Author Topic: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)  (Read 1861 times)

thelakelander

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Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« on: February 28, 2021, 10:52:48 PM »
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The assertions that the city or the DIA are operating without a vision or a plan are simply inaccurate. The vision is there, the plan is in action, and while there is still much work to do, we have certainly come a long way since its inception. The master plan for the revitalization of Downtown—one adopted with extensive public involvement, input, and the benefit of professional planning and economic expertise—was approved by City Council in 2014 after more than two years of public meetings. The 300+ page master plan is currently in the midst of a five-year review and update and the DIA will be soliciting public input over the next few months. Sign up to receive updates at www.dwntwnjax.com.

The plan does not establish specific uses for each piece of public and private property within Downtown (i.e. apartments here, office there), but rather the general character of each neighborhood. The plan, however, does set goals and priorities for redevelopment based on a market feasibility study and our unique opportunities and challenges—creating a roadmap for the return of vibrancy.

The DIA has been following this plan since 2014, and it is working. While our accomplishments may not all be visible to the observer, they are real. Revitalization of Downtown is not a single project but rather continuous progress on multiple fronts in a consistent direction until we achieve that critical mass that is self-sustaining.

Why Residents Matter CRA Redevelopment Goal #2: Increase rental and owner-occupied housing Downtown, targeting key demographic groups seeking a more urban lifestyle.

The number of housing units Downtown has grown from 1,898 to 4,002, allowing our Downtown population of residents to reach over 6000. Our target of 325 units per year (based on the 2014 market feasibility study and expected absorption) has grown to more than 600 units per year, and our residential occupancy rate is at 94% with rents continuing to climb.

The goal to reach 10,000 Downtown residents is even more important today than it was in 2014. With the major shifts in retail over the last decade, accelerated even more so by the pandemic, a residential population nearby is critical to retail success. And, we are seeing continued residential development right through the pandemic, unlike the last recession. Our momentum is reaching critical mass.

Full editorial: https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/2021/02/28/guest-column-there-plan-downtown/6817830002/
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thelakelander

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2021, 10:58:55 PM »
This one is a hard read for me. Primarily because the goals listed are so generic. A downtown master plan should be more specific and should certainly suggest desired uses for publicly owned land and properties.

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Why Residents Matter CRA Redevelopment Goal #2: Increase rental and owner-occupied housing Downtown, targeting key demographic groups seeking a more urban lifestyle.

I'm sorry, but you can't have generic goals like this and then pat yourself on the back for something that's literally guaranteed to happen during a nationwide economic boom. I'd challenge anyone to find one peer city in the country that did not meet such a goal since 2014 within its downtown!

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The goal to reach 10,000 Downtown residents is even more important today than it was in 2014. With the major shifts in retail over the last decade, accelerated even more so by the pandemic, a residential population nearby is critical to retail success. And, we are seeing continued residential development right through the pandemic, unlike the last recession. Our momentum is reaching critical mass.

What is critical mass and who is defining that number? 10,000 people spread across a 4 square mile area is about equal to the critical mass of present day Orange Park.
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simms3

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2021, 01:27:47 PM »
I'll agree that the 10K downtown resident number really bugs me.  When I returned to Jax and picked up some reading materials to update myself on what's happening in Jax since I'd been away for ~14 years, I kept seeing the 10K number goal.  I remembered that goal from when I was literally a youth, and we are still sticking with it.

The way the articles went, even bright people like Lori Boyer were quoted as saying that national retailers have density/demographic requirements, almost implying (the way the articles were written) that national retailers such as Gap, etc were likely to consider downtown if only we'd hit that 10K residents goal.

This is disingenuous at best, but most likely simply naïve.

I laud the efforts to have a higher number of residents downtown, but I believe we should push for all that we can while pushing harder for the clustering that this website has been advocating for ad nauseum for mere decades now.  To even imply or hint at retail coming to downtown because 300 people will be living in the Doro an unwalkable mile away (as contextually included in leaders' definition of "downtown") is just not a good use of time.

If we can get 10K residents in a standard definition of the downtown northbank core, then we'll be talking real density and all that comes along with it (walkable services, 24-7 businesses).

