Author Topic: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job  (Read 28463 times)

Alex Sifakis

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The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« on: January 09, 2024, 02:54:35 PM »
The DIA and Lori bashing on this board is getting pretty hard to take.  When we bring in investors or partners from outside of Jacksonville, they are BLOWN AWAY by the structure and resources of the DIA, and Lori personally.  We hear constantly that we are incredibly lucky to have an organization like the DIA that is singularly focused on downtown, that is able to incentivize projects the way that we do here.  That we are incredibly lucky that the CEO of that organization is not some political figurehead (like they see in a lot of other markets) but someone who understands urban development at a deep level. 

The DIA and Lori (and of course amazing support from both mayor Curry's and Mayor Deegan's administrations) are the only reason that projects like Pearl Street have gotten as far as they have.  That long vacant historic buildings are being put back into productive use.  That downtown Jax is on an absolutely incredible trajectory, which can be clearly seen by anyone in who is coming from other markets and understands development. When we brought Gateway's now CEO, Bryan Moll, to town back in 2022, there was almost no chance he was going to take the job.  After touring downtown, seeing what was going on, and meeting with Lori, Lenny, Daniel Davis, the Jags, and others... he said that the opportunity in Jacksonville in 2022 was better than the opportunity in Tampa in 2016.  And he moved to Jax.

The DIA and Lori are definitely not perfect, but the majority of decisions that this board continually harps on had nothing, or very little to do with the DIA or Lori.
- Landing got torn down? Check
- Infrastructure/parks taking too long?  Check.
- Backlog of projects because DIA doesn't have enough resources?  Check.

I am all for holding people and organizations accountable, but I believe the majority of this board is just way off base on this one.  And a downtown Jacksonville without the DIA or Lori would have been (or would be in the future, if it/she were gone) set back years. 

Just had to get this off my chest.  :)
« Last Edit: January 09, 2024, 05:55:51 PM by Alex Sifakis »

jaxlongtimer

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2024, 03:29:55 PM »
Alex, I think most people here respect Lori and value her contributions to the City, on the Council and now on DIA.  It may not be on Lori that things are not lining up to meet the expectations (a lot of which are derived by comparisons of Jax progress to that of other communities) of many but, as head of the agency and its face, it comes with the territory that you are going to be the lightning rod for any shortcomings, even if not your fault or within your purview.

If DIA is hamstrung or there is a sense it is less than transparent, Lori needs to somehow show the external community that she is working at addressing those concerns.  Some have suspected, right or wrong, that under Curry, her agenda was more or less regulated by him and, if so, that was not a great thing.  Maybe she was "protecting" him, but, again, that means she is going to be the lightning rod.

Being a public official is not for the feint of heart.  Just like being a Jags coach, no matter the circumstances with injuries, player performance, ownership meddling, etc., the coach is going to take the fall.  Lori, having served on the Council, can't be surprised by the public critiques, even if unfair.

Having been born and raised here, it also frustrating, over many decades, to see Jax leadership squander so many opportunities so, regardless of who runs DIA, there is also a preexisting/built in concern for the direction of Downtown that carries over.  It would appear you clearly have identified the same and its why you are all over town trying to change that.  Congrats on your efforts.

Lastly, for those who care, there are going to be competing visions for what success looks like.  The absence of greater public input into, and transparency of, priority setting, master planning and large projects Downtown adds fuel to the fire.

Hopefully, with Deegan in office, everyone benefits from a new paradigm.  We will see.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2024, 04:12:49 PM by jaxlongtimer »

Steve

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2024, 04:16:53 PM »
I think with an administration change, it will be pretty obvious in about a year or two how things are going IMO. I do think that the structure of the DIA leads to confusion about who is responsible. For example, how long has Friendship Park been closed and why?

I do agree that the Landing situation was not a DIA decision - that was obviously a 4th Floor of St. James call.

I'd say the Laura Trio hasn't been a good look for anyone involved - and that includes Steve Atkins.

