by: admin in Resident Spotlights 1 Comment  

Natalie Wearstler

By Natalie Wearstler, contributing writer

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time. 

– from T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”

When I was 10 years old, my mother told us we were moving to Florida. At the time, we lived in a small rural town in East Tennessee — so, of course, I assumed our new home would look like a hybrid of Nickelodeon studios and the pictures of Daytona Beach I’d seen on post cards my classmates brought back from summer vacations.

Boy, was I surprised when we pulled up to our modest rental home in Middleburg. There were no palm trees, no wave pools and no tanning salons, as I had been led to believe existed on every corner in the Sunshine State. Save for weekend trips to St. Augustine Beach, the only sand in my toes came from the dirt roads that formed our new neighborhood.

Middleburg was a great place to grow up. But like most teenagers, I decided college was my big chance to get ready for a life outside of my hometown. Bolstered by the thrill of a family trip to New York City when I was 16 years old, I felt I was destined to live somewhere bigger and better than my humble hometown. In fact, I haughtily told my mother I would be living in New York City within six months of my college graduation, thank-you-very-much.

(Spoiler alert — that didn’t happen.)

It’s funny to look back on those days, now that I have the benefit of a few years’ worth of life experience to round out my perspective. If I had known at 17 or 21 that I could have the urban young professional lifestyle I so craved, without having to move across the country to find it, I could have saved myself a lot of energy.

DT SkylineMy fiancé and I moved Downtown last September after a string of relocations and job changes afforded us the opportunity to move back to Jacksonville from our new home of Atlanta. With just two weeks to find a place to live, we started considering the pros and cons of living in the urban core. It wasn’t long before we realized all of the things we valued most in a neighborhood — walkability, a strong sense of community, access to cultural venues, and proximity to restaurants and bars — were part of the Downtown experience. Living in a converted historic building with a breathtaking view made the deal even sweeter.

It’s been a little more than six months since we made the decision to become Downtown residents, and I couldn’t be happier. I love my short commute to work, our evening walks by the river, and our ability to be part of the action for events like Art Walk and One Spark. We get to enjoy the constant buzz of activity that comes with living in an urban area as well as the sense of belonging that comes with being part of a community.

Best of all, I no longer feel the need to drive out to Middleburg to feel like I’m finally home.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Downtown Partners, Events, Placemaking, Spotlight No Comments  
Jazz Fest on Bay Street | credit: @dtjax

Jazz Fest on Bay Street

A staple in Downtown since 1982, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival draws thousands of people each May for one of the core’s largest annual events. Now, in its second year, the newest component to the three-day celebration is Jazz Fest After Dark, a free event designed to introduce festival goers to Downtown’s year-round nightlife and live music scene.

Before Jazz Fest After Dark, many bars didn’t see a boost during the festival weekend. Now, with the new late-night festival fixture, the bars not only saw new faces, but reported a big increase in sales.

“We added more venues and more acts, and overall attendance numbers more then doubled.” said event creator and organizer, Jason Lewis. “Our goal is to keep increasing the visibility and stature of Jazz Fest After Dark, each and every year. We feel we accomplished that and more in year two.”

This year, five venues: 1904 Music Hall, Burro Bar, Dive BarUnderbelly and The Volstead opened up the Jazz Fest experience to dozens of amazing local acts, and the Downtown Cigar Lounge and Karpeles Museum provided additional events throughout the weekend.

So how did it go? Here are the bars in are in their own words:

Whole Wheat Bread @ Dive Bar

Whole Wheat Bread @ Dive Bar

“Sales were up 85% vs. an average week. We received lots of compliments on the street layout with plenty of room to walk.”

– Mark Hemphill, owner/operator of the Dive Bar

JacksonVegas @ 1904 Music Hall

JacksonVegas @ 1904 Music Hall

“We doubled last year’s numbers.”
– Jason Hunnicutt, owner of 1904 Music Hall

Naughty Professor @ Underbelly

Naughty Professor @ Underbelly

“Definitely the best weekend of the year in my opinion. Our bar had about a 15-20% increase overall from last year. Awesome bands. Great crowds. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it- we need more events like this for sure.”

– Cameron Beard, owner of Underbelly

Billy Buchanan @ The Volstead credit: @jazzfestafterdark

Billy Buchanan @ The Volstead
credit: @jazzfestafterdark

“Jazz Fest After Dark was a definite success; hopefully we will have more events like that in the future.”

– Sam Linn, owner/partner of The Volstead

Jazz Fest After Dark is a co-promotion between Jason Lewis (creator/organizer), Jacksonville Jazz Fest, JAX ChamberVisit JacksonvilleDVI and The Elbow was named by Folio Weekly as one of 2013’s top 15 Musical Moments.

Let us know your favorite parts of the Jazz Festival and Jazz Fest After Dark below, and follow @jazzfestafterdark on Instagram and Facebook to look back at this year’s event and to stay tuned for what next year has in store.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Spotlight No Comments  

Over the past few years there has been growing interest from high tech companies in locating Downtown. All of this buzz may help explain why Forbes Magazine recently named Jacksonville as the second fastest growing high tech center in the country, surpassed only by Austin, TX.

