Author Topic: Lack of Downtown Development  (Read 5779 times)

Kerry

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #15 on: April 23, 2018, 08:35:10 PM »
Okay - so Tampa, St Pete, Miami, Omaha, OKC, Chattanooga, West Palm, etc... all started sooner.  But Jax doesn't even seem to be started yet.  In fact, with the "low-income only" housing being built now a lot of people will say we have actually regressed.  I thought "low-income only" housing went out with the 1960's after it was concluded that the concentration of poor was a bad idea.

I know this thread is making me look like Mr. Negative, but if so, it is because the City has made me that way by constantly disappointing and under performing.
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thelakelander

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2018, 09:50:07 PM »
Okay - so Tampa, St Pete, Miami, Omaha, OKC, Chattanooga, West Palm, etc... all started sooner.  But Jax doesn't even seem to be started yet.

Jacksonville started when everyone else did. The Prime Osborn, Landing, Skyway, the riverwalks, destroying LaVilla, paving over Hemming Park, razing the wharves, etc. are all relics of Jacksonville's downtown's failed revitalization schemes dating back to the 1950s. It started decades ago, just like it did in Toledo, Dayton, Augusta, Mobile, etc. and a host of other cities with cores not booming like the Austins, OKCs and Charlottes of the country. However, throwing money at gimmicks, one-trick ponies and wild one-of-a-kind transit solutions doesn't always add up to success. Sometimes, these investments can shoot yourself in the foot. Jax is an example of that.

Quote
In fact, with the "low-income only" housing being built now a lot of people will say we have actually regressed.  I thought "low-income only" housing went out with the 1960's after it was concluded that the concentration of poor was a bad idea.

Then these people really don't know what they're talking about. They should be begging for more of those Vestcor projects to fill decades old, weed filled surface lots and fields of broken, abandoned dreams. Jax needs all the housing and residents it can get and it will be better off if those residents are diverse.

Quote
I know this thread is making me look like Mr. Negative, but if so, it is because the City has made me that way by constantly disappointing and under performing.

Jax is what Jax is. We should all work to make it better but don't die of stress if it never witnesses the boom places like Miami, Houston and Nashville are going through. With that said for all the doom and gloom in this thread, the progress being made now is the most that's happened in the last 18 years or so. If the economy doesn't kill it, things could finally be turning for the better.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2018, 09:58:51 PM by thelakelander »
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thelakelander

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2018, 09:54:17 PM »
The reasons downtown Jacksonville has been slow to develop (and doesn't have density - as Lake said, which is a huge issue) are very simple:
1) The numbers have not worked for private developers in the northbank core - either to build or renovate old buildings.  For the vast majority of projects, the value of the buildings after they are finished would be been less than what the developers are into them for.  So the projects don't happen.  The numbers don't work because rents are too low.  Higher rents = higher property values.
2) COJ (mainly past city councils) have not chosen to incentivize private developers enough to make the numbers work for those developers. Rev grants are not enough.  The majority of these downtown deals need large cash grants from the city (like Barnett, Jones, etc) to make the numbers work.

That's it!  All the other downtowns that are booming right now, either 1) rents (and therefore values) were already high enough to justify private development, or 2) the city is incentivizing developers at proper levels. If a developer (and the developers lender) can see a clear path to making money on a project, the project will happen.  As simple as that.

And what happens after a city incentivizes enough development is that the downtown gets enough amenities (bars, restaurants, stores, etc), which raises demand, which raises rents enough to the point where incentives aren't needed anymore. This is what has happened in Charlotte, Cincinnati, Nashville, etc.

Luckily, #2 from the top paragraph is changing - our current mayor and city council DO realize we need to make the numbers work for developers, and the DIA is doing a great job of getting deals done.  And as long as everyone keeps doing that, deals (like the Barnett, Jones Furniture, etc) will continue to get done.  And the more deals that get done, the more amenities downtown gets, the cooler downtown becomes, and the more people are willing to pay in rent.  The rent target for residential is ~$2/sqft (it used to be a little less, $1.80ish, but recent construction cost increases have moved the target).  If rents hit $2/sqft (a 750 sqft new/renovated property rents for $1500/mo) then you will start seeing cranes everywhere. All of those cities we "want to be like" - they have rents of at least $2/ft in their downtown core.