I do hope (though hope is not a plan) that we start to see some of those fruits coming during the next few years.

Jax_Developer

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2024, 05:06:29 PM »
I've always felt that it has been hard to criticize the actual work that the DIA members do. I'm fairly confident they perform more work behind the scenes than most realize. My biggest critiques of the DIA are more so in the responsibilities that the council allows them to have & what restricts them from implementing their defined goals. U2C for example... the DIA has to get other authorities to cooperate with them in their own backyard. In my eyes, downtown transit, parks, etc. should all have some common authority with the ability to masterplan (the intention of the DIA). The DIA continues & will continue to get blamed for factors they can't control.

Ken_FSU

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2024, 05:44:53 PM »
Man, it's hard. I think the vast majority of us genuinely like Lori Boyer as a human being, recognize how sharp she is, and consider her to be a tremendous asset to the City of Jacksonville. I don't think anyone doubts her integrity or work ethic. Nor do I think you'll find a person here who thinks the DIA members aren't working very hard in a largely thankless position. And I like to think a lot of us have given credit where due for the DIA's wins with beefing up the historic preservation trust, pushing through difficult negotiations with the Jags and state on the Shipyards/Met Park, championing the scooter share program, pushing to get beverage concessions along the riverwalk, etc.

But at the end of the day, when you've got DIA CEO in front of your name, the buck has to stop with you, and I think it's totally fair to ask if downtown is in a better place now than it was when she took the position. Not in terms of pipeline, or proposals, but in terms of concrete, meaningful progress that can be enjoyed today. It's like looking at the Jags meltdown and blaming Shad Khan or Doug Pederson, or looking at inflation and blaming the President. It's overly simplistic, but comes with the territory. As any of us who manage a team know, if the team doesn't get results, we're holding the bag. I think there's a universe where you can respect Lori Boyer but not consider her the best fit for the position.

Deeply admire you Alex and really respect what you and your team are doing, but I also think the excitement you see through your lens as a developer doesn't necessarily discredit the frustration a lot of us have with what we see on the streets each day see with our own eyes as downtown workers, residents, or advocates. They're radically different viewpoints that both hold validity in their own way. It's hard to feel that momentum you speak of just yet on the streets. If anything, it feels like we've regressed in some ways over the last five years.

You see the future.

We see the present.

Will gladly take your future over it, and I"m personally excited about the excitement you see within the development community.

Now, with a new mayor in town, it's up to the DIA to prove us all wrong and turn some of these countless, long-promised projects in the CBD, riverfront developments, and parks from concept into something that I can enjoy with my 10-year old daughter in the next 1-3 years before she's too cool to hang with me. It'll be the true test.

Keep doing what you're doing, Jax is lucky to have you, and hoping you're back with a big obnoxious "I told you so" in the near future  8)
« Last Edit: January 09, 2024, 06:02:46 PM by Ken_FSU »

WarDamJagFan

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2024, 03:50:12 PM »
Until we see actual results, then there will be gnashing of teeth from the citizens towards the DIA. It's no different than how we feel about the Jags. Yes, objectively, Shad has put a lot of money and energy into the organization as a means to improve it. However, we are still a dumpster fire so the lashing out at Shad will continue until we see sustained improvement.

Similarly, more has been torn down than built up in downtown the last decade +. Empty lots are everywhere. Renderings are a meme. Bulkheads, fountains and pedestrian pathways take more time to fix/complete than multi billion dollar stadiums in red-tape-central California. To say we'd be even more at a loss without the DIA doesn't give us any confidence in their actual mission. We want to see results! We are the River City and we have absolutely NOTHING along the river to show for it. We've been promised the moon forever so forgive us for not being believers in their process or leader. That's my take along with about 98% of the citizens of Duval.

marcuscnelson

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2024, 10:19:40 PM »
New piece in Forbes this morning with some excitement about Downtown:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffsteele/2024/01/11/jacksonville-poised-for-boom-times-downtown/

Nate Monroe isn't convinced.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

CityLife

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2024, 10:53:45 PM »
Quote
When folks are asked to name the top Florida city, most don’t answer “Jacksonville.” The burg alternately known as “The First Coast,” “Gateway to Florida,” and “River City” typically gets left in the dust by a lengthy list of other Sunshine State settings.

