The Future They Foresaw: 1964 envisions 2000

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George W. Simons, the pioneering colossus of the City Planning movement in the Southeast was a Jacksonville brand. He helped Grace Trout and the women of Jacksonville produce the very first Southern City Plan in Jacksonville in the 1920s and was instrumental in creating planning boards across the southeast. In 1964, he produced a Sunday feature story for the daily paper envisioning how the city was planned to develop by 2000. This was not a speculative work by a wishful thinker about the future. It was the work of the man who had spent the previous 40 years crafting the zoning and the long term planning of the City of Jacksonville. Check out where we believed we were going after the jump.

There are a few notable things to take away from the accompanying essay. (scroll down for Simon's words and thoughts behind the plan) First, (and I think very curiously) Simons, writing in 1964, correctly predicted the city/county Consolidation of Jacksonville---Something that happened only three years later.  In the current retelling of this story, it was just the result of a few civic minded people who spontaneously got mad about corruption, mounted a quick campaign and executed Consolidation.

This obviously is unlikely.  And it is also unlikely that any such discussion would have been unknown to the architect of Jacksonville City Planning, George Simons.  In my mind it establishes that Consolidation was a lot more thought out than Eve Heaney (the incredibly influential editor of the Chamber of Commerce magazine at the time) projected in her many essays on the subject.

Simons clearly believed that there would be commuter rail returning to the urban core  in 1964.  No doubt he considered a larger and more modern form of fixed transit replacing the trolley car system that he had been accustomed to in the first three decades of his work in Jacksonville planning.  However a few short years later, his careful planning on this subject was hijacked by the trojan horse 'consulting' work of Alan Voorhees, one of the men who actually planned the design and rollout of the Interstate System.  Voorhees obviously wouldn't have wanted resources drawn away for rail in one of the only cities which had constructed its own superhighway (the old Jacksonville Expressway, now presently Interstate 95)

You can read the essay that Voorhees used to derail commuter rail three years after the publication of this spread here:

Also interesting is that Simons seems to have already been abreast of plans to convert Jacksonville to an all nuclear town in 1964.  Amazingly he shows a waterbased nuke plant right in the middle of the St. Johns River.  Six short years later, Westinghouse merged with Tenneco and created a Jacksonville based group to create floating nuclear power plants.  The project ended in scandal and financial disaster a decade later---largely to the credit of Harry Shorstein, we present day residents don't have to worry about a 70s era nuclear debacle right off our shores.

Clearly the man was in the know.

However a glance at his plan makes it apparent how the die was set for todays remarkable showdowns between historic preservation forces, new urbanist ethos and sustainable vibrant density against the city's planning, zoning, and code enforcement departments.

The city is still functioning according to this old dna.  Old buildings need to be replaced. Natural open spaces with no people in them are preferable to densely populated activated streets, and all the mistakes that destroyed the Urban Renewal areas of the 50s through th 80s are still being made.

In this vision, where exactly is historic Springfield? Historic San Marco?  What the hell happened to the entire Eastside?

Check out some of the details of the plan above and see what you think.

article, transcription and graphics by stephen dare

Key to the various plan features

Yes, thats a Nuclear Power Plant in the middle of the river.

Eastside and Arlington

Downtown and Springfield

San Marco


By. George W. Simon
Planning Consultant
December 1964

At the beginning of the century, the corporate area of the City of Jacksonville was bounded by the St. Johns River on the south and east, on the north by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad (now CSX) between 12th and 14th streets, and on the west by a line from the river north in the vicinity of McDuff Avenue.  Beyond these lines were a number of platted subdivisions, but development was sparce and improvements few. The population was 28,429 persons! (this refers to people living within the city limits)

Population Explosion

Since then the corporate area has expanded to its present form and the population has multiplied seven and one half times. In this same time, the population of Duval County increased from 39,733 to 455,411 in 1960.

More revealing, however, is the population increase in the county area outside the corporate limits of Jacksonville--from 11,304 in 1900 to 254,391 in 1960 or 22 times. This emphasizes the part urbanization (editors note: today we call this 'suburbanization') has played, especially within the last decade, a phenomenon universally peculiar to American cities.

