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The #DTJax Breakfast Award for Downtowner of the Year honors individuals who have demonstrated inspirational leadership and contributed to advancing efforts in creating and supporting a vibrant Downtown.  In 2018, we recognized not one but two people as Downtowners of the Year for their joint work and dedication to bringing more people downtown to live: Ambassador John D. Rood and Steve Moore of Vestcor.

Residents are key to a successful downtown, both economically and culturally, which is why Downtown Vision has been so grateful for the work of Vestcor, the first developer to help provide quality housing in Downtown. Their first project, renovating The Carling and 11 East Forsyth which opened 2003 and 2005, was heavily supported by the City of Jacksonville and a great success: both properties are currently over 90% full, adding valued residents to our Downtown streets.

Now, Vestcor has invested in more housing with multiple workforce housing in LaVilla —  The Lofts at LaVilla and The Lofts at Monroe.  Fully occupied, beautiful new construction, with amenities like fitness centers, internet cafés, and community recreation areas, anyone would want to live there!

More Vestcor projects on the way including The Lofts at Jefferson Station – a mix of workforce and market rate housing, as well as a project nearby in Brooklyn.

Ambassador John Rood founded Vestcor in 1983 and focused on multifamily properties. Vestcor has built and currently manages fifty-seven communities, over 14,000 units, including many in Downtown Jacksonville.  Ambassador Rood served as Ambassador to the Bahamas from 2004-2007 and has been a strong civic leader of Jacksonville.

Steve Moore is the President of The Vestcor Companies, Inc.; he is responsible for the overall direction and performance of Vestcor, overseeing all operational and investment decisions in addition to the strategic planning and growth of the company.

Together, John and Steve have spent years adding housing options for residents of Downtown, which have quickly filled with new residents.  For their commitment to bringing vitality and vibrancy to the crucial residential housing market Downtown, investing in our future, and repeatedly contributing to the process of growing and improving DTJax, Downtown Vision is honored to bestow the title of Downtowners of the Year to these exceptional community leaders.

Congratulations, John and Steve, and thank you for helping to bring more residents into the Downtown community.

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The Downtown Project of the Year Award recognizes a project that has significantly enhanced the economic revitalization of Downtown through the activation of underutilized resources, job creation, or leading design practices.  The 2018 winner was a project many years in the making, opening its doors to Downtown this past March, first with a café and then with college dormitories — 20West Florida State College at Jacksonville Housing and Café.

The key to success in any downtown is more “feet on the street” — more residents, especially.  In many downtowns, students are a huge part of the community’s success. The streets of Downtown Jacksonville didn’t always have them, but 20West is helping to pave the way for what Downtown Vision hopes is an emerging trend.  Students bring the vitality and energy that Downtown needs and taking the first step toward creating an urban residential option for them is a way to enhance the economy and bolster a vibrant, varied downtown culture.

20West FSCJ Housing and Café is housed in the six-story, historic Lerner building located across from The Carling on West Adams Street and was transformed from a vacant building to modern living and dining.  20West is actually a classroom, providing experiential opportunities for FSCJ students in the Culinary Arts Program.  Such a multifaceted project takes many individuals and organizations to successfully complete, and Downtown Vision decided to recognize the three most prominent contributors to bringing 20West to life: Florida State College at Jacksonville, developer Profit Investments and financial partner Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Jacksonville.

Kevin Hyde is the current President of Florida State College at Jacksonville.  A partner and employment lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP, he is also a former President of the Jacksonville City Council.  As the incoming project sponsor continuing the efforts of his predecessor, Mr. Hyde spearheaded the campaign in order to create a final project that would enhance the FSCJ curriculum and student life, as well as bring a new demographic to downtown. “About two years ago, when the idea was started, it was to create both the café, which is part of our culinary program, provide our students with housing, and really try to help revitalize downtown because we know that having more residents downtown truly is the height of what we’re trying to do,” said Mr. Hyde, according to WJCT.

