by: Katherine Hardwick in Advocacy, Placemaking No Comments  

Florida Times-Union article published on Friday, September 27, 2013, asks: “If Hemming Plaza is Jacksonville’s front door, could you blame a visitor for being reluctant to ring the bell?” This opinion piece calls for simple, practical steps to make Hemming Plaza more inviting for everyone:

“City officials don’t need to drum up a committee for ideas to immediately improve Hemming Plaza’s overall vibe.

They could simply re-read “Best Practices in Urban Parks.”

It’s the January 2012 report submitted by Downtown Vision Inc., one of Jacksonville’s main downtown advocacy groups, when a City Council special committee previously discussed Hemming Plaza’s future.

The report had plenty of common-sense ideas for improving Hemming Plaza’s appearance. Nearly two years later, those ideas remain just as sensible and worthwhile as ever.

“The issue is attracting more people to (Hemming Plaza),” says Terry Lorince, Downtown Vision’s executive director. “And there really are simple things you can do along the way.”

Hemming Plaza

From short-range to long-range, best practices in urban parks tend to fall into three categories:

  • Make the space clean, safe and attractive;
  • Create events and activities to bring visitors to the park; and
  • Redesign the space based on how the community wants to use it.

It is no mystery that thriving public spaces are essential to Downtown revitalization. Well-articulated and managed public spaces humanize their cities.  They serve as gathering places for social engagement. They capitalize on creative energy of the community and generate economic activity. They are inclusive and welcoming for all, including women and children.

DVI believes Hemming Plaza can once again become all of these things and stands committed to working alongside current and future partners to create an atmosphere that makes the urban park welcoming to the entire community by making it cleaner, safer, more attractive and programmed with lots to do throughout the week.

by: Admin in Thought Leadership No Comments  
Terry Lorince, DVI executive director

Terry Lorince, DVI executive director

Since we published our White Paper, “Turning the Corner: Rethinking and Remaking Downtown,” in 2010, the number of organizations, individuals, projects and events that are focused on developing a compelling Downtown experience has grown by leaps and bounds. Taking a look back at the best practices and recommendations outlined in our white paper, you can see many of them being developed or in place today.

The entertainment district is fueled by a passionate grassroots movement called “The Elbow.” This group unites entertainment and nightlife venues for promotions and events, which are essential in cultivating the vibe of Downtown. If you haven’t experienced a happy hour at one of the dozen bars in The Elbow, it’s time you see what the big deal is all about.

DVI partnered with One Spark and local artists this year to facilitate a number of public art murals, providing beauty, whimsy and a sense of fun in the walkable core. These murals remain today, so take a walk along Adams Street during lunch to enjoy a free art show, open 365 days a year.

Also completed earlier this year, DVI’s Laura Street façade grant program added outdoor café seating and façade and streetscape enhancements that spur sidewalk activity connecting two major nodes of activity, the Hemming Plaza and the riverfront districts.

These are just a few examples of the hundreds of sparks enhancing and connecting major areas of activity in Downtown’s walkable core and the urban core at large. All it takes is a spark, and I’m happy to report Downtown is on fire.

-A message from the executive director, Terry Lorince

Sept. 2013 UpdateRead the full “Downtown Jacksonville Update to learn about what’s happening Downtown in the realm of news, initiatives, developments and more. And if you haven’t already signed up for this monthly e-newsletter, sign-up to have all future Updates sent directly to your email inbox.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Marketing & Promotions No Comments  

All around town, you may have noticed things heating up. Launched this month, Downtown is on Fire is a marketing campaign by people who hold a flame for Downtown, the Downtown Marketing Collaborative. Aiming to raise awareness about what makes Downtown so hot, the campaign is also a direct reference to Jacksonville’s historical identity.

In 1901, Downtown suffered one of the most destructive disasters in U.S. history, in line with the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Chicago fire of 1871. More than 2,000 buildings were destroyed and more than 10,000 people were left homeless. But then something special happened. Jacksonville citizens rallied together for an unprecedented rebuilding effort to create a flourishing Downtown. By 1905, a formerly ravaged area of Downtown Jacksonville looked like this:

Forsyth Street, circa 1905. Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Forsyth Street, circa 1905. Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

But Downtown is on Fire is not about just about the fire of our past. It’s about the sparks of today igniting the fire of our future. Here’s a look at the campaign created by Downtown advertising agency, Wingard Creative.





