Solar-powered parking meters take credit cards and small change.

City Council is currently considering Ordinance 2012-674, which would modify the way that City-owned parking facilities are managed, allowing the City’s Public Parking Office with the flexibility to manage parking resources to best meet Downtown’s parking needs.

If approved, the Parking Office will be able to respond quickly to market conditions in order to be competitive with private parking facilities, provide for the most efficient use of City facilities, use parking as an incentive mechanism and achieve larger economic development and Downtown revitalization goals. Specifically, passage of this ordinance would mean that the City would be able to change parking meter and garage rates without approval of the City Council.

DVI supports the proposed ordinance, which will provide a more customer service oriented approach to public parking and will help to change the misperception that parking Downtown is difficult. Also, we agree that the Downtown Investment Authority should be the entity that reports and approves parking incentives and policy regarding rates and other items the legislation creates.

by: Bruce Johnson in Thought Leadership No Comments  

When you are alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go – downtown.

Photo by Rob Futrell

The first two lines of Petula Clark’s 1965 international hit recording set the tone for the rest of her song that is a tribute to the role and importance of downtowns in our lives. Unfortunately, over the 47 years since her song was recorded, America’s downtowns have been in a state of decline. But was Petula Clark’s view right about the role of downtowns?

Mayor Brown recently addressed our own Downtown and proposed to the Jacksonville City Council the creation of a Downtown Investment Authority, which has since been approved.  This new agency will serve as the City’s Community Redevelopment Agency for the Downtown redevelopment area. This agency and other accompanying legislation were important components of Mayor Brown’s Downtown revitalization campaign proposal.

Revitalization of Jacksonville’s downtown has been important to all of Jacksonville’s mayors since post consolidation in 1968, when Mayor Hans Tanzler took office. Jacksonville is not unlike other cities throughout the United States. Cities of all sizes, locations and ages are developing or implementing plans that would revitalize, regrow and/or reinvent their downtowns. Indianapolis, San Diego and Kansas City, to name a few, are among those cities that have very active and focused revitalization efforts.

But why has revitalization and redevelopment of our nation’s downtowns become an important focus for so many cities? The traditional reasons for redevelopment or revitalization generally include: city image and economic development efforts, existing infrastructure, transit viability, access to essential public services and providing community focus.

City image is certainly an important reason—it is so closely linked to economic development and marketing efforts. As the downtowns of many cities have declined, the political and business leadership of these communities has recognized the importance of a vibrant, quality image. Strong downtowns assist in attracting new businesses and people to the region, as the quality of a downtown is frequently used by companies as a key criterion in the selection process for relocations. A city’s image is also important to marketing efforts targeted at tourists and visitors.

Downtowns have been described as the souls of their cities. Last year, Downtown Las Vegas selected “Every City has a Soul” as its slogan. Strong, vibrant downtowns are a source of community pride, not unlike the impact of successful professional sports teams.

Photo by Rob Futrell

A strong downtown provides a community a centralized focus area. As the recognized central gathering place, successful regional events, major productions and cultural activities positively impact its image and community pride. The St. Johns River, EverBank Field, the Times-Union Center for Performing Arts, the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena and The Jacksonville Landing all provide the opportunity for community focus in our city.

Beyond these more-traditional reasons for and benefits from Downtown revitalization, are there other reasons to revitalize our Downtown?  Edward Glaeser, a Harvard urban economist, thinks so. His recently published book, Triumph of the City: How our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier, is a compelling and provocative book that sings the praise of downtowns. Calling it our greatest invention, through research and analysis he destroys a number of myths. Urban cores have a reputation of being “dirty, poor, unhealthy, crime-ridden, expensive and environmentally unfriendly.” Glaeser points out that actually urban cores are the “healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live.” He makes a very forceful case why we should nurture (revitalize) downtowns.

I am glad Mayor Brown has made a first step in the revitalization of Jacksonville’s Downtown because I believe a healthy, vibrant Downtown is important to our region and the citizens of Jacksonville—And because I believe Petula Clark’s Downtown should be our Downtown.

