by: Admin in Uncategorized No Comments  

Yesterday on the St. Johns River, there we were – dozens of people bundled up in the unseasonable March cold. Sweaters. Scarves. Winter coats. And gloveless hands, each holding up a smart phone or camera capturing Downtown from one of its most breathtaking views.

We were taking a special tour of the new Jacksonville vessel for Foxy Lady Cruises, serving the Downtown area beginning this Easter weekend. Originally from Green Bay, Wisc., Foxy Lady Cruises is another effort in the revitalization of Downtown. The company’s affordable dining, themed cruises, and corporate and special events are aimed to entertain both locals and visitors.

There’s something to be said about being a tourist in your hometown. A 2011 initiative called “The Happiness Project,” featured this home-tourism idea as one way to live a happier life. As noted in the accompanying video below, “being a tourist is a state of mind.”

When was the last time you walked along Laura street, popping into its unique shops, including Chamblin’s Uptown, Diversions and KAnthony Boutique? Have you and the kids visited MOCA Jacksonville, MOSH, the Maritime Heritage Center or the Main Library since new exhibits rolled through? And if your tastebuds haven’t experienced some of Downtown’s newer restaurants – Pho, A Noodle Bar, for one – then you’re missing out of some of North Florida’s best dining.

For a nudge in the right direction, our Downtown Itineraries have great starting points for an afternoon outing with the kids, a date-night with your main squeeze, fitness routines and more.

Downtown is ready for you. Go ahead – unearth its hidden gems and rediscover old favorites that truly make our beautiful Downtown a North Florida destination. After all, there’s no place like home.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Placemaking No Comments  

Recently a blank canvas, the Chamblin’s Uptown storefront came alive last week thanks to local muralist Shaun Thurston. Four more murals are set to grace the corners of the Yates Garage this spring and summer thanks to the Cultural Council’s Art in Public Places program in conjunction with the City of Jacksonville. And, One Spark is sure to bring even more art and innovation our way in less than a month.

These murals are one important facet of creative placemaking, the power of the arts to create new economies, cultural destinations and vital neighborhoods. A recent article by MinnPost makes the case for harnessing creative placemaking to foster human capital and stimulate economic development.

“We may be used to thinking of community development  in terms of bricks and mortar, but the lifeblood of any neighborhood is the people who live there. The aim of community developers is to improve quality of life, not just build housing or beautify streets. Quality of life implies that residents have access to basic opportunities in their neighborhood, but also that they feel connected to that neighborhood, invested in it; they feel that they have a say in its future as well as their own.

Creating or experiencing art can give people a fulfilling sense of personal power. We all have something to say about the world, and art helps us find our voice. It can also help us find each other. Arts activities provide valuable opportunities for people to gather and interact. Personal  power gained through art can become community power, and collective action that results from that power can be transformative.”

Read the whole article here: Let’s use the power of the arts to stimulate community development.


by: Katherine Hardwick in Advocacy, Developments No Comments  

Following last week’s approval by City Council, today, Mayor Brown signed legislation to invest $11 million this year: $9 million to leverage private investment in Downtown and $2 million towards job-creating economic improvements across Jacksonville.

This is Downtown’s time. Businesses are moving back Downtown to give employees an authentic, urban experience. Residential buildings are reporting occupancy rates of over 90%. We’re getting more public art Downtown. All you have to do is look at our events calendar to see how much is going on Downtown now
…and just wait until Downtown Jacksonville hosts the world’s first crowd-funding festival, One Spark in April.

This kind of strategic, public-private investment will take us past the tipping point to create a vibrant Downtown that looks like Art Walk every night, attracts more businesses to our region and increases the quality of life for everyone in Jacksonville.

Thank you, Mayor Brown and your staff for making Downtown a clear priority.

Thank you, City Council for supporting approving the Mayor’s reinvestment plan.

Thank you, Downtown Investment Authority for devoting your time and talents in Downtown.

Thank you, everyone who spoke on behalf of this legislation.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Advocacy (2) Comments  

Bike taxidermy

From affixing a grill on the back of your bike, like the elegant “Backbrat,” to turning your beloved old ride into taxidermy (yes, seriously), bike culture is a passion for many. And why not? Biking is good for our health, our planet and our wallets. So then, why don’t we see more bikes in Downtown Jacksonville?

To some extend, the fact that Jacksonville is so expansive plays a role. Most of us aren’t just going to hop on our beach cruisers and pedal over “the ditch” and all the way into Downtown. But more to the point, present day Downtown was not designed for bicycles. One-way streets were implemented in the 1960s with cars in mind, and more specifically to allow cars to travel faster in and out of Downtown – a product of their time but a detriment to cyclists.

Mayor Brown celebrating last year’s Bike Month Downtown.

