By Mychael Taylor (@MychaelTaylor), community manager at CoWork Jax

Coworking is the future of work, if you haven’t been keepin’ up. Why? Because Forbes said so and because people are sick of working out of cubicles, from home in their pajamas or getting death stares from the barista at their local coffee shop. Lucky for you, Downtown is home to CoWork Jax, where local urbanites love to come to work and stay for the community. Coworking works well for people for a long list of reasons, but here are the top five reasons why coworking is cool (and why you should check out CoWork Jax):

#5 We have free coffee.

Not only do we have free coffee but free beer as well. So warm up in the morning, and cool down in the evenings. Whatever it is you do, do it here (as long as it’s not illegal and gross)!

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#4 We have people.

If you’ve worked from home for any period of time, you know how important this really is. Working from home can make you feel isolated – and crazy. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever bounced ideas off your dog or Skyped in a business attire blouse with no pants on.) If you’re working out of a coworking space, you can work alone without actually being alone. You’re in a room full of passionate people like yourself! (And you’ll make some pretty great friends, too.) Listen to real CoWork Jax members tell real stories here.

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#3 We have a hot meeting spot.

How many times have you asked your client to meet you at the local coffee shop because you “work from home”? Let’s get serious; coffee shops can get crazy and loud. Not to mention, you’re always two seconds away from a soccer mom dropping in for coffee with her screaming kid that’s begging for ice cream. Legitimize yourself, and use our meeting rooms. Professional, yet cool (and hip and urban and lofty!).

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#2 We know people.

It’s not always what you know but who you know. And we’re in the know! We’re on your team (and so are your fellow coworkers), and we love to connect members with fellow entrepreneurs in our large alumni network. Coworking can lead to unexpected business connections and new ideas from collaboration. And that’s pretty cool.

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#1 We have WiFi.

And that’s what the coffee shop doesn’t have – reliable Internet (and a printer). Say goodbye to the sign-in page. Drop in your local coworking space (CoWork Jax), and experience the joy of fast Internet and free printing.

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*Not all perks are listed, including free candy, coloring tables and the food trucks that like to park across the street.

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Thanks for reading – see you soon?

CoWork Jax is located on the second floor of 5 W. Forsyth St. in Downtown Jacksonville. For more information, visit www.coworkjax.com.

by: Terry Lorince in Thought Leadership 1 Comment  

Terry Lorince, DVI executive director

We are making great strides in reducing the homeless population Downtown, and much of that credit goes to our social services agencies who are working together to produce some incredible results. Here is just a sample of the great work happening today:

  • Administered by Ability Housing and a collaboration of many organizations, 100 Homes Jacksonville – part of the national 100,000 Homes Campaign – identifies the most vulnerable homeless individuals with a high risk of death (typically those who’ve been on the streets the longest) and works to provide permanent supportive housing. The organization has housed more than 500 chronically homeless people across the region since the program’s inception in 2012 with the ongoing goal to house 30 individuals per month.
  • Homeward Bound, a partnership between the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) and Sulzbacher Center, identifies homeless individuals who have been on the street less than six months and helps them locate family or friends in other cities who are willing to provide shelter and assistance. It has provided stable housing to 71 individuals in just six months.

Statistics show when we get people into affordable housing with the needed wrap-around services, there is a 95 percent success rate.

For more astounding facts and figures, read our recent editorial “Guest column: Teamwork is key to reducing homelessness” in partnership with Shannon Nazworth, executive director, Ability Housing of Northeast Florida; Cindy Funkhouser, CEO, Sulzbacher Center; and Dawn Gilman, executive director, Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition.

We welcome feedback at contact@downtownjacksonville.org.

Read 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. – See more at: http://downtownjacksonville.org/blog/#sthash.yitO9HK5.dpuf
Screen shot 2014-03-28 at 10.43.39 AMRead 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.

Volunteers hard at work.

Volunteers hard at work.

Early-morning rain didn’t deter more than 100 volunteers from spending last Saturday morning sprucing up the center of Downtown’s core, Hemming Plaza.