Eugene Profit founded Profit Investments in 1996 and has overall management responsibility for the firm and client portfolios. He attended Yale and played professional football with the New England Patriots and the Washington Redskins.   As the owner of the building, he was an obvious essential partner, working to renovate the entire building for the purpose of ultimately leasing the space to Florida State College at Jacksonville.

LISC Jacksonville provided a key role, filling gaps in conventional financing to allow this project to achieve success. LISC’s mission is to transform challenged urban communities into neighborhoods of opportunity.

Thank you, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Profit Investments and LISC Jacksonville, for bringing 20West Housing and Café to life and for being invested in the future of Downtown Jacksonville.

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This year, Downtown Vision spun off the #DTJax Awards into its own event: the Annual #DTJax Awards Breakfast.  Held in the stunning Jacksonville River Club atop Wells Fargo Tower, awardees, guests and Downtown Vision staff gathered for an exclusive event to celebrate the people and projects that make Downtown Jacksonville a better place to live, work, visit and invest.  

The Downtown Ambassador of the Year Award honors a Downtown Ambassador who continually goes above and beyond in their work to advance the mission of the Downtown Ambassador Program — to keep Downtown clean, safe, and hospitable.  At the inaugural 2018 #DTJax Awards Breakfast, the Downtown Vision Board of Directors selected Downtown Ambassador Michael Ryan to receive the award for his outstanding service to Downtown Jacksonville.

Michael reached his 10-year work anniversary with DVI in May 2018, and is one of the most enthusiastic and involved Ambassadors; always available to provide directions, answer questions, locate lost vehicles. He once even helped retrieve a set of keys that had been dropped into a storm drain!  Whenever a new task, duty, or challenge presents itself, he’s the first to volunteer. This is his second time receiving this award, the first being presented at the 2017 #DTJax Awards for his efforts in 2016.

Michael plays a key role in supporting and implementing each of Downtown Vision’s special initiatives including: setup and support for the monthly First Wednesday Art Walk, assisting with the design and implementation of a management plan for The Corkscrew — which provides dedicated staffing to the new outdoor public gym area on the Northbank Riverwalk — and installing approximately 80,000 LED lights for the annual “Lights on Laura” installation.

Michael’s positive impact on Downtown can be seen in his work assisting with the execution of many Downtown community events, including Theatreworks at the Florida Theatre, the Coffee Series at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, as well as programming at the Main Library focused on children and special needs individuals.

Michael consistently generates positive community feedback for the Downtown Ambassador Program and has received multiple awards for his service in Downtown Jacksonville, including a 2016 Recognition of Service Excellence “ROSE” Award, which recognizes Northeast Florida frontline hospitality employees who demonstrate excellent customer service.  

Michael, on behalf of Downtown Vision and all stakeholders of Downtown Jacksonville, thank you for all your hard work and congratulations on being selected as the 2018 Downtown Ambassador of the Year.

Learn more about the Downtown Ambassadors here.

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At the 2018 #DTJax Gala: Vintage Circus, we presented the third annual #DTJax Awards to celebrate the people and projects that make Downtown Jacksonville a better place to live, work, visit and invest. The Downtown Achievement Award recognizes an individual or organization for a significant body of work that reinforces Downtown as the premier center for arts, dining, retail, entertainment, business and/or urban living in Northeast Florida.

Preston Haskell and DVI Board Chair Terry Durand-Stuebben

Preston Haskell and DVI Board Chair Terry Durand-Stuebben

After years of schooling at Princeton, Harvard and MIT, Mr. Preston Haskell settled in Jacksonville and founded The Haskell Company in 1965. An innovative leader in the construction industry, Mr. Haskell was a driving force behind the practice of Design-Build, delivering on the full scope of work from concept to completion in-house. And as such, he’s served as the founding chairman of the Design-Build Institute of America and the director of the Civil Engineering Forum for Innovation.

Not only is the Haskell Company a prominent fixture on Downtown’s Northbank, its portfolio is packed with projects that have shaped Downtown life. Employees bustle in the Raymond James building and Fidelity National Financial headquarters. Residents enjoy amenities like the new Winston Family YMCA, the Southbank Riverwalk and EverBank Field. And that’s just to name a few.

