Downtown's Latest Park an Afterthought?

June 23, 2012 58 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Now that the Duval County Courthouse is finally open for business, Metro Jacksonville visits downtown's latest green space and discovers its presence appears to be an afterthought to city leaders promoting downtown revitalization.

Adams Street has quickly become a place that generates heavy pedestrian use, as courthouse visitors and employees access garages and downtown businesses. Unfortunately, we forgot to follow our own streetscape standards when it comes to providing street trees. What will it say for downtown's pedestrian scale experience and the promotion of walkability when pedestrians are forced to be fully exposed to the extreme natural elements?

This image illustrates a huge problem in Jacksonville.  Earlier this week, a wheelchair bound resident was observed having to ride in the street with cars because no sidewalk was available.  Jacksonville, did we really sacrifice a sidewalk for an extra vehicular lane on Pearl Street?

With the courthouse serving as a major destination in an area where the majority of the building stock has been demolished, a market for street vendors has been created.  Could this be an ideal setting for a designated location for daily food trucks in a city struggling to embrace daily food trucks in downtown?

Food trucks as an affordable demonstration effort help activate and serve this desolate area of downtown?  Why not?  What do we have to lose?

Now that this public square is in use, it is hard to imagine some in the community promoted squeezing a new roadway between the courthouse and Adams Street.  Instead of a $1 million road, how about providing about a fountain, benches and a few shade trees for a fraction of the cost?

It may not be on the river but this space offers an impressive view of the Northbank skyline.  With a little creativity, is it possible for this space host special events, such as outdoor movies utilizing the Ed Ball Building's blank wall as a huge screen?

Despite the courthouse being open for business, Monroe Street remains the sleepy thoroughfare it has been for the past few years.  Visually, it appears this area will be just fine without taxpayers being asked to spend millions to force a new street into a space where it doesn't fit.

Broad Street has had sidewalks on both sides for over a century until now.

With an abundance of space and visitors ranging in age, would a small tot lot (playground) make sense being installed somewhere within this two block green space?

Now that the courthouse is generating foot traffic and Everbank is on the way, retail space is being leased in the courthouse garage.  One of the first businesses to open will be the Court Yard Cafe.

Despite a segment of the community demanding it be paved over with a new road endangering its pedestrians, urban streets without sidewalks, and sidewalks with a complete lack of shade trees, this unnamed public square has become a place of pedestrian scale activity. In spite of ourselves, we've stumbled into what could easily become a grand public space if we paid it one ounce of real attention.

Spaces like this in peer cities, such as Nashville (above), feature amenities such as fountains, shade trees and benches.  After $350 million and a fight by downtown advocates to keep the city from spending an addition $1 million on a new street, downtown's newest public square doesn't even have sidewalks on all of the streets surrounding it.

For all the talk of promoting downtown revitalization, if we can't get the basic pedestrian scale amenities in this space right, what does that say for downtown's future?

Images by Ennis Davis