The Shipyards, the District, etc will all be great when (if?) they happen - but COJ shouldn't (and currently isn't) waiting around for big deals to get done.  COJ needs to move ahead with all sensible projects with developers that are willing to do a deal that will bring heads or amenities to downtown. And this is happening. There are currently more projects under construction or in the pipeline downtown than at any time since the crash. 

Great post! Many point out Orlando as a place that's booming. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, they provided incentives for a lot of projects to create the scene people see today. Much of the early stuff Cameron Kuhn did would not have been possible without incentives. Even the Publix on Central near Lake Eola had to be lured with public money. Lay the foundation for a critical mass to establish itself and the rest will naturally take care of itself.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2018, 09:57:52 PM by thelakelander »
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jaxnyc79

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #18 on: April 23, 2018, 10:24:05 PM »
The reasons downtown Jacksonville has been slow to develop (and doesn't have density - as Lake said, which is a huge issue) are very simple:
1) The numbers have not worked for private developers in the northbank core - either to build or renovate old buildings.  For the vast majority of projects, the value of the buildings after they are finished would be been less than what the developers are into them for.  So the projects don't happen.  The numbers don't work because rents are too low.  Higher rents = higher property values.
2) COJ (mainly past city councils) have not chosen to incentivize private developers enough to make the numbers work for those developers. Rev grants are not enough.  The majority of these downtown deals need large cash grants from the city (like Barnett, Jones, etc) to make the numbers work.

That's it!  All the other downtowns that are booming right now, either 1) rents (and therefore values) were already high enough to justify private development, or 2) the city is incentivizing developers at proper levels. If a developer (and the developers lender) can see a clear path to making money on a project, the project will happen.  As simple as that.

And what happens after a city incentivizes enough development is that the downtown gets enough amenities (bars, restaurants, stores, etc), which raises demand, which raises rents enough to the point where incentives aren't needed anymore. This is what has happened in Charlotte, Cincinnati, Nashville, etc.

Luckily, #2 from the top paragraph is changing - our current mayor and city council DO realize we need to make the numbers work for developers, and the DIA is doing a great job of getting deals done.  And as long as everyone keeps doing that, deals (like the Barnett, Jones Furniture, etc) will continue to get done.  And the more deals that get done, the more amenities downtown gets, the cooler downtown becomes, and the more people are willing to pay in rent.  The rent target for residential is ~$2/sqft (it used to be a little less, $1.80ish, but recent construction cost increases have moved the target).  If rents hit $2/sqft (a 750 sqft new/renovated property rents for $1500/mo) then you will start seeing cranes everywhere. All of those cities we "want to be like" - they have rents of at least $2/ft in their downtown core.

The Shipyards, the District, etc will all be great when (if?) they happen - but COJ shouldn't (and currently isn't) waiting around for big deals to get done.  COJ needs to move ahead with all sensible projects with developers that are willing to do a deal that will bring heads or amenities to downtown. And this is happening. There are currently more projects under construction or in the pipeline downtown than at any time since the crash. 

Great post! Many point out Orlando as a place that's booming. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, they provided incentives for a lot of projects to create the scene people see today. Much of the early stuff Cameron Kuhn did would not have been possible without incentives. Even the Publix on Central near Lake Eola had to be lured with public money. Lay the foundation for a critical mass to establish itself and the rest will naturally take care of itself.