When asked why they locate Downtown, the overwhelming sentiment is that high tech companies want to be around other like-minded, creative and entrepreneurial individuals, and the Downtown environment that helps them flourish. Companies are also seeking open, flexible and stylish spaces to spur their imagination and creativity.

credit: @coworkjax

CoWork Jax | credit: @coworkjax

CoWork Jax opened its doors in 2012 to create Jacksonville’s first co-working community with a simple mission of offering entrepreneurs and small businesses an environment to collaborate, conspire and grow. Today, it boasts more than 100 members and more than 15 companies with nearly 90 employees having grown out of CoWork – many located in Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Darren Bounds started one such company, SportsYapper, in 2012. Now with a staff of 13 employees and an office located at 100 Laura Street, this app is similar to Twitter but optimized for sports fanatics and accounts for approximately 35% of the sports conversations currently occurring on Twitter.

Another company to come from CoWork Jax is KYN, an offshoot of One Spark that was formed in 2013. According to Shay Arnett, Chief Technologist, KYN provides a 24-week accelerator support program building stability and sustainability in start-up companies. The program provides seed funding and $70,000 in design, development and launch resources for new companies. The program is funded through STACHE Investments and is currently located in the Suddath Building on Bay Street.


IGNITE | credit: @IgniteWithUs

While many of Downtown’s tech firms are homegrown, others are fostered by national companies. As the innovation lab for Adecco Group, the world’s largest staffing and recruiting firm, Ignite is a team of 25 adventurous minds devoted to the creation of digital solutions related to work. Located in the Dyal Upchurch Building, Ignite uses a human-centered, lean and data-driven approach to solve problems ranging from hiring process efficiency, to workforce entry, to career transition.

And, beginning in May 2014, feature[23] is moving approximately 12 employees into the Greenleaf Building from St. Augustine. Jeremy Vaughan, Principal, is looking to harness feature[23]’s open innovation culture to empower the business community with technology and accelerate better-integrated digital enterprises. Working closely with many large companies in Downtown, the move will be not only a strategic business decision, but also a way to collaborate with other organizations and initiatives more closely. Perhaps not so surprising, five of the employees are looking at living in Downtown Jacksonville.

By Hana Ashchi, DVI Intern

bollard charging station

Bollard Charging Station. Photos provided by the City of Jacksonville.

The City of Jacksonville and CSX are taking charge. That is, providing two electric vehicle charging stations within the Downtown Jacksonville area.

Expected to open within the next two weeks at the Water Street garage, two types of charging stations will be installed, capable of charging four cars at a time. The garage, located at the corner of Water and Broad street, will have close to 10 parking spots dedicated to electric vehicles. Once a vehicle has completed charging, the charging station will send the owner a text message alert.

Through a public-private partnership with the City, CSX will fund the development of the second charging station and the installation of both stations. The first charging station was purchased by the City using a federal grant.

Wall Mount Charging Station.

Wall Mount Charging Station.

“By providing convenient access to these charging stations, we make our Downtown a more inviting and welcoming place for the growing number of people who drive electric-powered vehicles,” said Mayor Brown in a press release. “We appreciate CSX’s initiative and generosity in making this a service available to people who come Downtown.”

While Jacksonville has experience with electric vehicle charging stations — including at an airport parking service, two local car dealerships and the St. Johns Town Center — these CSX-City stations are the first for Downtown. As of the end of 2013, there were 225 electric cars in use in the Jacksonville metropolitan area.

“The world of transportation technology is changing, and our city needs to be in step with these changes,” said Brown. “As more drivers convert from gas to electric vehicles, it’s important that our City is able to accommodate and support new transportation options. These electric charging stations reflect our City’s commitment to innovative technology and environmental sustainability.”



photo 1

Part of the group that celebrated the Downtown Promoter Program Tuesday night.

Tuesday night, DVI celebrated the conclusion of its Downtown Promoter Program. As the name suggests, the social media campaign brought together @DTJax‘s most influential Twitter followers – based on Klout scores – and Downtown partners to promote Downtown via the social-media hashtag #DTJax.

Our Promoters, partners (who generously donated program incentives – tickets to shows, dining vouchers and more), and DVI’s marketing and communications committee gathered at Fionn MacCool’s Irish Restaurant and Pub to celebrate the close of the campaign with a few cold ones, laughs and a presentation on the program’s success. A huge thanks to the stellar team at The Jacksonville Landing for hosting our group.

Be sure to give the Promoters a follow on Twitter (slide 3) to follow along on their future Downtown fun, and plan a visit to one of our wonderful partners’ establishments (slide 4) on your next night on the (Down)town.

See you in the Twitterverse – and see you in #DTJax!