But today, when folks are asked to name the Florida place most on the move, with the best-conceived plans for growth, “Jacksonville” may be the well-informed answer.

Or rather, “Downtown Jacksonville,” may be the words voiced by those in the know.

^Note to whoever paid for this article. Don’t lay it on so thick from the start. Anyone with a triple digit IQ can tell this is an advertorial right away.


Jax_Developer

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2024, 11:36:35 PM »
Lol.. look I have criticism of our market for sure, but by no means can you argue that we aren’t a very fast growing “city” in the US.

Just a “few” things that have happened in 2023:

- #1 market for retail growth per CBRE
- 4% job growth per BLS
- Still multi-million square feet of industrial property under construction & in planning per Daily Record

I know downtown still lacks, but you can almost go anywhere & see development of some kind. I think that contrast has added to people’s frustrations about the lack of downtown vibrancy. Totally a paid ad, but why’s that matter? I see “stuff” like this for other cities all the time. It just sells to write about whats next. Just take the free press imo & utilize it.


jaxlongtimer

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2024, 12:09:11 AM »
New piece in Forbes this morning with some excitement about Downtown:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffsteele/2024/01/11/jacksonville-poised-for-boom-times-downtown/

Nate Monroe isn't convinced.

I was laughing the whole way through this article.  It looks like it was lifted from DIA's annual puff piece.  I mean, are we talking about the same Downtown that is dissed daily on the Jaxson  ;D?  This guy needs to look into the icons of Downtown: the Trio, Lenny's lawn, Friendship fountain, the District, the Hardwick, and, especially, the ultimate savior of Downtown, the U2C, and still tell us how he reaches his conclusions.  I guess news of the upcoming Daily's gas station at the gateway to Downtown was the icing on the cake... he had to be really impressed. LOL.

CityLife

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2024, 09:14:36 AM »
I know downtown still lacks, but you can almost go anywhere & see development of some kind. I think that contrast has added to people’s frustrations about the lack of downtown vibrancy. Totally a paid ad, but why’s that matter? I see “stuff” like this for other cities all the time. It just sells to write about whats next. Just take the free press imo & utilize it.

I don't have any issue with doing the paid ad/PR thing for downtown, but I don't think it's productive to be so hyperbolic. Saying that Downtown Jacksonville would be considered the Florida place the "most on the move" by those "in the know", would be laughed at by those that are actually in the know, because it's an asinine claim.

Posted in another thread recently that Miami currently has 18 buildings taller than 400 feet under construction right now. By comparison Jax only has 5 buildings taller than 400 feet, in existence. Miami has 11 buildings under construction that are taller than Jax's tallest building. Downtown West Palm Beach has 15 high rises under construction right now. Fort Lauderdale has 21 buildings taller than 400 feet in the pipeline now. People "in the know" are aware of that.

The Downtown cheerleaders are so trapped in their own echo chamber, that I'm not sure they even have a grasp on reality.

Step 1: Execute your plans
Step 2: Brag

Captain Zissou

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2024, 10:28:17 AM »
Quote
But today, when folks are asked to name the Florida place most on the move, with the best-conceived plans for growth, “Jacksonville” may be the well-informed answer.

This is the line that I find most problematic.  There are groups who are doing great things in downtown, but there is not a "plan" for anything.  The city chases the deal of the week, but there's no overarching plan.  The Emerald Trail and resiliency have helped to add a framework for some of the new development and DIA/DDRB have some rules of engagement, but there is truly nothing forward looking that developers or companies can pick up to see where Jax is going.  When the city owns hundreds of acres downtown with no disposition plan, there are dozens of illegal surface lots facing no penalties, and there are vacant historic buildings rotting in the sun, there is no plan.