Is this true or has this been studied?  For developers who are serious about building downtown and approach the city for incentives, do we under-incentivize?

heights unknown

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2018, 01:10:15 AM »
Overall, some things must be put in perspective.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach MSA - 6,158,824
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA -3,091,399
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford MSA - 2,509,831
Jacksonville MSA - 1,504,980

If all things were equal, these other places are going to have much more going on due to scale alone. Then there's other things that have caused these places to boom economically as well. In South Florida, Miami's real estate market has been boosted by drug money since the 1980s. Orlando has one of the most successful Downtown CRAs in the state. A complete opposite to DT Jax's which is in the red due to bad investments from previous administrations. St. Pete started investing in the arts, being bicycle friendly and cleaning up its waterfront parks as far back as the 1990s.

Despite the different paths these places have taken, the one thing they have in common is their most lively areas of activity have density. There's nothing special about DT Orlando. However if you really look at it, you'll see most of the activity is centered around a few major corridors (Ex. Orange, Central, etc.) where infill and redevelopment has clustered together. In Miami, you have Brickell and in St. Pete, you have Central and the waterfront parks. In Jax, we don't know what the hell we want to focus on. One day it's the District, then the Shipyards and Brooklyn on the next. Ultimately, you end up with billions spent and not much to visibly show for it expect a few isolated nodes of development that all struggle to survive long term.

We can come up with a million reasons of why Downtown Jax seems to struggle but it really boils down to this....density. Jax's real downtown is the Northbank. Until it floods the Northbank with development on top of development to build pedestrian scale activity and density, downtown will struggle to economically benefit from the synergy and image enhancement achieved from clustering urban development together.

This stuff isn't complicated. Try finding a vibrant urban center that's not walkable and pedestrian centered. You won't. If that's the case, why is Jax trying to be the first? Stuff like the Trio, Barnett, FSCJ's dorms, Hotel Indigo, etc. are the best thing that can happen to Downtown Jax to change its image and ultimately its economy. Continuing to spread the redevelopment focus to thin, will simply lead to the same underwhelming results.
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heights unknown

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #20 on: April 24, 2018, 01:16:56 AM »
Okay - so Tampa, St Pete, Miami, Omaha, OKC, Chattanooga, West Palm, etc... all started sooner.  But Jax doesn't even seem to be started yet.

Jacksonville started when everyone else did. The Prime Osborn, Landing, Skyway, the riverwalks, destroying LaVilla, paving over Hemming Park, razing the wharves, etc. are all relics of Jacksonville's downtown's failed revitalization schemes dating back to the 1950s. It started decades ago, just like it did in Toledo, Dayton, Augusta, Mobile, etc. and a host of other cities with cores not booming like the Austins, OKCs and Charlottes of the country. However, throwing money at gimmicks, one-trick ponies and wild one-of-a-kind transit solutions doesn't always add up to success. Sometimes, these investments can shoot yourself in the foot. Jax is an example of that.

Quote
In fact, with the "low-income only" housing being built now a lot of people will say we have actually regressed.  I thought "low-income only" housing went out with the 1960's after it was concluded that the concentration of poor was a bad idea.

Then these people really don't know what they're talking about. They should be begging for more of those Vestcor projects to fill decades old, weed filled surface lots and fields of broken, abandoned dreams. Jax needs all the housing and residents it can get and it will be better off if those residents are diverse.

Quote
I know this thread is making me look like Mr. Negative, but if so, it is because the City has made me that way by constantly disappointing and under performing.

Jax is what Jax is. We should all work to make it better but don't die of stress if it never witnesses the boom places like Miami, Houston and Nashville are going through. With that said for all the doom and gloom in this thread, the progress being made now is the most that's happened in the last 18 years or so. If the economy doesn't kill it, things could finally be turning for the better.
"IF THE ECONOMY DOESN'T KILL IT, THINGS COULD FINALLY BE TURNING FOR THE BETTER." This is funny, but let's be real here; don't forget A NUCLEAR BLAST; that would kill everything. Stupid leaders up in WARshington might kill it before the economy does.
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Kerry

