In my opinion, the only thing that will fix downtown is the following:
1. Create something for Jacksonville residents to be proud of. Paris has the Eiffel, New York has the Statue and the Empire, St. Louis has the arch, and unfortunately, Jacksonville has The Landing (atrocity). Luckily, we have Riverside/Avondale and the press associated with it's recent neighborhood ranking. I believe we have a great deal to be proud of (spent a wonderful afternoon at MOSH yesterday), so maybe this is just a matter of publishing and advertising the city's assets. Kudos to Intuition and Bold City for starting to blaze the trail.
2. Get residents to understand the value of what we have (incredible architecture, etc.). I refer to Southside and SJTC as donkey island (from Pinocchio). I just can't understand the desire for all of our young professionals to live in a sea of apartment/condo communities and hang out in strip malls.
3. To point 2, maybe it's just the people of Jacksonville. Less than 20% of young professionals have any college education. I'm not saying that college education is anything special, but the young residents of Jacksonville, for the most part, don't seem to appreciate anything Cosmopolitan.
3. Fix the racial and crime segregation that exists in Jacksonville. Most Southside and Beach residents will not even come to the Westside (which they consider any area west of the river). Maybe it's time for us to re-brand Springfield, Downtown, Riverside, Avondale and Ortega has "River West." It worked for Queen's Harbour and San Pablo when Arlington went down hill (now marketed as Intracoastal West). We've started to see gentrification in Murray Hill, but outside of the "River West" areas, you might as well be driving through Compton, CA in most other areas west of the river. Jacksonville is cursed by the one thing most other built out cities need: plenty of land. We continue to expand Southeast, as people run away from the "crime of the west side."
4. Figure out a way to make this city cool. Probably ties to my first point.
5. Get someone in city government who actually knows how to bring business to Jacksonville. Who did the airport? That should be the person. Great job there.
6. Raise the millage rate for property taxes (hard to say this since I have 20 rentals, and also given the dire situation many of our homeowners are in). Use the additional city revenue to make the proper budgets whole again (transportation, museums, etc.), and also to subsidize re-development in the downtown core.
Just a few thoughts. You can't have a suburbia to nowhere, so hoping someone figures this out sooner than later.