In the absence of a master plan, just start with what AG Lafley said at the great cities symposium.  Start with one block, make it great, and expand from there. Start with JWJ park and work you way out. Gateway Jax will help exponentially once you get past hogan street, but the far flung civic projects that are proposed for downtown will do less than a concentrated effort that builds on itself.

Ken_FSU

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2024, 12:11:07 PM »
The Downtown cheerleaders are so trapped in their own echo chamber, that I'm not sure they even have a grasp on reality.

Step 1: Execute your plans
Step 2: Brag

This kind of hits the nail square on the head for me, and is probably why I personally can be so vocal in my criticism of entities like the DIA and the DVI. When I'm walking clients or out-of-state coworkers from the Hyatt, alongside the grass field at the Landing that's been vacant for four years and will be vacant for at least two more, past the bombed-out Laura Street Trio, down our signature street with recently closed restaurants and boarded up jewelry stores, into an office that's been vandalized for the third time in a year by the increasingly unhinged vagrant population, I don't have a particularly strong appetite to hear how well things are going for Downtown Jacksonville based largely on the DIA's willingness to hand out incentives for a bunch of projects that are stalled, haven't started, or are merely renders on paper at this point.

I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll start to see some action in 2024, but I'm also not willing to be gaslit about the current state of affairs either. I've run the numbers myself on true development vs. proposed pipeline, retail openings vs. closings, and office recovery vs. other Florida markets, and it's totally divorced from reality to say that things are in a good state in the here and now.

The above article is clearly an advertorial, and I have no problem with it. It wasn't written for me, it was written to drum up outside interest in Downtown Jacksonville. What I do have a major problem with though, and what scares me for our future, is if the DIA and DVI truly believe that we're in a great spot. That inability to admit that there's a problem, and failure to take ownership and accountability for fixing it, even if it's not within their limited purview, is why I get so worked up from time to time.

As the leader in pushing downtown forward, we just need more urgency, more proactive communication, and a willingness to take a stand from the DIA. No stand is taken by the DIA when historic building stock is destroyed (they still haven't penalized the developer who tore down the Greyhound Station for an illegal surface lot). No stand is taken when the JTA bets Jacksonville's long-term transportation future on a $500 million fleet of unproven robovans. No stand is taken when public works takes a historic park like Friendship Fountain offline for four years with no accountability and no progress.

On Lori Boyer specifically, it's not personal, but this quote on construction of the new park at the Landing pretty much sums up my frustration with that lack of urgency and accountability.

Quote
https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2023/07/10/long-awaited-construction-on-riverfront-plaza-begins-monday/

Lori Boyer, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, said she expects that the project will be completed in a little more than a year.

“I think that the Public Works estimate on it is around 15 to 18 months,” Boyer said. “But that’s always subject to change, whether there’s weather delays or supply chain delays, you know, any of that kind of stuff. But at the moment, we’re looking forward to finally getting it out of the way.”

This is such a key downtown project, and quotes like this read like we're already making collective excuses for nothing getting done. This - like the parks at Friendship Fountain and the Times-Union Performing Arts Center - are projects that she personally led and championed. I'd hope the leader of the DIA would take a more active, vocal lead in pushing through all the red tape and brute forcing them to completion.

It's also worth pointing out that she did, in fact, contribute to the decision to demolish, rather than redevelop the Jacksonville Landing. She voted yes as a Council member, and vocally supported the decision in the press. It's not her fault, but she did advocate for it.

Last thing I'll say is that the DIA has absolutely failed on the riverfront. With parks, and vagrancy, and transportation, and demolition of historic building stock, there's plausible deniability. You can easily point to other entities who share the blame, whether that be public works, the JTA, City Council, whatever.

