Are we ready for Urban Entertainment?

November 29, 2007 9 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The city has designated Bay Street as the urban core's entertainment district. Will the free market follow suit or does another area of the inner city have the necessary ingredients?

Characteristics of an urban entertainment district:
A. Must be pedestrian-friendly.
B. Usually no more than four to six blocks in width or length.
C. Diverse entertainment opportunities (nightclubs, restaurants, movies, performing arts, cultural activities, etc.), are clustered together.
E. Building fabric is contiguous.
F. Visually unified through common lighting and/or signage.
- Millennium Research Group Ltd.

While Bay Street's infrastructure meets these conditions, several others near downtown do as well.

**Metro Jacksonville's focus is on the creation of a district that incorporates several small business owners and integration of existing building stock as opposed to a large developer building a center and then subleasing space to tenants of their choice.**

Example 1: Deep Ellum (Dallas, TX)


Would something like this be allowed on Bay Street or anywhere within Downtown?

Cheap loft spaces started to attract artists to Deep Ellum's warehouses in the 1970s.  As a result, it filled with live music venues operating out of abandoned warehouse spaces, catering to the city's indie and blues scene.  By the 1990s the community had as many as 57 bars and nightclubs, along with restaurants and tattoo parlors.  Today, Deep Ellum is rapidly gentrifying into an expensive loft district just outside Downtown Dallas.

Jacksonville's Potential Candidates:


1. Bay Street Town Center - Downtown

Existing Anchors: Florida Theater, TSI, Mark's, Dive Bar & Nicky G's.

Pros: Uniform streetscape, financially backed by city, wide sidewalks, heart of downtown.

Cons: Disconnected by Newnan/Market block, parking, high leasing rates, south side occupied by county courthouse.

2. Edgewood Avenue - Murray Hill

Existing Anchors: Moon River Pizza

Pros: Uniform streetscape, free parking

Cons: Disconnected from downtown


Example 2: Ybor City (Tampa, FL) -

After 50 years of decline, an influx of artists looking for interesting and low-rent studio quarters kicked off a slow recovery in the late 1980s. Ybor became a hip place to be and by the early 1990s, many of the old and long-empty brick buildings on 7th Avenue were converted into bars, restaurants, or nightclubs, making the district a popular nightlife attraction.  Today it contains over 60 restaurants, bars and nightclubs attracting as many as 30,000 patrons on weekend nights.

3. Hendricks Avenue - Southbank/San Marco

Existing Anchors: BB's, Jack Rabbits, Simon's

Pros: Free parking, visibility from I-95, Kings Avenue Station development underway

Cons: Commercial gentrification already taking place

4. Main Street - Springfield

Existing Anchors: The Pearl, Shantytown, Boomtown at 9th & Main

Pros: Free parking, direct connection with downtown core

Cons: Streetscape construction, historical image

5. Myrtle Avenue - LaVilla

Existing Anchors: JTA... just kidding. None

Pros: Adjacent to downtown, yet still fairly isolated from residential areas, low lease rates, warehouse style buildings, free parking

Cons: Disconnected by I-95, historical image, industrial preservation overlay


Example 3: The Flats (Cleveland, OH)

The Flats served as the home to Cleveland's booming steel mills until the industry dried up in the 1970's and a polluted river that caught fire multiple times due to the amount of chemicals in the water.  In the mid 80's a power plant was renovated into multiple bars, restaurants, and an outdoor music venue.  By the 1990s, the Flats had the highest concentration of bars in the Midwest.  After three drowning deaths in one month back in 2000, along with a city crackdown on fire and health code violations, the Flats have now taken a backseat to the booming Warehouse District, just up the hill.

Out of the areas mentioned in this list, only the Mrytle Avenue and the Springfield Warehouse District present the opportunity of taking cheap warehouse space to convert into live/work lofts and large nightclubs.

6. Park & King - Riverside

Existing Anchors: Walgreens, Whiteway Corner, Kickbacks

Pros: Free parking, near center of Riverside/Avondale historic district

Cons: Disconnected from downtown, center of residential neighborhood.

7. Philip Randolph Blvd - Eastside

Existing Anchors: Monument to Pat Lockett-Felder

Pros: Within walking distance of the Stadium District, free parking, lease rates

Cons: Arlington Expressway, historical image


8. Springfield Warehouse District

Existing Anchors: None

Pros: Warehouse style buildings, leasing rates, parking

Cons: disconnected from downtown, image


Example 4: King Street (Toronto, Canada)

King Street is a major east-west commercial thoroughfare through downtown Toronto.  In recent years, due to a number of attractions located nearby, a proliferation of chic restaurants, clubs, and galleries (over 300) have opened along King and nearby Richmond Streets. 

Creative illuminated signage, a trademark of King Street, is an important element of urban entertainment districts.  How creative and open will Bay Street operators be allowed to get before the city puts clamps on them?

After evaluating possible pros and cons of each corridor, are there any other locations in the urban core that should be included in this list?  Which district has the most potential to develop into Jacksonville's newest urban entertainment district?