Mayor Alvin Brown:Now Is the Time to Invest in Downtown

August 13, 2014 19 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

City of Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown shares his thoughts with Metro Jacksonville on why now is the time to invest in downtown.

Building on our success making Downtown a popular destination for sports and entertainment events, we have the opportunity to take that further with our new professional soccer team, The Armada.

The Armada FC has agreed to make the Baseball Grounds their home field.
We are asking City Council to commit funds to make this City-owned facility suitable to host both the Suns baseball team and the Armada soccer team – which will bring more fans to our Downtown.

Taken together, these developments are laying the foundation for a more vibrant Downtown.  Now is the time to get ready to build on that foundation with a comprehensive set of strategic infrastructure investments that can deliver the best results for our Downtown and greatest return for our taxpayer dollars.

This is why I am proposing more than $20 million in capital investments targeted at key projects to revitalize Downtown.  To develop this plan, we worked with a wide range of community stakeholders and we appreciate their support, including Downtown Vision, Inc.  We also appreciate the strong representation and advocacy on behalf of Downtown shown by City Council members Johnny Gaffney, Don Redman and Lori Boyer (who also serves as Council liaison to the Downtown Investment Authority).

In Jacksonville, we are blessed to have a mighty river flowing through our Downtown.  We must make that riverfront a catalyst for Downtown revitalization.  That effort starts with The Jacksonville Landing.

There is a vision – a plan – to redevelop The Landing as a showcase that offers housing, entertainment and retail, as well as green space and a plaza opening the riverfront to our Downtown.

My proposal commits $11.8 million in public infrastructure to support the first phase of improvements, including a wider plaza along the Northbank Riverwalk, public space and broader access at Hogan Street.

We must also make progress elsewhere on our riverfront.

The Shipyards property is one of our City’s most important riverfront assets.  It has sat empty long enough.  There is now strong private-sector interest in this City-owned property.  This budget proposes to start the environmental clean-up needed to prepare for private development.

The budget proposes $4.2 million to raze the old county courthouse. This asbestos-ridden building cannot be salvaged, but the property is strategically located.  We will demolish the structure and create temporary green space to provide new opportunities for future public or private development.

We will dedicate $250,000 to begin the redesign of another riverfront property – Metropolitan Park – to maximize its value as an entertainment venue.  We will also upgrade the Northbank Riverwalk and replace the bulkhead so we can make the most of this pedestrian park along our river.

We must invest in making Downtown the best experience possible. That’s why we will commit $2.5 million to improve lighting and streetscapes to make our Downtown a safer, more convenient and inviting place to navigate – whether by car, by bicycle or on foot.

This includes a unified system of street signs to help people find their destinations, locate parking and move in, out and through Downtown more efficiently. It also means converting one-way streets to two-way streets that are friendlier to both motorists and pedestrians, while making Downtown businesses more visible and accessible.

Our proposed budget will also increase the City’s support for Downtown Vision, Inc., which has done so much to make a safer, cleaner, friendlier and more engaging Downtown.

Historic Riverside is an area near Downtown that we are looking to enhance through investments.  We would dedicate $750,000 to support the first phase of upgrades to the Five Points district to make it more accessible and friendly for businesses and pedestrians.

These enhancements include modifications to the Five Points intersection and reconstruction along Lomax Street, from Park Street to Oak Street to make aesthetic improvements and increase pedestrian safety.

Five Points has seen great growth over the last couple of years with great restaurants, retail and entertainment venues. We’re working closely with City Council Members Jim Love and Robin Lumb to enhance this iconic Jacksonville neighborhood to make it an even better place for residents, visitors and businesses.

You can view my full proposed budget, five-year capital investment program, a fact sheet and more on the city’s website, here.

Downtown speaks to the character of our community.  Jacksonville is a big city, but we are still proud to embrace the small-town values of hospitality, neighborliness and community spirit.  These are virtues we have every right to cherish.  

But we should also embrace the ambition to make Jacksonville a world-class city with a world-class Downtown that is a vibrant destination for people to work, live and visit.    That is how we will create more jobs by attracting new businesses and growing those already here.  That is how we will attract new residents and provide a better quality of life for our current residents.  And it’s how we will attract more visitors to see all the great things that Jacksonville has to offer.  In short, a revitalized Downtown is how we will create even more opportunity for our city and our people.

Guest editorial by Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown

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