I am happy that overall we are on a much brighter path forward, and I did appreciate the runthrough Lori gave last week of the projects happening downtown (particularly, the riverwalk, Friendship Fountain, and the USS Orleck).  I am certainly more bullish now than I ever have been in my life of the trajectory downtown is on, and this *despite* COVID and my personal opinions about where new leadership in Washington will take our national economy.
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MusicMan

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2021, 02:08:12 PM »
Here's a thought:  instead of describing a "plan" that has been in place since 2014 lets just describe what the COJ has actually DONE in the Central Business District in those years.......

landfall

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2021, 03:03:01 PM »
More hot air. I want shovels in the ground.

marcuscnelson

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2021, 09:04:52 PM »
For the sake of argument, if we are to say that the goal was 10k residents in the urban core of the Northbank, what would that look like? Looking at it on a map, the strictest definition would require a serious rebuild with a lot of high rises, and while that might make some happy it's probably not feasible for the time being.

A wider definition, including the Cathedral District and LaVilla, is what I assume you all are getting at. I imagine the Cathedral District Master Plan and LaVilla's Master Redevelopment Plan, wherever it is, would largely play into that. But overall, what are the thoughts here on how 10k residents fit into those plans and the urban core?

Edit: Looked harder and actually found the LaVilla plan. First time I'm reading it.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2021, 09:07:40 PM by marcuscnelson »
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thelakelander

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2021, 09:18:11 PM »
You wouldn't necessarily need several new highrises to get 10,000 living in the Northbank. Instead, you'd need a lot of adaptive reuse and infill on many of the surface parking lots. It's very doable. However, I'd also argue that the 10,000 number is highly misused or pulled out of thin air. It literally means nothing. Now, there's nothing wrong with attracting as many people as you can to live in the entire 4 square mile area. Yet, there are other things we'll also need to do and strategically invest in to make a larger amount of retail viable.
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thelakelander

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2021, 09:34:00 PM »
Edit: Looked harder and actually found the LaVilla plan. First time I'm reading it.

That LaVilla plan also has a few poorly researched and inaccurate points. Especially regarding retail on page 37:

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Significant retail will not locate in Downtown; prefers suburban locations with
more concentrated buying power

What is "significant" retail? Does Fresh Market count? If so, what attracted them to that location? I'm willing to bet my house that their decision to open a store in Brooklyn had more to do with serving a much larger demographic area than downtown itself. With this in mind, it would be smart to identify corridors (like Broad/Riverside Avenue, State/Union, Bay/Forsyth in LaVilla) that have the ability to offer retailers higher visibility and access to a larger population. When these corridors are identified, a plan like this should provide recommendations for the incremental implementation of what could be a walkable pedestrian scale retail oriented corridor. This plan fails to do this. Missed clustering opportunity at best.

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In-town retail only found in “historic” centers like Five Points, San Marco, etc…

What is the definition of a "historic" center like Five Points? LaVilla has one in Broad Street, which was historically much larger than Five Points and San Marco Square. This plan fails to acknowledge the historical significance of Broad Street, the number of vacant retail storefronts it has or make recommendations on how to bring it back to life.

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Brooklyn experience: retail limited to what is supported by retail and office, but
even that hasn’t performed as expected (lots vacant or on second or third users)

This point is very opinionated and nothing in the document adequately backs it up. Literally all of the retail and dining in Brooklyn has opened since 2015 and it continues to infill. This "limited" retail and dining is serving more than downtown and Brooklyn.
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vicupstate

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2021, 09:14:04 AM »
I think to some degree you have to say that Brooklyn is an extension of Riverside at least as much as it is DT. Riverside-Avondale is capable of supporting a Fresh Market pretty much on its own, to say nothing of the thru traffic that goes through Brooklyn to more distant environs like Ortega and beyond. I think in order for LaVilla to support retail in a significant way, it has to have more residents within its own borders.   
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Tacachale

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2021, 10:32:33 AM »
There are good things in the CRA but it's not a master plan that tells you, for instance, where we should concentrate retail, where to put public amenities, etc. Just create a real master plan, now's not the time for DIA to dig its heels in and act like everything is going awesome, it's the time to build on what works and change what doesn't.
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thelakelander

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2021, 11:03:42 AM »
I think to some degree you have to say that Brooklyn is an extension of Riverside at least as much as it is DT. Riverside-Avondale is capable of supporting a Fresh Market pretty much on its own, to say nothing of the thru traffic that goes through Brooklyn to more distant environs like Ortega and beyond. I think in order for LaVilla to support retail in a significant way, it has to have more residents within its own borders.   

