field.

It will host events 260 days a year.



Hallmark Partners donated 2.5 acres from its 11-acre site for Unity Plaza and plans to fund the nonprofit entity from a portion of its retail rents.



And the city is paying for the new park? And will then upon completion the city will give the non profit $700,000 plus to operate the park?

tufsu1

December 18, 2013, 09:38:36 AM
I don't think that's quite how it will work

thelakelander

December 18, 2013, 09:50:23 AM
I think Noone may be confusing Unity Plaza with Hemming. The Hemming group wants that type of cash upfront to operate it.

Scrub Palmetto

December 18, 2013, 02:18:31 PM
Yes, if bike share is determined feasible, there would be multiple urban core bike station sites.

I, too, am a little confused by the single bike share station. Surely that won't be how feasibility is determined, right? By putting up one station and seeing how it does?

Noone

December 18, 2013, 03:16:56 PM
I don't think that's quite how it will work

Please share how will it work. Notice the question marks.

duvaldude08

December 18, 2013, 03:20:43 PM
I don't think that's quite how it will work

Please share how will it work. Notice the question marks.

The money to operate Unity Plaza will be coming for the residents living at 220 Riverside.

Noone

December 18, 2013, 03:32:26 PM
^The city is spending $2,000,000 for the park? Then what triggers a $700,000 plus additional city payback to the developer? Wanting to understand the numbers better. Thats all.

duvaldude08

December 18, 2013, 03:44:10 PM
^The city is spending $2,000,000 for the park? Then what triggers a $700,000 plus additional city payback to the developer? Wanting to understand the numbers better. Thats all.

The $700,000 you are referring to is for HEMMING plaza, not Unity Plaza.

thelakelander

December 18, 2013, 04:07:08 PM
Yes, if bike share is determined feasible, there would be multiple urban core bike station sites.

I, too, am a little confused by the single bike share station. Surely that won't be how feasibility is determined, right? By putting up one station and seeing how it does?

Unity Plaza just wants to be one of the sites that would have a bike share station.  I suspect, their station would be no different from those at other destinations T.B.D. throughout the urban core.

Kay

December 18, 2013, 04:23:41 PM
^The city is spending $2,000,000 for the park? Then what triggers a $700,000 plus additional city payback to the developer? Wanting to understand the numbers better. Thats all.

The $700,000 you are referring to is for HEMMING plaza, not Unity Plaza.

Not true.  The City also is giving Unity Plaza $750,000 to maintain it.

fieldafm

December 18, 2013, 04:29:20 PM
^The city is spending $2,000,000 for the park? Then what triggers a $700,000 plus additional city payback to the developer? Wanting to understand the numbers better. Thats all.

The $700,000 you are referring to is for HEMMING plaza, not Unity Plaza.

Not true.  The City also is giving Unity Plaza $750,000 to maintain it.

To expand, that is a one time payment.  Additional programming/maintenance monies for Unity Plaza will come from a non-profit organization which will be funded from monies that commercial tenants of 200 will contribute to as part of their rent.

mtraininjax

May 14, 2014, 06:35:54 AM
From Jen Jones, the Unity Plaza Leader:

Quote
Hi guys. Unity Plaza has been taking on it's final, thoughtful, beautiful physical form in GC groundbreaking meetings as well as it's branding evolving into a clear picture of the performing arts plaza's true purpose thanks to the drill-it-down insight of Jan Gaunder Hirabayashi and Jeffrey D Harrington.

We also wholeheartedly supported performing talents via our One Spark stage due to ‪#‎WeRStr8Allies‬ and the incredible nurturing of Kristi Lee Schatz, Alex Coley and Dave Auchter and came in the top 10% of One Spark winners.

I personally retreated to be fully present and make way for the culmination of all of this (and to move to the Zoo area and help the kids with end of school assignments). Excitement doesn't begin to describe what's coming. ‪#‎UnityPlazaJax‬ is responsible for delivering 365 days of electrifying events to our city and we are READY FOR NOVEMBER 2014! Loving you all virtually - stay closely tuned!

Noone

May 14, 2014, 08:01:36 AM
^The city is spending $2,000,000 for the park? Then what triggers a $700,000 plus additional city payback to the developer? Wanting to understand the numbers better. Thats all.

The $700,000 you are referring to is for HEMMING plaza, not Unity Plaza.

Not true.  The City also is giving Unity Plaza $750,000 to maintain it.

+1
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