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Help stoke the flame. Stop by DVI’s office at the corner of Adams and Hogan streets for your free stickers and car decals, Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm.

by: Admin in Art Walk, Events No Comments  

We may not observe a two-week-long Oktoberfest like the Germans do, but the festivities kick off here in Jacksonville with the inaugural Oktoberfest @ Art Walk. Here are 11 random reasons to celebrate this great holiday.

1. Beer makes these guys oh-so-happy.


Last year, Oktoberfest visitors consumed about seven million liters of beer in two weeks.


2. Traditional German fair, like grilled Herring on a stick may not be your thing, but who doesn’t love those big, soft pretzels?


Herring on a stick, also known as steckerlfisch. Circa 1928.


3. It’s also a wedding celebration!!


Oktoberfest originally started as a wedding celebration for Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of  Saxe-Hildburghausen. They decided it should be a yearly event, even if the Prince was said to be a philanderer.


4. It’s a great time to practice self-control so you don’t wind up like this guy, a Bierleichen, a.k.a. a “beer corpse.”


“Bierleichen” refers to people who drink themselves into a state of unconsciousness.


 5. Or this guy:


Beer was not available at the first Oktoberfest.


 6. Or this guy:



Last year, Oktoberfest visitors tried to smuggle out 63,000 empty beer glasses for free souvenirs.


 7. You never know whom you’ll meet, befriend or fall in love with.



Approximately six million people celebrate in Munich.


8. There’s shoe slapping, dancing and singing by the really talented …and the really inebriated.



We hope you remember the Chicken Dance from grade school.


9. Every girl who saw Coyote Ugly and wanted to dance on table gets an opportunity to live the dream.


Beer carts and a carnival-like atmosphere replaced horse races in 1819.


 10. Your lederhosen will double as a great Halloween costume.



Traditional visitors wear hats with a tuft of goat hair. More tufts on the hat, the wealthier you are considered.


11. Did we mention the delicious beer?



In Germany, Oktoberfest beer is brewed with 0.6 to 1.1% more alcohol and sugar than the average German beer.


So remember, whatever you do during the celebration…don’t be these guys.



And don’t drink and drive.


We hope you’ll join us on October 2, from 5-11 p.m. for this first-ever Art Walk benefit. Full details at

by: Admin in Thought Leadership No Comments  
Friendship Fountain

Friendship Fountain

Twenty-one stories above Downtown Jacksonville sits a row of floor-to-ceiling windows, each covered in opaque black paint except for the shapes of nine letters: G, O, J, A, G, U, A, R and S.

Every fall since 2004, these letters – backlit with spotlights on a vacant mechanical floor – have brightened the exterior of the Wells Fargo Center and the hearts of Jaguars fans, all thanks to an idea of several employees.

Some could say the Wells Fargo Center’s “Go Jaguars” message is the most visible example of team spirit Downtown, but it’s not alone. While several initiatives over the years have come and gone (remember the larger-than-life Ed Ball Building mural?), there’s never a lack of spirit or ideas for turning Downtown into “Tealtown.”

For several years, the JAX Chamber’s Downtown Council has spearheaded a community effort to paint Jaguar paw prints to lead the way to EverBank Field. Legend has it that mural-sized Jaxon de Ville of the Bostwick Building walked from his home at the corner of Bay and Ocean streets down Bay to EverBank Field, leaving his paw prints in Jaguar gold along the way. Each August, the annual event draws hundreds of locals Downtown dressed in their Jags merchandise for a morning of community service and celebration.

Bostwick Building

Bostwick Building

New this year is “Stand United Fridays,” organized by the City of Jacksonville and the Jaguars. The spirit campaign encourages locals to show their Jaguars pride every Friday before a regular-season game by sporting their favorite Jags gear. Stand United Fridays also incorporates social media outreach, nightlife promotions, photo competitions, scavenger hunts and much more. For more information, visit

What other efforts could help turn our Downtown teal? Downtown is ripe with opportunities for team-spirit placemaking efforts, from teal fountain waters (already underway at Friendship Fountain through Stand United Fridays) to teal uplighting on Laura Street. How about more murals, a teal-clad Andrew Jackson statue or even banners down sides of historic buildings?

Downtown is the home of the Jaguars and should be the focal point of team spirit. DVI is excited to support the efforts underway to turn the town teal and looks forward to future projects that celebrate what the Jaguars have done for Downtown and for the River City as a whole. It’s time to Stand United for the Jaguars – and for Downtown.

by: Admin in Art Walk, Events No Comments  

First of all don’t be thrown off by the title. There are more than five reasons to party in October but for the sake of blogging rules I picked five.


