Peytons Pocket Park Disaster

October 9, 2007 58 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Seventeen months ago, Metro Jacksonville began warning the Mayor's office that their plan for a pocket park on Main Street was not well thought out and had several serious design flaws that would impede its success. The mayor himself vowed to look into the issue to determine if our concerns held any merit. It was determined they did not and the $700,000 park proceeded as planned.

“Is there a groundbreaking ceremony associated with this? Maybe Parks is doing something. I think the Mayor should be all over this.”  

Paul R. Crawford
Deputy Executive Director
Jacksonville Economic Development Commission


“Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood,” said Peyton. “And ‘Greening Downtown’ is a simple, economic way to improve the pedestrian experience.” – 6/26/06


It is wonderful that this will not take big, big dollars to do,” said Peyton. “The dramatic impact you can have with minimal dollars is great. Trees protect the quality of life and improve the way we live with minimal dollars.”   The City plans to improve the “walk-ability” feature of Downtown and to improve the pedestrian experience, said Peyton.” – 6/26/06



  Award 12-7-06  Execution of contract 12-22-07
(Schedule may adjust due to holidays)  
Schedule Preconstruction Meeting 1-19-07  
Begin Construction 1-29-07  
Park Construction Complete 4-30-07  
Project Complete 7-30-07  

If there are any questions I can be reached at 630-1324.


“This is a terrible idea. I love how the picture shows those large, majestic oaks that must be at least 50 years old, those are gonna be hard to plant there and no homeless, bums, vagrants, etc. That land has lots of potential and again the City will drop the ball on this. Will the Mayor's office ever learn? I am sure the park will look nice, but it will do nothing for the vibrancy, increasing retail, or housing options for Downtown. It will end up as another option for the bums to sleep in and ask for people's money.” – Fsujax 12/18/06


"THE MAYOR SHOULD BE ALL OVER THIS". Translation, what a bang up idea and terrific photo op.  They think this is a good idea, so wonderful infact that the Mayor should be all over it. Another feel good sales job. It doesn't matter the long term impact, the reality of the choice.... just look make it look good and get plenty of media there. The must be sprinkling "Peyton" fairy dust all over city hall. Believe....believe.....” – Diane Melendez 12/17/06  


Keep in mind, grass and landscaping alone, doesn't attract people. Also we still haven't figured out how to maintain and attract people to most of the urban parks we already have. Furthermore, we're taking a prime plot of property with high visible frontage on Main Street (downtown's main North/South route) and keeping it off the tax rolls. Redoing Main Street's streetscape is a great move that being funded by outside sources, but spending $686,000 for a passive park on that land is the worst use out there.” – thelakelander 12/18/06

It looks like the Greening of Main project will be getting underway soon. For those who don't know, it will include the city spending $686,157 to construct a pocket park surrounded by surface parking lots, parking garages and a Salvation Army labor pool office. Some believe that people will read library books there, but fail to recognize that the library already has its own courtyard and Hemming Plaza is only ONE BLOCK away from this site.

Conceptual Rendering

This thing has shopping carts written all over it. -thelakelander 12/15/2006


“I'm kind of wondering why it cost so much to build myself. Does fill dirt and constructing small concrete planters/retaining walls cost that much? If so, someone at a high level has to have the guts to pull out the red pen and start slashing. Sod at grade, would have had the same overall impact, yet would have been a fraction of the cost.” – thelakelander 7/19/07


“It will be interesting to watch how the park is used in the coming months. Like the other pocket "parks" downtown which are connected to nothing and of no significance, I suspect it will be inhabited only by vagrants and people talking to themselves. This is what happens, BTW, when you let a suburban oriented Mayor looking for a project to tout design his own park. What a waste!” – Riversidegator 7/19/07


“This park is awful.... 1st there is NOTHING interesting about it..... 2nd It will take years for the trees to mature and looking at Jacksonville's track record, they will probably be neglected and become diseased or stunted before they make any impact on the site..... 3rd The grass will probably end up looking like most of the grass at Friendship park....A MESS 4th ....and no disrespect to the homeless and the thousands who trash our neighborhoods, streets and parks with litter, this is gonna be even a bigger trash collector than Hemming. Especially since it is surrounded by nothing except parking lots and the Salvation Army.” – AvonJax 7/20/07


“Just got back from the news conference. I missed most of it, because of work, but I did catch the tail end and looked at the concept art. From what I could tell, this was mainly focusing right now on Main street all the way up to the bridge, going back past church street. The concept drawing showed a 5' buffer on both sides of the sidewalks for planting. I saw Date Palm and some type of Holly tree alternating on both sides. The drawing didn't look half bad. The pocket park across from the library looked fairly big as it encompassed about half of that block next to the daycare. There was room for a sculpture and the lawn was angled toward the street. Just don't know how you would keep the homeless from taking over, like every park. In fact, as I was looking at these pictures in Hemming Park, a homeless man asked me for a hotdog. I bought him one since he didn't ask for money. Anyways, maybe someone else caught the beginning.” DapperDan – 5/02/06


“Mayor and his visions...does he smoke a joint before he gets these visions or what???” – BostechComputers – 5/04/06


