Changing the Urban Landscape in 2014

In 2013, several major construction projects broke ground in and around downtown Jacksonville for the first time since the 2008 economic downfall. Looking forward to 2014, here are five projects and points of discussion that have the potential to forever change Jacksonville's landscape.

Published January 3, 2014 in Opinion -

Brooklyn is Alive

For years, talk about revitalizing Brooklyn has added up to a bunch of pretty renderings, a lot of hot air and numerous failed dreams. Although construction started in late 2012 on 200 Riverside, construction activity on three additional major projects began in December 2013.

In 2014, we should witness the completion of nearly 600 apartments, downtown's first new grocery store in decades and a host of new restaurant, bar and retail announcements. In addition, we'll also see the construction of Jacksonville's first new highrise in recent years, a short walk away in Five Points.

For More Information:

The Changing Face of Brooklyn

Downtown Mayor Brown

In 2011, Mayor Alvin Brown became the first African-American in Jacksonville's history to win a mayoral election. Many of his supporters were hopeful that Mayor Brown would magically do what very few mayors have successfully done. That is, to revitalize Downtown Jacksonville.

Despite the creation of the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA), revitalization efforts haven't gone as quickly as originally expected. Nevertheless, the economy continues to improve. A few major projects are now underway, and people of all ages and backgrounds are excited about downtown's future.

With election campaign time right around the corner, the success or failure of high-profile projects like the Laura Trio, the Parador Garage and the Jacksonville Landing could boost or cripple Brown's chances at a second term.

For More Information:

Downtown Investment Authority's CRA Plan 101

The Jacksonville Landing Redevelopment Plan

Laura Street Trio to be Marriott Flagged Boutique Hotel

Fuller Warren Bridge Widening Debate

2013 ended with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) dropping the bombshell that the Fuller Warren Bridge will be widened in 2016 for $136 million.

Illustrating a changing of the guard in a community that has previously been a slave to the asphalt king, FDOT's dream hasn't been accepted with open arms. In 2014, FDOT will try to force their project into the TPO's 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan and convince the community to accept that more asphalt equals progress.

On the other hand, the community will have to decide whether to fight the project from happening or alleviate its negatives while arguing for a more thoughtful design. Either way, if this project is approved, an 11 lane interstate highway will have a significant impact on the neighborhood it penetrates.

For more information:

The Fuller Warren Bridge Expansion Project

Bikes and Pedestrians on the Fuller Warren Bridge

Hendricks Avenue

The urban core has another walkable commercial district starting to emerge and it isn't in downtown or Riverside/Avondale. A number of infill projects have been recently completed, are under construction or are proposed for Hendricks Avenue, between San Marco Square and Interstate 95.

A few years back, local politics tossed out a potential short Skyway extension that would have resulted in San Marco Square being within walking distance of the nearest stop. With Hendricks Avenue now taking off, infill opportunities for the Northeast section of San Marco will only increase as the I-95 Overland Bridge project brings more exposure. Perhaps the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA), their Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) plan consultants and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) should rethink the concept of extending the Skyway to San Marco.

For More Information:

Metro Jacksonville San Marco Forum

Rail Takes Over Florida

Since our founding in 2006, Metro Jacksonville has been the most vocal advocate of rail-based transit in NE Florida. This year, high profile rail projects will dominate the statewide scene. Sunrail, Florida's second commuter rail system, will began operating in the Orlando Metropolitan Area in 2014. FECI's ambitious All Aboard Florida rail system between Miami and Orlando and a modern streetcar project in Downtown Fort Lauderdale will also break ground in 2014.

Seeing the world move without them, Pinellas County residents will be asked this year to decide if they want their taxes raised for light rail. In Jacksonville, with construction in Brooklyn in overdrive, JTA will have to decide if they are going to extend the Skyway or not.

In the meantime, leaders in Tampa are working to make sure the next major rail-based project is in their city and not Jacksonville. Do we even care?

For More Information:

Sunrail Redefining Orlando

Stunning Things Are Happening As Florida Goes Rail

Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at

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Metro Jacksonville