Brushing Off The Dust: 20 Affordable Fixes For Downtown

Following the City Council Finance Committee's recent decision to remove $9 million intended for downtown revitalization, many are ready to label Mayor Alvin Brown's efforts to revitalize the city's heart a bust. In May 2011, we asked Metro Jacksonville readers for cost-effective ideas that city leaders could get behind that could spur downtown revitalization. With Mayor Alvin Brown's two years of efforts unable to bare fruit so far, perhaps it's time to dust off a few of these ideas and actually implement them?

Published August 12, 2013 in Opinion -

Free time limited on-street parking in downtown Cleveland.  If it can work in a city with a downtown twice the size of ours, it's certainly worth considering in Jacksonville.

1. Remove all parking meters immediately and replace with an enforced but free two-hour limit on parking from 9am to 5pm weekdays only.  

2. Make all streets two-way where feasible.

3. Re-time traffic lights.

4. Plan multiple festivals, events, parades and street parties. Close down certain streets for this. COJ pays for and executes these events. But they cannot spend more than $10,000 per event. There should be 10-20 events at minimum per year, spread throughout the Landing, Adams, and the Forsyth & Bay Street entertainment district. Oh, but first of all, COJ must acknowledge that we actually have an entertainment district. Budget for this will come from scaling back current major events.

5. JSO must go back to having visible officers patrolling nightlife areas on foot. That's right: no cars, bikes or horses - Just like their grandfathers did. This will help Downtown in numerous ways.

Interested in cleaning up Hemming Plaza? Let's try continuously programming it with special events.

6. Have actual, downtown business owners and residents sit in on the decision making that goes on in the Mayors office when planning the yearly special events calendar.

7. Run a free trolley on Friday and Saturday nights from Riverside to the Downtown Entertainment District from 8pm-3am. Works at the Beach, why not Downtown?

It's going to take a mayor with a strong backbone and a serious desire to see downtown Jax return to glory. He or she will have to push things thru and convince the citizens of Jax that improving downtown and making it attractive will not only cost the average Jax resident nothing, but perhaps save them money (more businesses downtown = more tax dollars coming in).
Quote by Metro Jacksonville discussion board member Bativac

8. Do not spend another dime on any expert consultant or do any more studies if you are just going to ignore what they say.

9. Moratorium on suburban-road building/widening/overpasses, so that we can stop subsidizing the continuing sprawl of our city.

10. Modify public policy and work with existing building owners so as to aggressively encourage the integration of ground-level businesses with sidewalks.

One would never know that First Baptist Church's restaurant occupies an entire block of Laura Street. Something as simple as adding transparent windows and awnings would eliminate the feel of emptiness and abandonment that currently dominates this stretch in the heart of Downtown.

11. Modify public policy to allow creative uses and concepts like "Tactical Urbanism", and mobile truck-food-courts, etc. to add life to vacant lots.

12. Remove the large network of duplicate JTA buses from the downtown core. Instead, eliminate the Skyway's fare and run it like a real, fixed transit spine, by consolidating duplicate bus routes at the Skyway's terminal points. This will at the least, accomplish these cost, operational, and time-saving goals:  

A. Cut down on mass transit O&M costs.
B. Increase bus frequencies for other neighborhoods throughout the city.
C. Max out ridership numbers on the skyway, ending the talk of it being useless.
D. Create more opportunities for infill business in DT because of the increased accessibility.

UPDATE: Skyway's Fare has since been eliminated but remaining suggestions should still be considered.

13. Sell off or lease out excess city-owned property and buildings.

Gosh, we are currently spending $400 million on a new courthouse. Do you think we could have fixed the entire Downtown for $400 million???
Quote by Metro Jacksonville discussion board member MusicMan

14. Maintain the public ROW (pick up the trash, light the streets, maintain the landscaping, etc.).

15. Coordinate between public agencies. For example, if Public Works, JTA, or FDOT is going to repave a street, make sure things like bike lanes, multi-use shared paths, mass transit, and placement of on-street parking are considered, in order to create a multimodal, friendly urban environment.

Want bicycle lanes for free? Try coordinating their stripping with COJ Public Works and FDOT resurfacing projects.

16. Preserve the remaining building stock. Empty buildings are better than surface parking lots and abandoned lots for a walkable environment.

17. Extend last call for downtown bars to 3 or 4 a.m.

18. Adjust zoning so that residential and commercial can more easily co-exist without seeking exceptions. The urban core should be dense, and that means mixed uses. The more hoops you make owners jump through, the less you will get accomplished.

19. Plan, view, and market Downtown as a part of a larger urban core that includes adjacent neighborhoods. United they stand, divided they fall.

One easy way to reconnect the urban core is to coordinate the long-term development of private- and public-sector projects in a manner in which every small project ultimately leads to the development of a vibrant, walkable, and borderless urban district.

20. Whatever you do, apply this concept:  "Cluster Complementing Uses Within A Compact Setting." Pedestrian-level vibrancy can only be created by putting things closely together so they can feed off one another. This is where we've failed the most in Downtown during the last 30 years.


Hey, you gotta start somewhere. These are relatively cheap ideas that could be in place within 90 days if our Mayor and city council would be pro active. The time is now city leaders. What's it gonna be?

You wanna just watch what's left of downtown die a slow and painful death? It's not up to me, it's up to you, the city leaders to lead. That's what we hired you for, right?

Even if these proposals don't work at least we can say that we, as a community, tried something a little outside the box for a change. The box we are in now ain't working.

We have little to lose and much to gain.
Quote by Metro Jacksonville discussion board member marksjax

Compiled list of suggestions by Metro Jacksonville discussion board contributors in May 2011.

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Metro Jacksonville