By: Jake Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision

You can find this article in current issue of J Magazine and online at

We all know them. Our friends who live at the beach. We get it, it’s beautiful out there. It’s a great part of our city. But why no love for Downtown? Many people who live in Jacksonville are Downtown pessimists. Feet in the sand, looking out at the waves, they say, “I never go there! Downtown doesn’t matter to me!”

They’re wrong. Like it or not, Downtown Jacksonville matters to every single one of them. Even if they never cross the ditch. But don’t smack your beach-side buddies with a frisbee, hit them with these four simple reasons why a better Downtown means a better Jacksonville for all of us!

It’s simple: Downtown is the primary economic engine for our region.

Investing in our “engine” makes it run stronger, creating more jobs and more tax dollars for essential community needs like roads, parks, police and replacing dunes on the beach.

Sure, we know Downtown is the epicenter of Jacksonville’s culture and entertainment. The Jaguars. The Jumbo Shrimp. Concerts. Museums. Festivals. Fireworks. But perhaps more importantly, it’s where business happens. It’s where the skyscraping office towers contain millions of square feet of jobs and commercial activity, investment capital and taxable value.

It’s a proven model

Across the U.S., downtowns remain the greatest generator of tax dollars. And with more money to invest, cities better themselves.

Investing in downtown is rewarded with economic prosperity. In 1996, the city of Minneapolis committed to $2 billion of investment in its downtown. In 2011, it renewed that pledge with another $2 billion. Today, the three square miles of downtown Minneapolis accounts for 36 percent of all property tax revenues in the city. Even more impressive, more than half of all jobs in Minneapolis are now downtown. This story is not unique: Tampa, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Nashville and many others have drastically improved their economic outlook with significant downtown investment.

If we grow our Downtown tax base, the funds raised will be spent in all neighborhoods, all the way to the beach.

The numbers don’t lie

This all works because healthy Downtowns deliver so much value and a much higher return on investment than sprawling suburbs.

Here’s a real-life example: A suburban Walmart in Jacksonville on 20 acres pays roughly $280,000 in taxes. The Wells Fargo Center skyscraper in Downtown on just three acres pays more than $1 million in taxes. In cost per acre, Downtown is almost 25 times more valuable.

Here’s another: Duval County averages $74 million in taxable value for each of its many square miles. But in Downtown, our half-square-mile business improvement district averages $1.9 BILLION in taxable value per square mile, again over 25 times more valuable!

For a city, a dense, healthy commercial urban center is almost impossible to duplicate. Even the most expensive residential homes can’t compare to the tax-generating value of commercial office buildings. In Duval County today, commercial real estate parcels make up only 11 percent of the total parcels, but already account for more than 40 percent of total taxable value.

Our face to the world

Even with the economics tipped heavily in favor of Downtown investment, its most important value might be something more intangible: our civic identity.

More than a profit center, a Downtown embodies the image and character of a city to the rest of the world. A strong downtown indeed helps power a city — not just in tax revenue, but also in civic pride and recruiting talented people. When you think of a city, you usually think of its downtown first. City reputations are made on their skylines.

Downtowns are truly unique in that they are the only neighborhood shared by the entire community. At Downtown Vision, we want everyone to enjoy Downtown. (We even built a website — — to help.) So tell your beach-loving friends: Even if they never come to #DTJax for a Jaguars game or MOCA Jacksonville or the Museum of Science and History or the Symphony or the Florida Theatre or the Jacksonville Jazz Fest, Downtown matters!

Jake Gordon has been CEO of Downtown Vision since 2015. He lives in San Marco.

by: admin in Advocacy, Spotlight No Comments  

By Lindsay Forrest, DVI Intern

Since 1976, Black History Month has offered the world a chance to remember and honor African Americans who blazed new trails and ways of thinking, and who fought for equal rights no matter an individual’s race, ethnicity or gender. In honor of this month, #DTJax has highlighted some of the most influential African Americans that have impacted the Jacksonville community. Among the various leaders and activists, we have Asa Phillip Randolph, Clara and Eartha White and James Weldon Johnson.