Mobility Promotes Urbanization (again, the modern term for this is suburbanization)

Mobility is the greatest single factor in promoting (sub)urbanization.  In 1927 there were 34,000 motor vehicles registered in Duval County; in 1964 there were 250,000! (sub)Urbanization is now a way of life bringing with it the (sub)urban sprawl and the community and regional shopping centers, and accelerating the forces of decentralization.

By 1980, the population of the urbanized areas of Jacksonville will approach 925,000 persons, which measured in terms of motor vehicles will mean about 600,00 motor vehicles of local origin trying to squeeze through an antiquated horse and buggy street system. By that time, even the Expressway will be inadequate. It may be necessary to restrict and regulate traffic flow into and through certain areas. So transportation will occupy a position of greatest importance in the future city. Upon transportation will depend the efficiency of the urbanized area.

To accommodate the increasing volumes of flowing traffic, new and additional thoroughfares must be provided. Local passenger traffic will have to be separated from heavy truck traffic and through traffic from local.

Four and six lane thoroughfares will be replaced by eight and ten lane arteries.

Railroad Commuter Service

Except for essential purposes, traffic movements will be discouraged within the inner central core of the city.

Because of highway inadequacies, the railroads may be required to initiate commuter service into the far reaches of the urban area. The railroads entering Jacksonville are so well spaced geographically that they can relieve the highways of too much pressure.

Increased Trade Influence

Such service operating frequently from Palatka, Daytona, Jax Beach, Live Oak, and Fernandina Beach would increase greatly the radius of Jacksonville metropolitan trading influence.

Instead of terminating these commuting services at the present Union Station, loading and unloading facilities should be provided nearer the center of the city in the vicinity of the Atlantic Coast Line Building (the CSX building downtown) a convenient walking distance into the central area.

What will happen to the present central business district?  Its importance will continue as in the past but many of its options will change. It will become more of a servicing center than it has been in the past.

Instead of being the central commercial and servicing area, it will become a central business district of much wider circle of influence.

Many of the old obsolete structures will be replaced by modern structures with park-like malls. It is even possible that streets will be converted into pedestrian parkways as has been done elsewhere in the nation. More open space will be provided.

Covered Sidewalks

From the municipal parking lot, it is not improbable, moving covered sidewalks will be provided as far as Forsyth Street. The whole central area will become more parklike.

And to service the various parts of the ventral area, little one unit cars will operate to convey passengers from place to place. Automobile traffic will be limited.

Distinctive Residential Areas

The grey areas surrounding the central business district will once again become distinctive residential areas, consisting principally of high rise and cluster apartments.

Many of those who moved to the 'country' in an earlier day will return, to a place where they will be located conveniently to businesses, services, restaurants, entertainment, churches, and cultural opportunities afforded by the auditorium and theatres of the central area. Band concerts will return to Hemming Park.

It is refreshing and encouraging to note that the churches of the central area are leading the way on this forward urban redevelopment movement.

The Main Street Baptist Church recently completed its new sanctuary, the First Baptists Church is preparing to enlarge its plant, The First Methodist Church is planning to rebuild its sanctuary and the St. Johns Cathedral is not only currently enlarging its facilities, but will erect a high rise apartment for the accommodation of senior citizens.  it is even possible that the Snyder Memorial Church may give way to a combination apartment dwelling and church.

Aesthetics will command a new place in the city of the future. Along with measures to control air pollution and water pollution, there will be an increased activity to control land pollution.

Leisure Time Facilities

With automation in the ascendency more open spaces must be provided for leisure time activities, especially for adults and senior citizens. More and better equipped neighborhood parks will replace many old structures and in each delineated neighborhood area a multipurpose community center will be established in a neighborhood park where passive recreation, lectures, and cultural events can be enjoyed. These facilities will, for the greater part, be within walking distance of most dwellings.

Utility Improvements

As urbanization intensifies and expands, the antiquated governmental structures of the present will be replaced by a single regional government, coterminous with the county limits. Only by such single control can the many complex problems of a great and growing city be treated and solved.

Finally Jacksonville in the future will have no overhead wires. All sewage will be treated and our streams and rivers clean and sage. Underground wiring will obviate the damaged incurred by the hurricanes of 1964

The Crystal Ball holds many intriguing ideas for the future. Jacksonville will continue to hold its position as a significant commercial, transportation, and financial center.  As the Southeast grows, Jacksonville will grow and as new ideas are uncovered, Jacksonville will benefit by them. The future is bright.

December 1964