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #21 on: April 24, 2018, 09:52:17 AM »
Let me clarrify what I mean by "low-income only" housing.  I looked at the apartment next to the Convention Center and I exceed the income limit so I'm not allowed to live there.  The same with the other low-income housing being built.  For better or worse, a downtown full of low-income housing is NOT going to create the critical mass necessary to develop the urban core like most of us want.  If it was possible the Moncrief area would be so booming it would make Gate Parkway look like childs play.  What I would prefer is the City to mandate that 10% of all new multifamily housing be earmarked for low-income/workforce housing.  This would provide ample housing across the city and prevent the concentration of poverty.
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thelakelander

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #22 on: April 24, 2018, 11:10:46 AM »
I'm saying the housing in LaVilla is a positive, even if you personally make too much money to live there. After all, we're talking about roughly 600 units combined between all four of those projects. Downtown needs thousands of residents and it's empty enough that it should be accepting as many as possible. The more density and foot traffic, the more opportunity for business and betterment of the area's representation when it comes to local politics and funding priorities. DT Jax won't suffer if all its residents aren't hipsters and young professionals. There's room for all. Also, Moncrief could be a lot better but don't get me started on the decades of systemmatic racism in public policy and infrastructure investment, redlining, etc. that has always negatively impacted the viability of inner city neighborhoods. That has more of an impact on that area of town than the income of residents do.
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thelakelander

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #23 on: April 24, 2018, 11:13:31 AM »
Btw, there's also a big difference between poverty and the affordable/workforce housing being built in LaVilla.
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heights unknown

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #24 on: April 24, 2018, 12:28:49 PM »
I agree wholeheartedly LAKELANDER; well said. Not to beat a dead horse or turn back the clock (what's done is done and those eras are over), however, there was affordable housing near downtown for almost a century before it all came to a halt and then razed in the 80's and 90's (my Mom and I lived in LaVilla on Duval Street one block east of Davis St. in the mid 60's); and I don't think those houses, rooms, residents that were in LaVilla and Brooklyn all of those years, had a negative impact on downtown; if anything, though they were primarily African American, I would go out on a limb and say that those neighborhoods and areas, when packed and dense with families, housing, grocery stores, shops, etc., contributed towards the success and prosperity of downtown and the adjacent surrounding neighborhoods; but when those areas began to decline and suffer, it appears that downtown suffered along with them. And of course we know about urban flight relative to the whites that used to live close in downtown on the southbank, san marco, riverside, and other areas; they suffered, though to a much lighter degree, along with LaVilla, Brooklyn, and other areas nearby. I believe that AFFORDABLE HOUSING in and near downtown will be a plus, and will help to invigorate downtown, and, don't forget that deep in the urban core and center, there will be middle class to upper middle class living in the towers and other new residentials that are built or being built or planned. Oh, and in my opinion just because an area has affordable or low income housing or even residents, doesn't mean or portray that that area is living in poverty...poverty means poor, penniless, and destitute, and if I remember correctly, people who live in affordable or low income housing might work in the low income bracket, and live in affordable housing, but they are not poor or penniless.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2018, 12:33:13 PM by heights unknown »
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Kerry

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #25 on: April 25, 2018, 09:19:54 AM »
I was reading some blogs this morning regarding urban development in other cities and wonder what it would take to move those ideas along here in Jax.  The City should create the framework for successful and sustainable economic growth but we seem to be trying to hit a home run with every at bat instead of just getting players on base.  I think we need more of a "Moneyball" approach.  Here is a just a list off the top of my head.

1)  Transition to a City Manager municipal government.  I don't even know if this is possible but Jax has a real problem with consistency at the Mayor position and anything one Mayor does/plans gets thrown in the trash with the next Mayor.

2)  Return downtown streets to 2-Way.  Cities all across the country are doing this with great success.  They were only made One Way to get people out of town as fast as possible and it worked.

3)  Create complete streets.  A lot of downtown streets are simply too wide.  Bay Street, Riverside Ave, Union, State, Ocean, Main, and others could all be adjusted to include protected bike lanes

4)  On-Street parking with pay stations.  I think Jax might be the only major city in America that still has individual parking meters that only take coins.

5)  Bike-share system.  Again, I can't think of single city that doesn't have a bike-share system in place.