Photo Credit: Black History 101

Photo Credit: Black History 101


Asa Phillip Randolph

Born on April 15, 1889, Asa Phillip Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida and moved to Jacksonville with his wife in 1891. From his strong upbringing, Randolph learned that color was not an indication of a person’s character or behavior. A superior student in writing, acting, singing and reading – Randolph attended the Cookman Institute in East Jacksonville and become valedictorian of his graduating class. Randolph can be described as a person of many attributes, but he is most noted for his organizational abilities and leadership in labor unions. He was a socialist, union organizer and civil rights leader most known in the African American community for these contributions:

Photo Credit: New York World-Telegram & Sun

Photo Credit: New York World-Telegram & Sun

  • Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters – Randolph was the founder and president of the first primarily African American labor union organization called BSCP. He established the Fair Employment Practices Committee and ended racial segregation and discrimination within the military as the leader of this organization.
  • 1963 March on Washington – Known as the largest political rally for human rights in United States history where Martin Luther King Jr., gave his “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., Randolph began planning and organizing this rally in December 1962.
  • “Freedom Budget” – a proposal written by Randolph that identified policies and programs to eliminate poverty within a ten year period. Although the budget was never fully passed, all minorities were given better access to schooling, unemployment compensation, social security benefits and better living conditions because of his hard work.

Clara and Eartha White

Known as American humanitarians, philanthropists and businesswomen who devoted their life earnings and time to help people in need. Both Clara and Eartha White’s social mission originated when they began feeding hungry people in her neighborhood on Clay St. in the 1880’s. After her mother passed, Eartha took over the former soup kitchen and turned it into a non-profit organization aimed at social services for all people in need. The Clara White Mission served as an arts and sewing center during the Great Depression, a rooming house for released prisoners and the homeless and a center for cooking, ceramics, and learning. Eartha White was also responsible for founding the Mercy Hospital; The Boy’s Improvement Club, a home for single mothers, an orphanage and adoption agency; and a halfway house for recovering alcoholics. Clara and Eartha White are two of the most generous social activists who dedicated each and every moment they had in order to help the local Jacksonville people.

Photo Credit: The Clara White Mission

Photo Credit: The Clara White Mission

The Clara White Mission still plays a large role in the Jacksonville community today – their  mission is to “reduce homelessness through advocacy, food, housing and vocational programs” in order to get as many people off the streets. In fact, CWM serves over 400 meals each day to people in need on 613 W. Ashley St. To find out more information, visit their website.

James Weldon Johnson

The son of Helen Louise Dillet and James Johnson, James Weldon Johnson was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1871. Johnson was an author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, achievied songwriter and civil rights leader. He is most noted for his executive secretary and leadership position at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – an organization that aimed to put a halt to racial hatred, to stop discrimination and to achieve equality for all people. He was also known for his poems, novels, and anthems regarding black culture during the Harlem Renaissance. He was also appointed by the Roosevelt Administration in 1906, as the US Consul of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Essentially, James Weldon Johnson was an extremely talented, driven and influential African American born in the heart of LaVilla Downtown.


Photo Credit: The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville

Most recently in #DTJax, Lavilla has delegated the intersection of Houston and Lee Streets, as the “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” Park in honor of James Weldon Johnson and his birth site. The “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” anthem was written by Johnson and his brother John Rosamond and dubbed the “Black American National Anthem” in 1899. To learn more information about the park, check out this article.

The Ritz Theatre and Museum, described as a destination within the “Harlem of the South” area in 1929 where the people of LaVilla sought out entertainment and culture. Today, the reconstructed museum offers music concerts, exhibitions and lectures to represent the rich history of this community in #DTJax. Check out the website to learn more and book your tickets here.

Looking for a way to celebrate Black History Month? Attend the Ritz Chamber Players concert series on February 24 at the Hicks Auditorium on 303 Laura St. The spring concert kicks off with the first song as “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and ends on a piano trio. For more information or to reserve your seats check here.

To find out more information and facts about Black History Month in Jacksonville, check out this article.



by: Admin in Advocacy, Developments No Comments  


The North Florida chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) hosted its January 2040 Talks on January 7th at the University of North Florida. The conference room was packed to hear from Mark Lamping, President of the Jacksonville Jaguars, David Ribeiro from the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy and Dr. Charles Moreland, Chief Resiliency Officer for the City of Jacksonville Office of the Mayor.