Men and women of all ages in T-shirts, tennis shoes, hats and gloves took to the dirt March 22, raking, digging, planting and mulching their way to an improved Plaza and, ultimately, an improved Downtown. This event — organized by Downtown Vision, Inc. in partnership with Greenscape of Jacksonville, Late Bloomers Garden Club, The Paul Bryan Group, Interline Brands, Dalton Agency and the City of Jacksonville — was funded by a $35,000 grant from Wells Fargo, as part of its NeighborhoodLIFT program.

“We’ve been planning this for eight months,” said Valerie Feinberg, DVI’s director of strategic partnerships, in a WJXT news segment. “It’s fabulous. It’s so nice to see it come together.”

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Pre-event stretches at the opening ceremony.

Organizers gathered teams of volunteers, plants and supplies courtesy of several Downtown businesses and pro-Downtown organizations, including Wells Fargo, Interline Brands, the City of Jacksonville, Late Bloomers Garden Club, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Dalton Agency, CSX and individuals from the community. In essence, the project represented a strong collaboration of public and private partners who came together to be the driving force in making positive change Downtown.

“Hemming Plaza looks incredible, and I’m so proud to have been a part of the plaza’s redesign by donating the landscape design,” said Paul Garwol, president of The Paul Bryan Group. “This is a true example of a public-private partnership, bringing together the City of Jacksonville, business leaders and community advocates to create a gathering space in the center of our city that we can showcase during One Spark and cherish for years to come.”

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Mayor Alvin Brown at the opening ceremony.

The morning began with a bang – literally – as Mayor Brown helped fire a mini-cannon marking the occasion. DVI’s executive director, Terry Lorince, led more than 100 volunteers in a series of pre-greening stretches.

Other speakers at the ceremony included: Anna Dooley, executive director of Greenscape of Jacksonville; Paul Garwol, The Paul Bryan Group; Wayne Wood, Friends of Hemming Park; and Damien Haitsuka, First Coast Area President for Wells Fargo. McDonald’s provided free breakfast, and Beau and the Burners provided live entertainment for volunteers as they worked.

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A sample of the plants installed.

After more than four hours of cleaning and greening, Hemming Plaza was transformed into the new home of:

  • 1,040 jasmines
  • 434 cast iron plants
  • 1,007 mondo grass plants
  • 218 holly ferns
  • 104 drift rose bushes
  • 151 countie palms
  • 3,708 Algerian Ivy plants
  • 1,084 bags of pine bark
  • 1,134 bags of topsoil
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Southpaw cheering on our efforts. Thank you, Jacksonville Suns!

As DVI continues to work to improve Downtown Jacksonville in areas of advocacy, business growth, Downtown education and awareness, events and other initiatives, this Hemming Plaza beautification project is meant to showcase Downtown’s center as a vibrant, welcoming place for all, just in time for one of Downtown’s largest events of the year, One Spark, and many other springtime events.

For more information on this Hemming Plaza cleaning and greening effort, or to learn how you can get involved in future projects, contact DVI’s Valerie Feinberg at valerie@downtownjacksonville.org.

Thank you to the following groups who made this day a huge success: Downtown Vision Alliance, Wells Fargo, Interline Brands, Greenscape, The Late Bloomers, Friends of Hemming Plaza, CSX, Hyatt Hotel, PSS World Medical, JEA, The Paul Bryan Group, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Clara White Mission and Navel Air Station Jacksonville.

Check out the video recap from Jax Parks here.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Advocacy, Thought Leadership No Comments  

Downtown Vision, Inc.‘s executive director Terry Lorince submitted the following editorial to the Florida Times-Union in partnership with Shannon Nazworth, executive director, Ability Housing of Northeast Florida, Cindy Funkhouser, CEO, Sulzbacher Center, and  Dawn Gilman, executive director, Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition. This editorial appeared in the Florida Times-Union print edition on Saturday, March 22, 2014 and can also be read on Jacksonville.com. We welcome feedback to contact@downtownjacksonville.org.

As we talk about ways to revitalize downtown Jacksonville, the topic of homelessness always comes up.