6)  Mass transit.  I know people are awed by JTA's pie in the sky Skyway expansion but hells bells, we just spent the last 30 years plagued by a state-of-art system monorail that was supposed to be the future of transportation but was totally experimental at the time (sounds like the current proposed system).  Just put some dang rails in the ground like the rest of the world.  It works - as proven by 130 years of use around world.  Jax doesn't have the money or citizen support to be 'experimental'.

7)  Form-Based Code:  Stop with all the over-lay zoning around downtown.  Just create an area called Jax 2.0 and have form-based codes for it.

8)  Put all City owned land up for RFP's and break the Shipyards land up into 10 separate tracts.  Give development right to the highest bidder and tell them the have 2 years to break ground.  If they don't break ground by then the development right go out for rebid with no refunds.

9)  Move to a land value tax in the Jax 2.0 area.  Make land owners develop their property of sell it to someone who will.  No more land speculative squatting.  All that is doing is driving up prices and forcing growth to the suburban fringe which is a money-loser for the City.

10.  Bring a real college/university to downtown - even if the City has to fund it.

Anyhow - that is a just a quick list.
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remc86007

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #26 on: April 25, 2018, 10:02:31 AM »
The City should create the framework for successful and sustainable economic growth but we seem to be trying to hit a home run with every at bat instead of just getting players on base.

It seems clear to me that this is the real problem. The current mayor and most of the previous mayors have seemingly been so preocupied trying to get "big wins" that little else is accomplished. This stuff isn't rocket science; going back at least a decade the general consensus has been that development will occur when people live downtown, yet the city hasn't done much to make that happen. With the amount of money it has poured into various projects over the past decade, we could have easily subsidized the development of residential for at least a couple thousand additional residents. Imagine what downtown would be like if 5000 residents of all income levels were added to the core.

Bill Hoff

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #27 on: April 25, 2018, 10:37:37 AM »
Btw, there's also a big difference between poverty and the affordable/workforce housing being built in LaVilla.

Yup.

The LaVilla developments are nice, it's not a public housing project, and you can find MUCH cheaper rents in other/worse parts of town.

Kiva

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #28 on: April 25, 2018, 10:48:21 AM »

4)  On-Street parking with pay stations.  I think Jax might be the only major city in America that still has individual parking meters that only take coins.
I parked downtown recently and most of the meters there now take credit cards. A lot of your suggestions make sense. We just need city government that actually does some of this!

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Re: Lack of Downtown Development
« Reply #29 on: April 25, 2018, 11:30:17 AM »
I was reading some blogs this morning regarding urban development in other cities and wonder what it would take to move those ideas along here in Jax.  The City should create the framework for successful and sustainable economic growth but we seem to be trying to hit a home run with every at bat instead of just getting players on base.  I think we need more of a "Moneyball" approach.  Here is a just a list off the top of my head.

1)  Transition to a City Manager municipal government.  I don't even know if this is possible but Jax has a real problem with consistency at the Mayor position and anything one Mayor does/plans gets thrown in the trash with the next Mayor.

2)  Return downtown streets to 2-Way.  Cities all across the country are doing this with great success.  They were only made One Way to get people out of town as fast as possible and it worked.

3)  Create complete streets.  A lot of downtown streets are simply too wide.  Bay Street, Riverside Ave, Union, State, Ocean, Main, and others could all be adjusted to include protected bike lanes

4)  On-Street parking with pay stations.  I think Jax might be the only major city in America that still has individual parking meters that only take coins.

5)  Bike-share system.  Again, I can't think of single city that doesn't have a bike-share system in place.

6)  Mass transit.  I know people are awed by JTA's pie in the sky Skyway expansion but hells bells, we just spent the last 30 years plagued by a state-of-art system monorail that was supposed to be the future of transportation but was totally experimental at the time (sounds like the current proposed system).  Just put some dang rails in the ground like the rest of the world.  It works - as proven by 130 years of use around world.  Jax doesn't have the money or citizen support to be 'experimental'.