The speakers covered different topics ranging from Everbank Field scoreboards to emergency evacuation plans, but one common theme was found in each speech: the importance of #DTJax to the vision, growth and energy of Jacksonville.

Mark Lamping repeatedly noted the importance of #DTJax to the Jaguars. “The Jaguars will go as far as Downtown goes.” Lamping also pointed out that Downtown is the identifying place for all of Jacksonville, so the new amphitheater and multi-purpose building plans for the shipyards will act as a “front door” to Downtown. At the end of the day, “The Jaguars will benefit from a vibrant Downtown.” Thank you Mark, we agree!

20.40 Talks Logo Small

David Ribeiro, a senior analyst at the ACEEE in Washington D.C. spoke about the organization’s results of the 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard,  in which Jacksonville received 26 points, placing 40th out of 51 major cities around the country. This is a significant increase from last years score and Ribeiro pointed to community initiatives and responsible transportation, like the 2030 Mobility Plan, to explain the rise in energy efficiency. Transportation includes #DTJax’s multimodal transportation system including the new First Coast Flyer and modernization of the Skyway.

Dr. Charles Moreland has dedicated his life to public service and his focus on emergency preparedness and resiliency at the 2040 Talks also highlighted #DTJax. While Moreland mostly discussed surviving and adapting despite shocks to the community, he also discussed the importance of taking care of our homeless and vulnerable populations. Moreland explained that Mayor Lenny Curry is “committed to getting that number to zero.” Dr. Moreland concluded saying that economic growth can only happen if we have a safe city.  If you’d like to learn more about cleanliness and safety in #DTJax, check out the Downtown Ambassador program! 

The USGBC NF chapter holds four of these 2040 Talks a year, offering diverse perspectives on how to create a fully sustainable community by the year 2040. For more information, follow USGBC NF on Facebook or check out the website to stay up to date on green events all throughout the year!


Matthew Clark lives and works Downtown and wouldn’t have it any other way. The vice president of prime retail services for Prime Realty is optimistic and inspired by Downtown Jacksonville’s growth over the last few years. He’s also excited that one of the properties he markets is getting a well-deserved upgrade to compete with the increased interest in Jacksonville’s urban-core real estate. The building, “100 North Laura” or “The Jacksonville Bank Building,” is a 10-story, 130,000 square-foot mixed-use building located on the corner of Laura and Forsyth streets. We recently caught up with Matthew to find out what’s on the horizon for this Downtown architectural centerpiece.



Photos provided by Prime Realty

The Jacksonville Bank building, center, at 100 N. Laura St. Photos provided by Prime Realty.


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Matthew Clark in a raw, available office space on the ninth floor of 100 North Laura.

Matthew Clark on the ninth floor of 100 North Laura, a raw space available for lease.

Tell me about 100 N. Laura St. – its history and use.

100 North Laura has always had a presence in the Jacksonville banking community. The building was built in the ’60s and was home to a large bank training facility and even had a drive-through. The drive-through entrance was on Laura Street and exited onto Forsyth Street where the restaurant space is currently. The tenancy in the building is made up of creatives and business professionals. I love that we have a photography studio, a tech start-up, a nonprofit and an attorney all on a single floor. The mix creates awesome synergy and, ultimately, a great community.

Why is now the time for renovations of the building?

The renovation plans for the building have taken a couple of years to bring to fruition. The good thing is we have been able to get a good sense of the tenants attracted to the building and modify our plans accordingly. In order to compete in the market, we need to deliver a product that doesn’t exist in Jacksonville – one that is truly unique. The influx and quality of office users coming into the market today expect and deserve the renovations.

What will the renovations entail?

Exterior renovations include replacing building awnings; replacing both the Laura and Forsyth streets’ entrances; transforming the loading dock on Laura Street into a hybrid storefront, which will serve as the 24/7 access for Anytime Fitness; waterproofing and painting the entire building; installing an exterior, variable colored LED up-lighting system so we will be able to coordinate the building colors with holidays and special events; and replacing all exterior signage.

Rendering of 100 North Laura lobby improvements

Rendering of 100 North Laura lobby improvements

Interior renovations include an overhaul of the lobby, combining the aesthetic of a boutique hotel with the progressive feel of a tech start up; installing wood-coffered ceilings, with LED pendant lighting and recessed lighting; installing all-new flooring, with porcelain tile throughout, walk off carpets at both main entries and carpet tiles defining new collaborative seating areas; adding wayward signage and televisions for up-to-the minute building and local information, as well as a new security system; modernizing the elevators; and installing private bathrooms with showers in the lobby, along with lockers and bike storage for tenants who walk or bike to work.