The through traffic using Riverside Avenue through Brooklyn is much of the same traffic using Broad and Jefferson. It's the same corridor that penetrates the downtown area but also serves communities to the north and south. They serve a similar function as State & Union. From a planning perspective, clustering as much retail oriented design and uses along these higher AADT streets allows for things that cater to a much larger urban core population, that also happen to be within walking distance of LaVilla's residences. What hurts the neighborhood's ability to build a retail base is when there is no strategy, direction or vision worth implementing. The result is an unconnected spreading out of hodge podge retail spaces that struggle to survive or lease on their own.

The retail spot in the Lofts of Monroe is a great example. West Adams is the busy and historic commercial oriented street. It directly connects the Hart Bridge Ramps with I-95. West Monroe Street is a lesser traveled street that dead ends at the Duval County Courthouse. Common sense would have said a commercial storefront would be better off on the street with a higher traffic count, that also carries more than downtown or neighborhood specific traffic. Unfortunately, common sense did not win out and a random retail storefront was built on Monroe instead. Naturally, it still sits empty today. What was lost was an opportunity to have a commercial space, cafe or coffeehouse, etc. directly facing Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing Park and the higher profiled intersection of West Adams and Lee Streets.



Another example would be the block that Daily's desires. It's bounded by Jefferson/Broad (Riverside Avenue), Bay/Forsyth and pretty close to a Skyway stop. Their decision to buy that block reinforces the notion that there are corridors that work for market rate commercial uses. Unfortunately, with no plan, we're left to the vision of individual users. Thus, one of the most high profile blocks in LaVilla will become a suburban gas station instead of something that could extend what's been taking place in Brooklyn, into the Northbank.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2021, 11:22:54 AM by thelakelander »
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fieldafm

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2021, 11:12:33 AM »
I think to some degree you have to say that Brooklyn is an extension of Riverside at least as much as it is DT. Riverside-Avondale is capable of supporting a Fresh Market pretty much on its own, to say nothing of the thru traffic that goes through Brooklyn to more distant environs like Ortega and beyond. I think in order for LaVilla to support retail in a significant way, it has to have more residents within its own borders.

Based on shopping data (particularly zip codes tied to credit cards), 32204 is not even half of the revenue being generated at either the Brooklyn Station or Brooklyn Place retail centers. 32210, 32207, 32206, 32205 and even 32209 are almost evenly split in the evenings... and daytime revenue is all over the place (driven by the large daytime office population in the vicinity under normal circumstances). 

That suggests, very clearly, that auto traffic is the primary driver of retail spending in Brooklyn.  Given that, high traffic corridors with direct interstate highway access like Broad Street, Jefferson, State/Union, Main Street, Bay Street and Adams Street, should be front and center for any retail strategies within a comprehensive master plan for Downtown.  The 'plan' in place Downtown was put together as it was required by law in order to establish the CRA boundaries.  Neither the CRA plans nor the recent LaVilla plan had any concrete market studies and data points to guide the establishment of retail corridors... or like Lakelander said, had even gone so far as to inject personal opinion into its 'conclusions'. Those personal opinions were heavily influenced by the preferences of Vestcor.. who would like to include as little retail as possible into their developments.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2021, 11:14:09 AM by fieldafm »

fieldafm

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2021, 11:29:17 AM »
Couple of years ago, DIA said that having retail space in a proposed parking garage at the corner of Forsyth/Main Street wouldn't make sense because the DT market couldn't support it.  That's a personal opinion. 

That particular corner is perfect for a C-store or drug store (like Walgreens, CVS, etc). It is highly visible with the kind of traffic count that fits their preferred site preferences.  Because some COJ staffer has a personal opinion one way, retail was not recommended in the staff report.