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It’s important to note that most homelessness is due to the lack of an affordable place to live.

Statistics show that if you give the homeless affordable places to live, they will not return to homelessness.

The most successful intervention is to provide short-term financial assistance so these individuals can get into a home. And to provide solutions — or “wraparound” services — so they can retain housing.

SURPRISING NUMBERS

You might be surprised to know this about homelessness in Jacksonville:

■ According to a recent survey by the Homeless Coalition of Northeast Florida, there are 400 chronically homeless individuals in downtown Jacksonville alone.

■ 25 percent of the local homeless population is not from Jacksonville. They ended up here because they were following a job, hoping to get a job or other circumstances.

■ Veterans account for approximately 25 percent of our homeless population. Many are struggling with PTSD and are shelter averse. That means they won’t live among a large population in a shelter with noise, chaos and crowds. These individuals are best served through individual housing programs.

■ The cost to arrest and jail a homeless person includes $884 for booking and $62 per day to house them.

■ The average cost of a single chronically homeless person is $50,000 per year. That includes jail time, emergency room visits, social services and other costs.

■ It costs between $12,000 and $24,000 to provide a permanent supportive housing solution for that same individual.

So by providing affordable housing, these programs can save the community up to $30,000 per individual housed.

100 Homes Jacksonville, administered by Ability Housing, has housed more than 500 individuals across the region since 2012.

A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT

It is a collaboration of multiple agencies, including the Veterans Administration, River Region, the Sulzbacher Center, Clara White Mission, the Jacksonville Housing Authority, Mental Health Resource Center and the Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition.

When launched, 100 Homes Jacksonville’s goal was to house 100 people in one year.

Today, the goal is to continue to house 30 individuals per month.

Homeward Bound is a partnership between the Sulzbacher Center and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that seeks homeless people who’ve been on the street for less than six months and have no friends or family in Jacksonville.

The program tracks down relatives and friends in other cities and sends these individuals back home where they can seek permanent shelter.

The Sulzbacher Center and JSO have also partnered to launch the CHOP program to get chronic homeless offenders off the streets and out of jail.

This program is also a collaboration of the Sulzbacher Center, Public Defender’s Office, State Attorney’s Office, judges, the jail and Salvation Army probation program.

Downtown Jacksonville is making great strides in reducing homelessness. There is no single solution. It will continue to require many people collaborating and working together to solve this problem.

The authors are:
■ Terry Lorince, executive director, Downtown Vision Inc.
■ Shannon Nazworth, executive director, Ability Housing of Northeast Florida.
■ Cindy Funkhouser, CEO, Sulzbacher Center.
■ Dawn Gilman, executive director, Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition.

by: Liz Grebe in Downtown Partners, Events No Comments  

Less than two weeks until more than 150,000 people crowd the streets of Downtown Jacksonville for the second annual One Spark! You can feel the excitement in the air.

Last week One Spark invited the community to the Florida Theatre for the unveiling of big news. And boy, did they do it in style. Karen Feagins, director of programming and news at WJCT and One Spark media partner, introduced several key players including  Mayor Alvin Brown, executive director Joe Sampson, past creators and co-founder Elton Rivas.

If you haven’t heard, One Spark is going global, premiering in Berlin, Germany, September 2014 and plans to expand to a different city each year! Incredible. Details of the Germany festival will be announced during One Spark’s closing ceremonies. Of course, they make us wait again for exciting news!


But of course that’s not all… This year creators have more chances to capture that crowdfunding with teh top creator in each cateogry winning an extra $10,000 and a juried panel will select five winners to win $10,000 each. And to cover it all, national cable network A&E will also film a documentary about crowdfunding and startups during One Spark.

To end the program, Rivas and Sampson invited Dolf James, a huge support of One Spark and their biggest critic, on stage. James is also responsible for those big One Spark Sparkys you see around town among other behind the scenes accomplishments. While on stage, Rivas and Sampson presented James with a One Spark cap, because he’s a Superman!

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Dolf James showing off his cape!