7)  Form-Based Code:  Stop with all the over-lay zoning around downtown.  Just create an area called Jax 2.0 and have form-based codes for it.

8)  Put all City owned land up for RFP's and break the Shipyards land up into 10 separate tracts.  Give development right to the highest bidder and tell them the have 2 years to break ground.  If they don't break ground by then the development right go out for rebid with no refunds.

9)  Move to a land value tax in the Jax 2.0 area.  Make land owners develop their property of sell it to someone who will.  No more land speculative squatting.  All that is doing is driving up prices and forcing growth to the suburban fringe which is a money-loser for the City.

10.  Bring a real college/university to downtown - even if the City has to fund it.

Anyhow - that is a just a quick list.

Good list of suggestions. Many of them are straight no-brainers. Here are some thoughts:

1)  Transition to a City Manager municipal government.  I don't even know if this is possible but Jax has a real problem with consistency at the Mayor position and anything one Mayor does/plans gets thrown in the trash with the next Mayor.

The lack of followthrough between administrations is definitely one of the main things holding us back. I'm not sold on the idea that a municipality the size of Jacksonville should have an appointed official at the helm, but I wish there was a way to get mayors to follow through on a vision. Probably some of that is just electing stronger officials more consistently.

2)  Return downtown streets to 2-Way.  Cities all across the country are doing this with great success.  They were only made One Way to get people out of town as fast as possible and it worked.

There was a discussion on this a while ago about which streets should be two-wayed or not, but in general, I think making more of the streets two ways would definitely ease navigation through Downtown.

3)  Create complete streets.  A lot of downtown streets are simply too wide.  Bay Street, Riverside Ave, Union, State, Ocean, Main, and others could all be adjusted to include protected bike lanes

Total no-brainer.

4)  On-Street parking with pay stations.  I think Jax might be the only major city in America that still has individual parking meters that only take coins.
I think many of the meters now do take cards. The last one I used (last week) definitely did. Of course they all should be that way. I never have change.

5)  Bike-share system.  Again, I can't think of single city that doesn't have a bike-share system in place.

Not sure the city should be behind this one instead of an outside entity, but yes, bike share would be good. I think it could work.

6)  Mass transit.  I know people are awed by JTA's pie in the sky Skyway expansion but hells bells, we just spent the last 30 years plagued by a state-of-art system monorail that was supposed to be the future of transportation but was totally experimental at the time (sounds like the current proposed system).  Just put some dang rails in the ground like the rest of the world.  It works - as proven by 130 years of use around world.  Jax doesn't have the money or citizen support to be 'experimental'.

No disagreement on any of those points.

7)  Form-Based Code:  Stop with all the over-lay zoning around downtown.  Just create an area called Jax 2.0 and have form-based codes for it.

Totally sensible - there's no reason not to shift to form-based code for the whole city, and even less reason not to do so for a set urban area.

8)  Put all City owned land up for RFP's and break the Shipyards land up into 10 separate tracts.  Give development right to the highest bidder and tell them the have 2 years to break ground.  If they don't break ground by then the development right go out for rebid with no refunds.

This one I'm not so sure about. The city-as-COJ owns less unused downtown property than people think (there's a lot of land owned by JTA and JEA, for example, which COJ doesn't have control over). RFP's have worked out better for some properties than others. But yes, in general, we should be more aggressive in returning property to the tax rolls.

9)  Move to a land value tax in the Jax 2.0 area.  Make land owners develop their property of sell it to someone who will.  No more land speculative squatting.  All that is doing is driving up prices and forcing growth to the suburban fringe which is a money-loser for the City.

Interesting idea. Don't know much about land value taxes or the effect they have on encouraging development.

Bring a real college/university to downtown - even if the City has to fund it.
Three of our colleges are increasing their presence downtown, which is a good start. However, there aren't a lot of colleges that up and move, and a lot of the ones that do, aren't the kind that really benefit the community - not nearly as much as branch space from established colleges and universities.

Overall, a lot of good, sensible suggestions.
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