*Post published with permission by Bruce Johnson, chair of Urban Land Institute North Florida.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Thought Leadership 1 Comment  


Downtown St. Petersburg

The Seamless City by Rick Baker, former Mayor of St. Petersburg is a primer on how to revitalize a city, and was based on Baker’s experience as Mayor from 2001-2010.  The book details his plan of action, which included enhancing public safety, increasing jobs, improving government operations, addressing homelessness, promoting the city and measuring progress. In fact, it could be the playbook for almost any large urban area.

His overarching approach to revitalizing Downtown St. Petersburg was based on the premise that “there would be so much going on Downtown that people will come, even if… they have nothing particular in mind what they want to do, confident that they can simply come Downtown and pick from a variety of activities once they get there.“

This plan included the following action steps:

  • Expand the number of reoccurring events along the waterfront park – with an emphasis on events that fill hotels.
  • Develop and expand fixed activity generators like medical complexes, marine research, education, business, hotels, shopping and restaurants.
  • Support and expand cultural amenities Downtown to become the cultural center of Florida.
  • Make Beach Drive, along their waterfront park, a café and retail activity generator and link this district to other districts.
  • Improve access to and around Downtown.
  • Focus on making Downtown a more desirable place to live and work.

Baker also referenced their failures along the way, which included attempts to recruit Full Sail University, the Savannah College of Art and Design and major retail Downtown.

While each city is different, there are a few takeaways that Jacksonville can learn from.

First, the Mayor and his administration to proactively pursued who and what they wanted Downtown. From recruiting businesses and schools to international art shows, the Mayor and the business community went after strategic sources to try and leverage their pull for Downtown.

Second, while most cities talk about making their Downtowns a great place to live and work, St. Pete’s leadership knew this meant a careful attention to detail in making the Downtown more attractive. Wider sidewalks, café tables and umbrellas and flowers were implemented to create great public open spaces, which made people feel safe and comfortable while Downtown.

Third, it takes a plan of three-to-five major initiatives, which are focused, executable in the short term and easily measurable.

Mayor Baker will be in Jacksonville for the ULI North Florida Member-Only Breakfast Meeting on December 11th. The meeting is limited to the first 50 members to register.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Downtown Vision, Inc. No Comments  

How many people visit Downtown Jacksonville each year? How long is the Riverwalk? How many Downtown Ambassadors do we have?

Keeping Downtown Jacksonville safe, clean, friendly and lively is our goal at Downtown Vision. We thought it would be fun to share some of the numbers of Downtown’s people, places and events.

Downtown by the numbers

  • There are 15 Downtown Ambassadors who work to keep the city clean and safe, and the visitors happy seven days a week
  • Each year, the Downtown Ambassadors mulch more than 500 tree beds
  • DVI maintains 65 flower baskets, which line the streets of Downtown
  • Now in its eight year, the First Wednesday Art Walk, DVI’s signature event, brings more than 6,000 people to the core of Downtown each month
  • Eat Up Downtown, a two-week dining promotion, brings thousands of diners to Downtown Jacksonville—approximately 24,000 alone in 2012
  • Movies in the Park, held on Downtown’s Southbank, draws approximately 3,000 people each year since 2008
  • There are now more than 24 bars in the core, providing a great locale for after work drinks
  • There are more than ten major cultural and entertainment venues Downtown, from theatres to museums to stadiums and more.
  • Downtown Jacksonville is now home to 3,200 residents
  • Downtown Jacksonville boasts 1,100 businesses with three Fortune 500 headquarters, more than 52,000 employees
  • The famed Riverwalk is 2.77 miles long
  • There are 2,153 hotel rooms in Downtown Jacksonville
  • In total, more than 10 million people visit Downtown Jacksonville each year.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Resident Spotlights No Comments  

Tiffany Manning has the life. The Downtown life. She traded in her spacious suburban home for a cozy Downtown apartment for the reason many others choose urban living – the commute.  Her daughter attends a Downtown magnet school and the commute from St Johns County was just too much. The transition proved to be an empowering change and gave her an opportunity to build out a creative studio space to grow her career as a professional photographer.