“I'd rather see the entire parcel given over to developers and allow a substantial number of residences and street retail/entertainment in the form of an attractive tower. This will maximize profits to the city by putting ht whole thing on the tax rolls and eliminate the need to pump more city money into maintenance and put more people on the street to patronize the parks and buisnesses we already have. We have a lot of public space for a "downtown" of our size. Why detract from what we have by adding even more park space? Why not invest that same money into refurbishing our other downtown parks and creating true destinations? The only positive I'm getting from this whole idea is that it will be "nice". All of our downtown parks are "nice", why can't we make them great?” – Jason 5/04/06


“Dude I totally agree. I think it is a face saving project. Why not improve what we have and then add in a project not city owned. The money could be used for other things. I am beginning to see now that maybe this has been the reason why a city this size does not have a more developed downtown and low of funds” – theskyliner – 5/05/06 asks Mayor Peyton to re-think Main St Beatification Project
  Jacksonville, FL
  Subject: No More Empty Parks!  

Members of Downtown Advocacy Group are asking Mayor John Peyton to re-think the city’s current plan for Main Street Beautification.  

The overall project is broken down into several facets.  

1) Base Bid (Sidewalk Hardscape Improvements Forsyth to Union) $1,145,101.50
2) Landscape Maintenance (Extend Hardscape maintenance one additional year) $23,980.00
3) (Park Improvements) $686,157.00
4) Landscape Maintenance (Extend Park maintenance one additional year) $19,135.00  

This makes for a total project cost of $1,855,858.50  According to internal emails, Items two and four are not being funded at this time, and supports Main Street Hardscaping and Beatification, as listed in Item 1.  

Item 3, however, MetroJacksonville strongly opposes. This item refers to a parcel of land across Main Street from the Main Library between Monroe and Duval Streets. Mayor Peyton’s stated plan is to turn the current parking lot into a public park. feels this is a bad use of a valuable parcel of land.  

Rather than spending almost $700 thousand dollars and keeping the parcel off the tax rolls, MetroJacksonvilles advocates that the city issue a Request for Proposals for either
a. workforce/affordable housing, with ground level retail. or  
b. A mixed use greenspace/retail development  

This use would help reestablish Main Streets importance as a “Main Street” for downtown, as well as provide a concrete location for bringing affordable housing and or retail and business space downtown.  

The current design plan also has not taken into consideration that the Vagrancy and Criminal element situation downtown is still a very real problem. Surrounding the proposed park are the Salvation Army, Trinity Rescue Mission, Clara White Mission, as well as a day labor facility. Clearly this park would become an additional magnet to many of Jacksonville's most at-risk residents, requiring even more dependency on the Sherrifs office to maintain it as a pedestrian friendly green space.  

Lastly, with Hemming Plaza being a mere block from the proposed site, and Confederate and Klutho Parks, and the soon to be constructed Hogan’s Creek Greenway within a few blocks, the need for another public park in this location is simply not there. The state of the aforementioned parks show that the city has a history of not maintaining its parks, and adding the burden of another park simply takes money away from existing parks that badly need maintenance.  

The Mayor recently showed great leadership for downtown by signing into law new parking ordinances designed to bring people back to downtown for more than an hour at a time. We ask that the Mayor re-think his current plan though before a contract is signed with Jensen Civil Construction Inc, to begin construction in January. The contracts could be signed as soon at December 22nd.



  More free housing for the homeless?    
Written by Kevin Conner
  Friday, 05 May 2006  

Parks, green space, public plazas. All catchy buzzwords that the public loves to hear and Mayor Peyton knows it – especially when we are quickly approaching the April 2007 city elections. Budget cuts, overspending and job losses. Now those are NOT the buzzwords that the public loves to hear.  

So, what does our Mayor do when the news gets out to the public that he and the City Council have overspent for 3 years now and it will require 295 job cuts off of the city payroll to get us financially back in balance? He does the only thing that makes sense…he announces that he is going to build another park downtown.    

And check out the geography of this park. It is proposed to be built along Main Street. It will be one block from the existing large city park, “Hemming Plaza” (also known as “The Homeless Village” during much of the day and night). And one more point on the geography of this park…it is in very close proximity to the Salvation Army and WorkSource (a labor pool business), which are both highly frequented by the homeless.    

Throwing “affordable housing” out the door for this parcel and creating more “free housing” for the homeless? I guess it makes sense to someone on the fourth floor of City Hall. But I suppose only after you have created a huge budget deficit and you are facing re-election next year. Which begs the question of, “How did we find the money for this park when we have major budget deficit and the Mayor keeps crying that there is no money in the vault?”    

In Peyton’s most recent push to provide “green space” along Main Street in the form of a pocket park, the Mayor is seeking to deplete the city of potential future revenue (in the form of taxes collected from that property) AND is taking away a prime location for a downtown affordable housing project. The Mayor should issue an RFP for this property to be used as affordable housing.    

The Mayor himself has said we need to focus on improving our existing parks, rather than building new ones. Whatever happened to this theory? My best guess is that the Mayor knows he can’t hold a press conference for the same thing twice.    

So, now, if you are homeless in Jacksonville, you have options. Current renters and homeowners who are on the brink of being forced out onto the streets may not have affordable housing options, but that’s okay. When you lose your home, you’ll have multiple parks to hang out in downtown.


Main Street Pocket Park Photo Tour - October 6, 2007






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