We are, however, making progress. You may have heard of the Context Sensitive Streets Special Committee, chaired by City Councilmember, Lori Boyer. The committee was created to “review the existing Context Sensitive Streets Guidelines that have been drafted by the Planning Department but not implemented, determine the appropriateness of these guidelines, investigate any other information pertinent to this issue, and make recommendations for and/or draft legislation as appropriate to address this issue.”

In other words, as it relates to cyclists and pedestrians, the committee looks at transportation planning designs to make sure streets fit their physical settings and preserve scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility. The goal is to create streets that don’t put the needs of cars over the needs of everyone else.

At the heart of the issue is safety. Recently, the national Alliance for Biking and Walking ranked Jacksonville as the third-worst large city in the United States in average annual traffic deaths for bicyclists and the second worst for deaths of pedestrians, based on several factors including population.

Bike Share in Downtown Minneapolis

We can learn a lot from cities like Minneapolis, MN, where Downtown is filed with bike commuters and couriers. Bike shares, like these line the streets in Downtown Minneapolis. City buses and trains all have bicycle-carrying capabilities and office buildings are required by law to provide bicycle storage. A master bicycle plan intends to bring all residents within a half-mile of a bike lane by 2020. It’s no wonder Minneapolis was been ranked as one of the best biking city in the country by Bike Score, the #2 biking city by Bicycling Magazine, and the #4 bicycling city in the nation by the US Census Bureau. It’s this type of commitment to cycling that helps energize Downtown Minneapolis.

So its great news then, that the Context Sensitive Streets Committee has drafted legislation to appoint a full-time bicycle/pedestrian coordinator to the Planning and Development Department. As the demand to live and work Downtown increases, we hope to see many more bikes Downtown and a shared understanding of sharing the road.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Placemaking No Comments  

Some of Downtown Jacksonville’s most memorable and iconic buildings are not the tallest, rather they’re the most artful.

Take, for instance, the building many people know as the “Jaguar Building.” Situated at the base of the Main St. bridge, the historic Bostwick Building is in danger or demolition. Thanks to the well-known mural called “Cat House,” painted and installed by Jim Draper and Anne Banas in 1995, the building’s recognition is high and the number of advocates looking to save this Downtown icon is higher yet. Or, consider Burrito Gallery. A staple of Downtown, “BG” is loved by locals for its delicious Tex-Mex and its art, both inside and out. The popular eatery boasts a frequently photographed two-story mural named, “Midnight City” painted by local artist MactruQue in 2004.

These are just two works that contribute to the soul and identity of our city. According to Robert Arleigh White, executive director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, “Public art creates a strong sense of place and community.  Many times, it is the thing that attracts people to a place and creates impressions, memories and aspirations that can last a lifetime.”

Ron Chamblin in front of Downtown’s newest mural

Ron Chamblin of Chamblin’s Uptown bookstore and café understands just how important a sense of place is to the urban environment. Chamblin has commissioned Downtown’s newest mural as a part of DVI’s Laura Street Façade Grant Program, a matching grant program established in 2011 to provide economic incentive for property and business owners to improve building facades and storefronts.

This weekend, local muralist Shaun Thurston began work on the permanent a mural. Thurston, known for his vibrant 5 Points murals (including work in Sun-Ray Cinema) was selected by DVI and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville from a pool of local artists. Chamblin’s mural will complement four murals being installed Downtown on the Yates Garage by the Cultural Council’s Art in Public Places program in concert with the City of Jacksonville and additional public art in conjunction with One Spark.

by: Admin in Uncategorized No Comments  

Jacksonville is lucky to boast one of the most beautiful urban core settings in the country coupled with local groups and initiatives determined to keep it that way.

In 2012, five Downtown buildings were awarded a total of $105,000 in grants from the City’s Commercial Building Energy Challenge. Also last year, Downtown’s Bank of America Tower was awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

The North Florida chapter of the Council is currently raising funds for its Sustainability Resource Center, which found its urban-core home through a partnership with Downtown Vision, Inc. and the Downtown Green Collaborative. Looking forward, USGBC has partnered with the City on an initiative to help curb energy consumption Downtown and across the River City: a free three-part workshop series for the commercial and non-profit business sector. These workshops held at the EverBank Center will cover energy usage, benchmarking, measurement and verification, and how this can affect your company’s bottom-line:

To learn more about the series, visit, where you can register for each of the free workshops. Consider this your invitation to help make Downtown – and all of Jacksonville – a greener, more sustainable city.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Downtown Shout-outs No Comments  
On moving his business Downtown: “The visual arts, those types of business — it feels like it belongs [Downtown].  It feels like a lot of really good energy. I feel like the location’s really cool.”
 – Shane Douberly, Dripsblack

Read the full article at Jacksonville Business Journal: New to Downtown, owner of animations studio says creative biz belongs in urban core