Any new tenants you’re excited about?

We are finalizing the retail space and look forward to their announcement in the near future.

Why is the renovation of this building so important to Downtown?

For the last couple of years, this building has increased occupancy with a mix of creative and executive professionals. The renovation is symbolic of the building’s success and Downtown’s success. More and more businesses and their employees want to be a part of the change Downtown. We hope the renovation of the building enhances the retail and office experience in Downtown Jacksonville.

What have you noticed as far as the interest in Downtown real estate?

The energy and momentum is here. I have investors from Atlanta and California who see the difference in the activity Downtown today compared to a few years ago. Retail lease rates in the core are up 50-60% over leases signed just a few years ago. As the cumulative mass of retail in the core continues to grow, it will only help attract more office users. I have a couple of properties in the core that are more than 95% leased.

Current office space in 100 North Laura

Current office space in 100 North Laura

Why would you recommend someone move their business to Downtown?

Downtown has unique office options that can’t be found in other areas of Jacksonville. There is a wide variety of business resources concentrated within walking distance of virtually all Downtown office space. The beauty of doing business in Downtown is it’s small enough for people to feel connected but large enough to give a business everything it needs to thrive.

What do you love about Downtown personally?

I have always loved the hustle and bustle of an urban environment. I actually live Downtown. My home is a loft apartment in a 100-year old building. I walk outside my front door, and I am minutes away from restaurants, bars, the Florida Theatre and EverBank Field. When I walk my dog, I always bump into someone I know. If people don’t remember my name, they definitely remember my dog, Darby. I love that because it means we’re a part of a great neighborhood.


For more information on the Jacksonville Bank Building at 100 N. Laura St., you can contact Matthew Clark at or 904-239-5269.

Written by: Leslie Priddy, DVI Intern

Over the past weeks, we’ve posted on Mayoral Candidates on Reviving Downtown and City Council Candidates Reviving Downtown, courtesy of The Florida Times-Union‘s “Meet the Candidates” Q&As. This week we’re bringing you City Council At-Large Groups candidates. All citizens can vote for At-Large members regardless of where they reside. Check out how the At-Large City Council Groups are broken out in the map below, and keep scrolling to learn about each candidate and his/her Downtown priorities.

2015AtLargeDistrictMapTo take a better look at the map click here.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Advocacy, Placemaking, Thought Leadership No Comments  

Earlier this month, we posted about Mayoral Candidates on Reviving Downtown thanks to the Florida Times-Union’s “Meet the candidate” Q&As. In similar fashion, we’re bringing you how Jacksonville’s City Council contenders weighed in on Downtown revitalization. For starters, here’s how the districts are drawn. See a full-size map of the current council districts here.

City Council District Map 2015

by: Katherine Hardwick in Advocacy, Placemaking, Thought Leadership No Comments  

In this post from CityLab, “What Makes a City Beautiful?” philosopher, author and founder of London’s The School of Life, Alain de Botton makes an appeal to all of us to use our power as citizens, to create political backing and to influence our elected leaders to create beautiful cities. De Botton says beauty in urban settings must be objective—and to argue otherwise is a danger to our quality of life.

Summed up from his beautifully illustrated video below are six qualities of attractive cities:

  1. Order (buildings should be uniform in appearance and layout—to a degree);
  2. Visible life (it’s nice to see people walking the streets and working in shop windows);
  3. Compactness (don’t sprawl);
  4. Orientation and mystery (a balance of large and small streets should allow for efficient travel… and for getting lost, on occasion);
  5. Scale (a building should be five stories max, unless what it stands for is really worth more air space);
  6. A sense of the local (Melbourne should look a little different from Barcelona, because its cultural and geographic qualities are different).

Whether you agree with the principles de Botton outlined or not, one thing is for sure: we have the opportunity—and the obligation—as citizens to speak up for the type of city we desire. If you missed it, be sure to read our post on where the mayoral candidates stand on Downtown revitalization here and make sure to vote this spring.