Remember: don’t forget to not make plans to be anywhere else but Downtown April 9-13 for One Spark!

by: Morgan Albaum in Downtown Ambassadors, Spotlight (2) Comments  

If you’ve seen the nice folks walking around Downtown Jacksonville wearing the bright orange shirts and jackets, you’ve seen the Ambassadors. These guys are here to help, and they’re here to stay. Meet Joshua Givins, a hospitality/clean and safe Ambassador who has been with DVI for almost three years. josh3

Born in Jacksonville, Josh still lives close to the Downtown core. Josh was originally working for a security company when he saw one of the Downtown Ambassadors and asked how he could get involved. He quickly applied and found his way in.

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The Ambassadors use the Taylor-Dunn to transport heavy objects around Downtown.

“What I love most about this job is helping people in need,” says Josh. “My coworkers and I work very hard to make things happen and do our job.” Josh comes in to work each morning at 7 a.m. and leaves around 3 p.m. During his shift, he finds himself helping people in any way he can. He cleans up areas that have debris. He pressure washes buildings and makes sure people find their way around Downtown.

“I witnessed a car accident one time,” Josh said. “A woman hit a control box and I immediately called for help.” Quick to lend a helping hand or alert first responders, Josh’s day-to-day deeds make Downtown a better place. “Another time, I also saw a lady get hit by a car while I was watering the flowers,” he remembers. “First thing I did was call for backup.”

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Keeping the vegetation hydrated is an essential part of maintaining Downtown’s beautiful scenery.

Last month, Josh was nominated for a ROSE Award – Recognition of Service Excellence – which recognizes Northeast Florida’s front line hospitality employees who demonstrate excellent customer service.  “I joked around about it with Bill, my boss,” he laughed. “I was happy to be nominated and recognized.” Although he didn’t win the award, having Josh patrol and maintain the streets is a win for DVI.

While he spends his days fighting crime and helping others, Josh plans to go to school to work in the Fire Department and become an EMT. When Josh isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his two children, a girl and a boy. He also likes to play basketball and football and is a huge Gator fan.

by: Morgan Albaum in Developments No Comments  

Driving along Riverside Avenue by the YMCA, you’ve probably seen the giant apartment building under construction. By the end of summer, this community, named 220 Riverside, is expected to open. The leasing office will open this month and interested tenants can begin booking tours.

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220 Riverside under construction.
All photographs by Downtown Vision, Inc.

Conveniently located just west of the Downtown core, 220 Riverside will include close to 300 upscale apartments with a parking garage and retail space on the west side of the building. Adjacent Unity Plaza is also under construction, an urban park that will feature regular cultural programming, food vendors and much more to be announced.

“Downtown Jacksonville is on the move. There is a buzz unlike we’ve felt in years and 220 Riverside is playing a major role in the rebirth of our city center,” said Mayor Alvin Brown in a 2012 interview with Metro Jacksonville. “Let this be a great example to show that private sector investment Downtown benefits us all.”

With demand in urban housing on the rise nationwide, Jacksonville’s urban core is following suit. In addition to 220 Riverside, The Brooklyn Riverside will be built nearby and encompasses seven buildings: four four-story buildings and three three-story buildings that house 310 apartments.

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The construction site for Fresh Market in the Shoppes on Riverside.

If these two high-impact developments aren’t exciting enough, the Shoppes on Riverside is a retail development currently under construction next to 220 Riverside that will help to cater to the everyday grocery needs of those nearby.

What’s unique about the almost 50,000 square-foot Shoppes is they’ll feature a brand new Fresh Market — which will be the first specialty grocer to serve Jacksonville’s urban core, opening in October — and Jacksonville’s first Corner Bakery.

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The current backyard of the Yates YMCA, soon-to-be home of the new Winston Family YMCA.

Finally, after years of planning, the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast is poised to begin construction on a $21 million, three-story new Winston Family YMCA to replace the aging one, expand services throughout neighboring areas and help rejuvenate Downtown. Construction is expected to begin any day now.

Stay tuned for future updates on these Brooklyn projects as the developments progress.