What Would You Like Downtown Jacksonville To Become?

November 4, 2013 134 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

What to do with downtown Jacksonville has always been one of the most popular topics in Metro Jacksonville's discussion boards. Now the time has come for your involvement in determining downtown's future. This week, public workshops will be held for the Downtown Investment Authority's Business Investment and Development Strategy. This implementation tool will set the project priorities for downtown redevelopment between 2014 and 2025.

According to a recent Jax Daily Record article some ideas CRA consultants appear to be recommending for downtown include:

• The Laura Street corridor, from Monroe to the Landing. Pitched possibilities include incentives for renovation projects, improved lighting, a property condition report for the Snyder Memorial Church and the use of art installations.

• The East Bay Street corridor, which includes the Shipyards, former courthouse and former City Hall annex. Ideas include a "road diet" by replacing vehicle lanes with sidewalks, bike lanes and other pedestrian-friendly components; demolishing the courthouse and former City Hall annex; and making the Shipyards a "world-class city park."

• Riverside Avenue and Forest Street corridor. Possibilities include addressing parking issues and converting outside travel lanes to make two tree-line boulevards. Doing so would reduce pedestrian crossing distance.

• The Downtown East-West circulator. Ideas are to have a reliable and frequent trolley system that extends from the Riverside Arts Market to the Jacksonville Landing, Bay Street and Metro Park areas. This could be done with a partnership with Jacksonville Transportation Authority and a one-year pilot program, with a possibility of federal grants to purchase environmentally friendly vehicles.

Also pitched were methods of trying to find better uses for waterfront property, starting with the area around Friendship Park, and revamping and updating the signage around Downtown to help visitors.

This seems like a far cry from subjects such as a mobility fee funded streetcar starter line between Downtown and Riverside, Transit Oriented Development (TOD) along the Skyway's corridors, possible Skyway extensions and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) between downtown and adjacent walkable neighborhoods. All of these have been very popular topics within the local community over the last decade.

Other popular topics have included the importance of preserving existing building stock in downtown, the need for a new convention center, an intermodal transportation center, enhancing existing underutilized public spaces like Hogans and McCoys Creek into "world-class city parks" that tie downtown with adjacent neighborhoods and finding ways to better promote and connect the Jacksonville Farmers Market with the rest of the urban core.

If any of these items or ideas not mentioned above interest you, this week will be your chance to make them known and attempt to get them included.  As far as downtown revitalization goes, Jacksonville is already a decade behind many of its peers. The project priorities being suggested will set the path of downtown redevelopment through 2025. If we miss this opportunity we may reach the point of no return in the battle to make Jacksonville's downtown a first class urban environment.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com