For the absolute waste of a decade on the riverfront though, that sits squarely oh the shoulders of the DIA. During the most sustained economic boom of our lifetimes, at a time when Jacksonville saw unprecedented immigration to our city, the DIA gave us multiple failed RFPs for Ford on Bay; a failed RFP with only one response for the private development pad at the Landing; lack of movement at Berkman 2; the mess on the Southbank with Related, the demolition of River City Brewing, and the lack of integration with the new tentative proposal and Friendship Park; endless delays and extensions at RiversEdge; and the glacial pace of getting parks built and completed.

I don't doubt that they are short-staffed, I don't doubt that they need true independence, and I don't discount the work they've done, but there's just no honest communication back out with the public in terms of where all of these initiatives that they go to press to herald actually stand. We get the grand announcement in the Daily Record and Biz Journal about retail enhancement corridors and two-way streets. We get the flashy render. Everyone pats themselves on the back. And then everyone disappears and nothing actually gets built.

Meanwhile, as a guy who does everything he possibly can to support downtown business, including choosing to come to the office 5 days a week, I still can't find a cup of coffee after 6 PM, the "Coming Soon" banners erected in front of historic building stock have weather and torn with age over the years, and its a crapshoot as to whether I'm going to have my life threatened by a random dude on fentanyl if I don't get to my car by sundown.

We need less talk, more action.

There are groups who are doing great things in downtown, but there is not a "plan" for anything.  The city chases the deal of the week, but there's no overarching plan.

In the absence of a master plan, just start with what AG Lafley said at the great cities symposium.  Start with one block, make it great, and expand from there. Start with JWJ park and work you way out. Gateway Jax will help exponentially once you get past hogan street, but the far flung civic projects that are proposed for downtown will do less than a concentrated effort that builds on itself.

Fort Myers, where I was born and raised, has COMPLETELY revitalized its downtown through careful master planning and block-by-block execution of said master plan. When I left for college in 2000, it was a vacant 9-5 ghost town. Within a decade, it was an insanely vibrant 24-7 community with dozens of bars and restaurants, an urban Publix, new hotels, and a revitalized riverfront.

Here's a copy of the Master Plan, with hyper-detailed block-by-block recommendations for land use, transportation, parks, etc.

https://fortmyerscra.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Downtown_Redevelopment_Pla.pdf

Contrast that with Jacksonville's "master plan," which speaks at a ten-thousand foot level and opens up with a reminder of all the things that were not even taken into consideration (transit, public safety, private land use, etc).



Very, very last thing I'll say, in the DIA's defense is:

You get what you pay for. All the gaslighting and unrealized potential deeply frustrates me, but it is disingenuous to expect such a small group, with a limited budget, to turn around 60 years of flight and blight in a decade.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2024, 12:14:28 PM by Ken_FSU »

Joey Mackey

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2024, 12:52:14 PM »
I'm a Jax native, and I've been living on the Southbank and working in Downtown for the past four years. I am also in that "young professional" demographic that the DIA so desperately wants to attract to the Downtown area. I can honestly say, when my friends from Charlotte, Nashville, or Atlanta visit, I am embarrassed to take them Downtown. Even though there are some cool spots that I enjoy (Ruby Beach/Volstead/Estrella) my out-of-town friends, without fail, ask where is everyone? They say it is like a scene out of the Walking Dead (even with the Zombies!)

At this point, I've almost given up on showcasing Downtown, and we will just visit San Marco, Riverside, or Avondale. So no, I can't see how the DIA or Lori Boyer should be getting any applause or kudos for the state of downtown. I am hopeful that some of the projects in the pipeline become a reality, but this is the City of Renderings after all.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2024, 01:32:45 PM by Joey Mackey »

thelakelander

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Re: The DIA and Lori Boyer Are Doing a Phenomenal Job
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2024, 01:00:05 PM »
The Downtown cheerleaders are so trapped in their own echo chamber, that I'm not sure they even have a grasp on reality.

Step 1: Execute your plans
Step 2: Brag

Here's my suggestion....

Step 1: Execute...

No bragging is necessary when the average person can see tower cranes and hear sounds of construction when walking on the street. There's no better marketing and sales pitch than seeing real life implementation and completion.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali