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

Terry Lorince, DVI executive director

When most people think of downtown revitalization projects, they think of developers, local business leaders and city politicians. But Jacksonville’s explosive growth, primarily in the entertainment venues, can be attributed to several young entrepreneurs who saw great opportunity and were willing to take the risks to turn Downtown into a destination.

This was a key point from my recent Times-Union editorial celebrating this entrepreneurial trend, which you can read in full here. But that’s just one log on the entrepreneurial fire. Many of Downtown’s bars are now featuring the limited edition, only-in-Downtown Smoke IPA by locally owned and operated brewer Intuition Ale Works.

Food trucks, the quintessential entrepreneurial endeavor, have catalyzed even more talk of Downtown vibrancy this week, which we elaborate on below. Arts and culture initiatives, like the Spark District, are heating up cold and vacant storefronts and bringing energy to the streets. Also, tech start-ups and, of course, Downtown Jacksonville’s very own One Spark crowd-funding festival are further fanning the flame and garnering national media attention.

Each entrepreneur is a spark in the fire of Downtown’s future, growing Downtown’s economy and making Downtown vibrant. For that, we thank each and every one of you.

Downtown is on Fire

Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 12.40.27 PMRead 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.

Photo by Brett Oakes

Food truck open for business during February’s First Wednesday Art Walk. Photo by Brett Oakes.

The conversation of food trucks’ place in Jacksonville – more specifically, the urban core – heated up once again this week in response to proposed legislation that would limit food trucks throughout the city.

The legislation, proposed by City Councilman Reggie Brown, would prohibit food trucks from operating near city parks, certain residential areas and between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., among other potentially truck-crippling stipulations.

While DVI is thrilled to hear this conversation shine a light on efforts to boost Downtown’s urban vitality, DVI recognizes this is a sensitive topic for competing brick-and-mortar restauranteurs and food-truck operators.

Today, WJCT’s Melissa Ross invited DVI’s executive director, Terry Lorince, to share her thoughts on Ross’s weekday morning show, First Coast Connect.

“We really need to pay attention to the vibrancy that these foods trucks bring to Downtown and that vibrancy and its ability to attract other businesses that want to locate Downtown,” Lorince said in the interview. “And I don’t mean food trucks, I mean that companies are going to want to come down here, bring more employees down here, because of an added vibrancy.”

Lorince also spoke on what she thinks concerned restauranteurs are looking for:

“I think what they’re really looking for is they’re looking for predictability,” she said. “They want to know what the rules are, they want to know how to play [by those rules], they want to know how many food trucks can come, and they’re also looking for communication.”

She continued:

“There needs to be a dialogue with the City Council, the mayor’s office, restauranteurs and food trucks sitting down, and competing interests talking with each other.”

first_coast_connect_logo_01Listen in to the full interview with Terry Lorince, along with Dale Stoudt of Jax Truckies, here.

DVI released a survey to gauge Downtown stakeholders’ thoughts on food trucks. If you haven’t yet, please take five minutes to complete the four-question survey.

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Aundra Wallace, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, speaks at the Friday, Feb. 21, Downtown Council meeting.

The JAX Chamber Downtown Council‘s meeting at the University Club was packed last Friday, Feb. 21, to hear from Aundra Wallace, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority.

Wallace spoke on a plethora of current initiatives and ideas to help spur Downtown Jacksonville’s revival. He laid out five areas the DIA plans to focus on over the next 10-15 years:

  • Establishing Downtown as a unique, cultural hub for Northeast Florida
  • Spurring a “24-hour” Downtown that is active day and night through focusing on residential projects
  • Defining, establishing and supporting high-priority development projects
  • Enhancing Downtown attractiveness to encourage investment
  • Creating an interconnected network of public spaces

“I’m not swinging for a home run,” he said. “I’m swinging for singles because they add up.”

Wallace also spoke of the importance of larger-scale development and improvement projects. Focuses include the future of the Shipyards, vacant land adjacent to the Prime Osborn Convention Center, the proposed Jacksonville Landing redevelopment, retail enhancement and much-needed improvements to Hemming Plaza.

A hot topic at the meeting was the ease at which visitors get around Downtown. Wallace said one priority in this realm is signage. “How you get to and from [places Downtown] has to be addressed,” he said. He also mentioned the idea of converting many of Downtown’s one-way streets into two-way streets to encourage people to be more comfortable coming Downtown.

Wallace also touched on Downtown safety, more specifically, the common misconception that Downtown is unsafe. In fact, Downtown is one of the safest neighborhoods in the region. Wallace noted that he’s lived in several major cities, and the homeless are just as many, if not more, there than Downtown Jacksonville.

“We don’t have a homeless problem,” Wallace said. “We have a density problem.” The more people come Downtown to enjoy events, dining, nightlife and more, the less apparent the homeless will appear.

Downtown CouncilThe next Downtown Council meeting, March 7, will host Jen Jones, executive director of Unity Plaza, an urban park currently under construction in Brooklyn adjacent to the 220 Riverside residential project. For more information on the Downtown Investment Authority and current projects, visit the DIA’s official webpage or contact Wallace at awallace@coj.net.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Thought Leadership No Comments  

Downtown Vision, Inc.‘s executive director Terry Lorince submitted the following editorial to the Florida Times-Union to celebrate the young entrepreneurs responsible for Downtown’s home grown nightlife scene. This editorial appeared in the Florida Times-Union print edition earlier this week and can also be read on Jacksonville.com. We welcome feedback to contact@downtownjacksonville.org.

Burro Bar at Art Walk

When most people think of downtown revitalization projects, they think of developers, local business leaders and city politicians.

But Jacksonville’s explosive growth, primarily in the entertainment venues, can be attributed to several young entrepreneurs who saw great opportunity and were willing to take the risks to turn downtown into a destination.

Almost all of downtown Jacksonville’s bars are locally and independently owned and operated.

That’s truly unique.

Burrito Gallery was among the first entrepreneurial ventures. It opened in 2005.

“Back then, downtown was just screaming for an eclectic, ethnic, trendy spot,” said Paul Shockey, co-owner of Burrito Gallery

“So we took that leap of faith and look where we are today. We’re getting ready to expand our restaurant.”

In 2010, Downtown Vision Inc. approached the young owners of Burro Bags — a bicycle bags, gear and apparel shop in Springfield — about moving downtown.

They relocated and soon entered a joint venture with friends to open Burro Bar.

It helped pave the way for more entrepreneurs to invest in downtown.

“As soon as we moved downtown, we saw the energy among locals just waiting to be tapped,” said Jack Twachtman, owner of the Burro Bar.

Even young entrepreneurs outside of the urban core saw the growing energy across downtown and jumped on the bandwagon.

Underbelly — voted the No. 1 live music venue in 2013 by Void Magazine — opened in 2012.

It relocated to downtown from its former home in 5 Points.

And the owners of The Fox in Avondale opened Chomp Chomp, which quickly became a popular lunchtime and late night downtown eatery.

These happy hour and nightlife destinations consistently receive high marks on Yelp and Urbanspoon.

Dos Gatos, opened by a Jacksonville native in 2009, was recently named one of the “100 Best Bars in the South” by Southern Living magazine.

And the momentum is growing.

Just last month, downtown welcomed two new nightlife venues — the Downtown Cigar Lounge and The Volstead, a speakeasy style cocktail bar whose young owners all previously worked at Burrito Gallery and teamed with Content Design Group, a downtown design firm, to transform a raw space on Adams Street into a seven-day-a-week nightspot.

The independent spirit that brings entrepreneurs downtown also brings them together.

The Elbow nightlife district was formed in 2012, bringing together downtown bars, restaurants and entertainment venues.

“Downtown is close knit,” said Jason Hunnicutt, owner of 1904 Music Hall.

“The Elbow really spotlights this sense of community and gives our district an identity.”

These are just a few of the young entrepreneurs investing in downtown. And their ventures are not limited to nightlife.

From restaurants to retail, creative firms to artists, young entrepreneurship is thriving in downtown Jacksonville.

“When I arrived in Jacksonville, I was amazed by all of the young entrepreneurs who have such a strong commitment to seeing downtown thrive,” said Audra Wallace, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority.

“I commend them for taking the initiative and the risks to bring their visions of a vibrant downtown to life,” Wallace said.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Downtown Partners, Thought Leadership (2) Comments  

World Class Jax is a group of local business owners, executives, and philanthropists who have come together to achieve action items that will turn Jacksonville’s Downtown into a world-class Downtown by 2025.

Six teams meet twice a month: Health and Wellness, Tourism, Downtown Development and Financing, Downtown Information and Engagement, Walkability and Homelessness. Through a partnership with World Class Jax, DVI will share updates and opportunities through our blog.

The most recent team updates are outlined below, and the next meetings will be held on Thursday, February 27 and Thursday, March 13 from 5:30-7 p.m. at CoWork Jax. It is never too late to join in and all are welcome!

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by: Liz Grebe in Events, Spotlight No Comments  

With less than two months to One Spark, you’ve probably noticed it’s taken over the city – posters in ground-level businesses, advertisements at many bus stations, a wrapped Skyway car. Soon Creators, musicians and folks from across the globe will swarm Downtown streets to attend the festival April 9-13.

In its second year, this festival is bound to be bigger and better than the first, with more money to distribute and already more than 700 Creators signed up to participate.

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Executive Director Joe Sampson

Behind this incredible event, you’ll find an incredible team. Made up of creative guys and gals, we recently had a chance to catch up with Joe Sampson, executive director of One Spark.

How did you get involved with One Spark, and why?

When I met co-founder Elton Rivas, One Spark immediately stood out to me as a project of action that provides a platform for others to take action. Since moving to Jacksonville, I noticed that we’d almost been crippled by endless talking, meeting, talking about meeting and then conducting a series of studies about the meetings. I halfway kid, but the point I’m making is that One Spark is for those who do, and the prospect of what it could become was attractive enough for me to leave a job that I loved.

What do you love most about One Spark? 

I love that it takes crowdfunding offline and creates a real-life version of Kickstarter, surrounded by a more intimate version of the programming you’d experience at SXSW. I love that it forces people to connect, to engage and to inspire each other. In the age of digital everything, it feels good to be a part of something successful that’s going against the grain.

What have you learned about Downtown and through this experience?  

I lived in Downtown Jacksonville long before One Spark, but my experience at One Spark has definitely reinforced that Downtown Jacksonville is misunderstood. It’s taught me that everyone thinks you need permission to make it awesome. You don’t – just go for it. As for me, I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn and a lot of room to grow, but I couldn’t be in a better place and time to do just that.

One Spark is much more than the festival in April. What else does the One Spark crew have under their sleeves? 

I could tell you, but lightning would come down from the skies and take me out. We may be rolling out some big news March 20.

So what’s new for One Spark 2014 that you can share with us? 

Bigger funding opportunities for Creators, better programming and entertainment for all and a more concentrated event footprint. One Spark 2014 Creators will showcase their projects in art, innovation, music, science and technology for a chance to access $310,000 (including ELEVEN $10,000 checks!) in guaranteed crowdfunds and cash awards, $3.25 million in potential capital investments and unlimited individual contributions from well over 150,000 attendees. One Spark attendees will experience a Food Village presented by San Marco Dining District, a Beer Village (BEER!) presented by Sea Best Seafood, a Creator Music Stage, Community First Pitch Decks, nightly concerts in the One Spark After Dark Lot, Wi-Fi on steroids, VIP parties, a world-class Speaker Series and a few sprinkles of epic and random entertainment throughout the festival footprint.

Anything else you want to add? 

Go to BeOneSpark.com to learn more – we’re making updates every day. Take a moment to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. That’s the surest way to stay current on news and festival announcements. Share One Spark with your friends and family – don’t assume they know what’s happening April 9-13. Once you’re here at the festival, vote for your favorite Creator projects! Your vote = funding for your favorite Creators. See you in April!

by: Morgan Albaum in Business Spotlights, Spotlight No Comments  

gusandcosign

Walk into the shop at 228 W. Adams St. and you’re greeted with friendly smiles and the distinctive aroma of quality leather and shoe shine, three hallmarks of a tradition that began Downtown more than a century ago.

gregandleeFor the past 110 years, Gus and Company, a family-owned repair and alterations business, has brought convenience and expertise to patrons in Jacksonville with no intentions of stopping. They’ve recently changed locations Downtown to increase their client base and further build customer relationships.

The company specializes in repair work, dry cleaning and alterations. They now even offer online ordering to make life easier for their customers. The stores are handled by Greg and his son, Lee, the grandson and great grandson of the original Gus Felos.

In 1904, Gus had the idea of starting a repair shop and later passed it down to his two sons, Sam and Jerry. Since then, it has grown to multiple locations, with its main location Downtown, and is still a family-owned business.gusandcogroup

While the shop originally started on Bay Street, it has moved several times but never farther than a few blocks. When asked why they’ve kept the business Downtown for so many years, Lee said it’s their “loyal customers” that keep them going.

Greg and Lee believe businesses will always have challenges, including keeping up with high demands. “Our biggest obstacles right now are dry cleanings, alterations and helping people find our newest Downtown location,” said Lee.

guysandcowallHowever, Gus’s has its competitive advantages, setting it apart from similar businesses across the city. “We offer repair work on shoes, boots, handbags, belts, saddles and even SWAT harnesses,” Lee mentioned. In addition, Gus’s is one of the few places that offers specialized luggage repairs. The shop also offers exclusive leather goods, suitcases, hats and accessories for purchase.

“The thing we love the most about working Downtown is the people,” Greg said, “both from a
professional and personal standpoint.”

So the next time a heel snaps or a buckle breaks, check out Gus’s for your repair needs. Gus and Company is conveniently located in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville near the Duval County Courthouse.