After months of renovating, she moved in to a picture perfect studio at 220 E. Forsyth, a building and area of Jacksonville’s urban core that is attracting more and more creative professionals.  The walk to work is the dream commute.

Tiffany was fortunate to find a two-story loft where the downstairs entry displays a gallery of her work. Her office and studio reside in the loft upstairs. She painted the walls and floor stark white to draw in the natural light of the skylights, an important element for her work.  Hidden among the exposed wood ceiling beams is a ladder that comes down every evening when Tiffany ventures out onto the roof to enjoy the sunset over Jacksonville.

Tiffany’s business philosophy is to create an experience for her clients – she wants them to feel pampered, shut down the busyness of day-to-day life, and enjoy a magical photo shoot.  That’s how she captures the best scenes and expressions. And her Downtown studio offers that experience.

She hosts commercial clients, individuals and families in her studio for her photo shoots. Parking is convenient directly below her building and her guests appreciate the short walk to myriad nearby restaurants for a lunch break.

What her clients say about her space: “This place is awesome.”  “This makes me want to move Downtown.”

The best thing about living and working Downtown: “I only get in my car to take my daughter to school.”  “We can ride our bikes to the Riverside Arts Market and around the Riverwalk.”

You can see more of her work at


by: Katherine Hardwick in Resident Spotlights No Comments  

The 2010 Census confirmed that over the past 10 years, populations in many downtowns nationwide have increased. This statistic is largely attributed to preferences of two of the largest generations in American history, Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and Millennials (born 1981-2000). Together these generations are reducing the percentage of total households with children, traditionally the demographic most interested in suburban homes with sizeable lots for kids to play in.

Downtown event set in front of Downtown residentialAccording to USA Today, “In 2000, young adults with a four-year degree were about 61% more likely to live in close-in urban neighborhoods than their less-educated counterparts. Now, they are about 94% more likely.” College-educated Millennials put more and more value on the convenience and excitement of living in an urban center, and capturing this demographic is a real competitive advantage for any city.

While it’s not a lifestyle for everyone, calling Downtown home often means:

Downtown Jacksonville is making strides in expanding the amount of available Downtown housing. The recent groundbreaking of 220 Riverside and the Downtown Investment Authority’s signoff on a second major residential community in Brooklyn will contribute greatly to residential landscape. Moving forward, DVI hopes to see more residential added to the walkable core, preferably through the conversion of existing derelict structures to satisfy the increasing demand for Downtown housing.

by: Admin in Placemaking No Comments  

Downtown Jacksonville can learn a lot about placemaking in public spaces by looking at two successful urban parks in Cincinnati, Ohio: Cincinnati’s Fountain Square and Washington Park.

Fountain Square (Photo courtesy of 3CDC)

Fountain Square is a park very similar in size to Downtown Jacksonville’s Hemming Plaza and was renovated in 2006. It is active space with tables, chairs, lunchtime crowds and events held every night throughout the summer. It is also the central gathering place for celebrations in Cincinnati including New Year’s and the “Light Up The Square” holiday event.

Another popular Cincinnati park, Washington Park, opened in August 2012. Washington Park is a grass park with a dog walk and a neighborhood feel, similar to Jacksonville’s Confederate Park.

Washington Park (Photo courtesy of 3CDC)

Each park was renovated at a cost of $50 million, which included the cost to construct parking garages under them. Both have annual budgets of approximately $2.5 million, which are spent on  security, programming, cleanliness, promotions and other activities. A major source of revenue comes from holding third-party events in these parks.

A Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) presentation given to the Urban Land Institute this fall provides great photos of Fountain Square and Washington Park. You can find the presentations at the links below:

Fountain Square Park presentation and photos

Washington Park photos presentations and photos

We believe both spaces provide great case studies for the reactivation and revitalization of Hemming Plaza. What improvements would you like to see made to Hemming Plaza?