Waste no time and kick off the month, October 1 with The Florida Theatre’s Blues, Brews and BBQ. This fundraiser for the theatre features local craft beer, local live blues music and tours of the theatre.

Save some energy because the very next day, yours truly (DVI) is hosting the inaugural Oktoberfest @ Art  Walk benefit. Hemming Plaza and Laura Street will transform into a biergarten block party featuring Dan Witulcki & Mein Heimatland Musikanten, an oompah-pah band that will get the crowd going with contests and dancing. Dress to the nines in lederhosens, gorge on eating German-style food and enjoy a beautiful evening under the stars (that means no rain is allowed). The party, featuring local, seasonal and German beer, has extended hours until 11 p.m. All proceeds from beer sales benefit future First Wednesday Art Walks.


Give your liver a break from the drinks and the food you just consumed and your body a treat. Stop by Community First Saturday, it’s the second one of the season!

Though outside of the official Downtown boundaries, the week of partying wraps up with our neighbors over in Riverside at Memorial Park for Intuition Ale Works’ third Oktoberfest celebration. The party features tapping of their Oktoberfest brews, games, contests, live music and more. Proceeds benefit the Memorial Park Association.

The first week of October sets the precedent for the rest of the month. Catch up on some sleep and be prepared for the three-day Jaxtoberfest at the Shipyards. Jaxtoberfest features a 5k, live music, kid activities and of course German food and beer.

So what I’m trying to tell you is that there is no reason to have a boring October. Grab your friends, attend these events and have a ball.

For more Downtown events visit DVI’s event calender.

by: Admin in Placemaking No Comments  
Valerie Feinberg

Valerie Feinberg

Public spaces are an important part of the fabric of every urban environment, including Downtown Jacksonville. Below, DVI’s Valerie Feinberg discusses the importance of effective urban public spaces. Valerie, DVI’s director of strategic partnerships, has a diverse background in urban planning with expertise in healthy community design, walkable places and beautification She holds degrees in both Interior Design and City and Regional Planning.

What is the value of public space in downtowns?

Public spaces are a vital part of every day life in cities, starting with the streets we pass on the way to work. It includes public parks and open space, and in Downtown Jacksonville, it is where our most fabulous asset is enjoyed — the St. Johns River. Public space provides places for sitting and social gatherings or a respite from the hustle of daily life. Quality public spaces have a positive impacts on physical and mental health; reduce crime and the fear of crime; and promote social interaction. In addition to the qualitative value of public spaces, there is a direct economic impact when cities provide well-designed and well-maintained public places that attract customers and workers.

How does Downtown Jacksonville compare with other cities’ open spaces?

I just returned from a visit to Downtown Chicago. What a fabulous city full of wonderful public spaces! It is clean and well-maintained. I observed a Downtown Ambassador picking up litter and felt proud that our own Ambassadors work as diligently, picking up litter and pressure-washing our streets.

While in Chicago, I was particularly focused on the beautiful plant containers with a variety of vegetation accented with colorful flowers. As I walk our Downtown streets, I am encouraged by all of the opportunities we’ve identified for beautification. Chicago benefits from a large tax base dedicated for public space enhancements and maintenance. We have a few challenges with respect to funding, so partnerships are key, something DVI is working on for future beautification initiatives.

Friendship Fountain

Friendship Fountain

What is your ideal public space?

For me, it’s a place where I can close my eyes, look toward the sky, feel the sun on my face and hear water splashing in the background. In Jacksonville, I consider Friendship Fountain an ideal public space on the Southbank. It is a place where families can enjoy the majestic fountain with our beautiful Downtown skyline as a backdrop. There are places to sit and places for kids to run. And very soon, with the renovation of the Southbank Riverwalk, we will have updated, more effective connectivity to Southbank parks, residences, businesses and activities.

What are Downtown Jacksonville’s other successes?

In addition to Friendship Fountain, we have seen an increase in public art on the Northbank. DVI and the Cultural Council understand the importance of public space as both organizations facilitated recent mural projects Downtown — DVI worked with Chamblin’s Uptown on a façade mural and the Cultural Council sponsored the Yates Parking Garage murals. Not to overlook, either, is the efforts of several One Spark creators, who’ve added other examples of incredible public art to the Downtown street scene.

We have great foundation on which to elevate our existing public spaces and create new gems as we look toward redevelopment opportunities Downtown. In addition to the physical and natural elements that create successful public spaces, activity is an integral element — people enjoying public spaces whether it be a programmed event or a relaxed experience.

For more information on public spaces, ideas for future spaces or sponsorship opportunities, contact Valerie at