Turns out the new developer didn't see it that way, and wants to build out retail at that exact location from day one. 

https://www.thejaxsonmag.com/article/vystar-credit-union-parking-garage-renderings/

If a DT master plan included specific things like retail and service oriented streets.... instances like these wouldn't be debatable, or left up to the whim of whatever staffer is feeling like that day.

I can give many more examples just like that.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2021, 11:35:18 AM by fieldafm »

marcuscnelson

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2021, 12:02:07 PM »
That LaVilla plan also has a few poorly researched and inaccurate points. Especially regarding retail on page 37:

Quote
Significant retail will not locate in Downtown; prefers suburban locations with
more concentrated buying power

What is "significant" retail? Does Fresh Market count? If so, what attracted them to that location? I'm willing to bet my house that their decision to open a store in Brooklyn had more to do with serving a much larger demographic area than downtown itself. With this in mind, it would be smart to identify corridors (like Broad/Riverside Avenue, State/Union, Bay/Forsyth in LaVilla) that have the ability to offer retailers higher visibility and access to a larger population. When these corridors are identified, a plan like this should provide recommendations for the incremental implementation of what could be a walkable pedestrian scale retail oriented corridor. This plan fails to do this. Missed clustering opportunity at best.

Quote
In-town retail only found in “historic” centers like Five Points, San Marco, etc…

What is the definition of a "historic" center like Five Points? LaVilla has one in Broad Street, which was historically much larger than Five Points and San Marco Square. This plan fails to acknowledge the historical significance of Broad Street, the number of vacant retail storefronts it has or make recommendations on how to bring it back to life.

Quote
Brooklyn experience: retail limited to what is supported by retail and office, but
even that hasn’t performed as expected (lots vacant or on second or third users)

This point is very opinionated and nothing in the document adequately backs it up. Literally all of the retail and dining in Brooklyn has opened since 2015 and it continues to infill. This "limited" retail and dining is serving more than downtown and Brooklyn.

Ah, damn. Real disappointing to see missteps like that. I just thought it was weird that they were proposing a college campus on the convention center site within the decade with no real idea of what college would relocate to or build an entirely new campus in LaVilla. Especially when Brightline could be knocking for the TOD opportunity by that point.

I'm guessing the Brooklyn comment has to do with 220 Riverside & Unity Plaza? Seems pretty unfair to look at that alone and claim the whole neighborhood is failing, but in isolation that area has been problematic.

Re: fieldafm, lake, tacachale, Seeing as GAI is also overseeing the new DT master plan, any thoughts on what can be done here to prevent similar mistakes in that report? Or to encourage a greater amount of thoughtfulness?
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thelakelander

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Re: Guest column: There is a plan for downtown (DIA's Ron Moody)
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2021, 12:18:42 PM »
Ah, damn. Real disappointing to see missteps like that. I just thought it was weird that they were proposing a college campus on the convention center site within the decade with no real idea of what college would relocate to or build an entirely new campus in LaVilla. Especially when Brightline could be knocking for the TOD opportunity by that point.

No idea of why a college would want to build anything there (especially when LaVilla already has a college campus in FSCJ) but at least they drew in a train station! I agree, that site is a strategic TOD carrot that should be used to woo Brightline eventually. Developing it, would also mean first having to figure out what to do with the convention center....

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I'm guessing the Brooklyn comment has to do with 220 Riverside & Unity Plaza? Seems pretty unfair to look at that alone and claim the whole neighborhood is failing, but in isolation that area has been problematic.

Probably but even basing an opinion on three poorly designed retail storefronts in 220 Riverside is faulty when there's a new Fresh Market anchored 50,000 square foot shopping center that stays filled, immediately next door. Heck, retail has been so bad in that stretch, that 12,500 square feet of retail space has been added since the study's completion with another 17,600 square feet under construction and 5,000 proposed on Riverside Avenue between Forest and the Acosta Bridge.

https://www.thejaxsonmag.com/article/urban-retail-scene-emerging-in-brooklyn/
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