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by: admin in Spotlight No Comments  

By Alicia Harris, contributing writer

Cruise down Main Street around 10 a.m. on any given weekday, and you will see a line leading up to the doors of the hottest spot on the block: your local Main Library. Lined up for what? For access. For fair, equal access to technology, educational programming, and workforce skills training programs necessary for upward social mobility and participation in modern society.

Jimmie with his tutor, Lynda. Photos by Alicia Harris.

Jimmie with his tutor, Lynda. Photos by Alicia Harris.

Make your way to the bottom floor of the library, and you will find another line comprised of adults signing in to adult literacy and adult basic education classes offered by Learn to Read Jacksonville and the Center for Adult Learning.

Learn to Read (LTR) Jacksonville is a 501(c)3 nonprofit focused on helping adults in Jacksonville achieve their reading-related goals, such as getting a GED, writing a resume, registering to vote or helping school-aged children complete their homework. LTR serves adult learners with reading skills anywhere between nonexistent to ninth-grade level. In conjunction with the Jacksonville Public Library’s Center for Adult Learning and other Downtown-area nonprofits, such as the Clara White Mission and Community Connections, LTR seeks to provide an easily accessible hub for free education and training in the urban core, while carrying out our mission of increasing literacy awareness and improving adult literacy in Duval County through a volunteer-based program.

Why do we do it?

We do it for students like Jimmie, pictured with his tutor, Lynda. Jimmie wants to be able to read and follow directions on recipes, enabling him to cook healthy food for himself and his loved ones. Jimmie’s ability to understand the labels on food and comprehend healthy eating habits are critical in implementing preventative measures aimed at keeping him out of the doctor’s office or emergency room. Every day, Jacksonville adults in poor health incur emergency medical expenses over issues that could have been avoided if they were literate enough to read a prescription label on a bottle or plan out a meal schedule as a diabetic. These expenses financially drain individuals, their families and, when they cannot pay their own medical bills (statistically speaking, the lower your literacy skills, the lower your income), the local healthcare economy.

Sandra holding up her certificate for graduation.

Sandra holding up her certificate for graduation.

We also do it for students like Sandra, who was referred to Learn to Read after scoring too low on the entrance exam for FSCJ’s Downtown Campus GED program. Sandra raised herself since she was 10 years old, a time in her life when she wanted to go to school but didn’t have school shoes or money for lunch. She was out of school for 28 years by the time she walked through our front door. After completing remedial reading classes, Sandra was able to read, comprehend and pass the CNA licensing exam, get a job at Memorial Hospital and pass the GED. Sandra is now living financially fit in Jacksonville, working toward her next goal of giving back to the community through work as a registered nurse.

We do it for students like Martin, who, with the help of his tutor Sanjana, was able to navigate and complete the application process for buying a car. When we asked Martin what he planned to do with his new ride, he told us he was on his way to drop off applications at local grocery stores in the hopes of securing a better paying job. Later, he said we could find him at Mavericks at The Jacksonville Landing, his favorite place to have fun and keep in shape through line-dancing. As a resident of Duval County’s north side, Martin was excited about the expanded access to other sides of town that stable transportation would afford him.

Martin standing next to his tutor, Sanjana.

Martin standing next to his tutor, Sanjana.

We also do it because last year alone we had nearly 500 Jacksonville adults walk through our doors and say, “I can’t read. Can you help me?”

With the help of hundreds of volunteers in the community, the support of other community-focused organizations and a staff fiercely dedicated to the students we serve, we will continue to provide free remedial reading instruction to all those who seek it at the Main Library.

For more information on Learn to Read Jacksonville, visit The Center for Adult Learning is available weekdays to help students and adults. Be sure to check out the Jacksonville Main Library for more information on hours and types of services offered.

On the heels of DVI and partners’ recent editorial “115 acres of opportunity on Downtown’s riverfront” in The Florida Times-Union, DVI opened the conversation up to the Twittersphere with its first-ever “tweet chat” on May 9. Two dozen unique Twitter users chimed in about the riverfront. The official hashtag – #chatdtjax – was used more than 100 times throughout the afternoon.

You can learn more about tweet chats here. Below, we captured some of the key responses and thoughts from chat participants, broken down by question:


@DTJax: Q1: What is your favorite riverfront city (other than Jax, of course)? #chatdtjax

















@DTJax: Q2: When’s the last time you spent time on the riverfront? What were you doing? #chatdtjax









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@DTJax: Q3: What activities would you like to be able to do on the riverfront (relax, shop, dine, play sports)? #chatdtjax






























@DTJax: Q4: What elements do you NOT want to see on the riverfront? #chatdtjax


















@DTJax: Q5: How can we capture the identity of Jax on the riverfront? What makes us us? #chatdtjax


































We also received questions from participants that sparked some great #chatdtjax-ing. Take a look at two questions – and their key responses – below:


Question from @IrvAdams:






Key responses:


















Question from @DNAustin:






Key responses:


























Didn’t get a chance to chime in? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section below. Follow us on Twitter (@DTJax) for announcements on future tweet chats.