His service to the community has touched many Downtown institutions: as director of Baptist Health, and as former chairman of the Chamber, JEA, United Way and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Haskell is also a noted art benefactor and collector, who has recently started a Downtown sculpture initiative, planning to place almost a dozen sculptures outside Downtown buildings in the coming years. Florida Trend has named him a “Florida Icon,” and we declare Mr. Haskell a Downtown Jacksonville icon as well.

Thank you, Mr. Haskell, for your continued devotion to our community and for making Downtown Jacksonville a better place for all who live, work and visit here.

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At the 2018 #DTJax Gala: Vintage Circus, we presented the third annual #DTJax Awards to celebrate the people and projects that make Downtown Jacksonville a better place to live, work, visit and invest. The Downtown Project of the Year award recognizes a project that has significantly enhanced the economic revitalization of Downtown through the activation of underutilized resources, job creation or leading design practices.Cowford Chophouse

This year’s winner is a project over three years in the making, opening its doors to Downtown this past October. Incidentally, it also brought the first rooftop bar to the Downtown core. Cowford Chophouse is housed in the two-story, century-old, fully restored Bostwick Building at the foot of the Main Street bridge. The renovation of this nearly 6,000 square-foot landmark was tedious. Park of the roof had been missing for years, the foundation had sunk, and the exterior had to be fully restored, and rebuilt brick by brick in places. But all that work paid off.

The result is a new Downtown showpiece for revitalization that captures the heart of Jacksonville and sets the bar for fine dining in our city. It’s elegant and modern, yet thoroughly connected to Jacksonville’s history. The Klempf’s even donated artifacts recovered during the renovation to the Museum of Science and History. Thank you, Alex and Jacques Klempf, for bringing Cowford Chophouse to life and for being invested in the future and past of Downtown Jacksonville.

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At the 2018 #DTJax Gala: Vintage Circus, we presented the third annual #DTJax Awards to celebrate the people and projects that make Downtown Jacksonville a better place to live, work, visit and invest. The Downtowner of the Year Award honors an individual who has demonstrated inspirational leadership and has made strides to create and support a vibrant Downtown.

Mark Nusbaum, Frank Denton and DVI Board Chair Terry Durand-Stuebben

Mark Nusbaum, Frank Denton and DVI Board Chair Terry Durand-Stuebben

This year, we recognized two people as Downtowners of the Year for their joint work and dedication to chronicle Downtown Jacksonville’s growth in a brand new publication: J Magazine. Mark Nusbaum has served as the president of The Florida Times-Union since 2012. Prior to that he was vice president of operations for Morris Publishing Group, which owns the Times-Union. Mark is also the publisher of both the Times-Union and J Magazine. Frank Denton is currently the editor-at-large for both the Times-Union and J Magazine. Frank is also the vice president for journalism for Morris Publishing Group.

Together, Mark and Frank brainstormed a way to record proposed ideas, current developments and the overall rebirth of Downtown: J Magazine. This quarterly publication—what they’ve called unabashed advocacy journalism—is 100% focused on Downtown. With the first issue being published this past June, J Magazine has already made waves in the Downtown community, reporting on themes of ownership, history and attitudes towards Downtown.

Congratulations, Mark and Frank, on your success of continually looking forward to Downtown development, keeping note of the journey to a bolder Downtown Jacksonville.

At the 2018 #DTJax Gala: Vintage Circus, we took the opportunity to present the #DTJax Awards to celebrate the people and projects that make Downtown Jacksonville a better place to live, work, visit and invest. The Downtown Ambassador of the Year Award honors a Downtown Ambassador who continually goes above and beyond in their service of Downtown’s stakeholders, residents, employees and visitors.

DVI Ambassador Willie Browner and First Baptist Church senior executive pastor John Blount

DVI Ambassador Willie Browner and First Baptist Church Senior Executive Pastor John Blount

Willie Browner joined Downtown Vision in June of 2016, and has since been an essential member of the Downtown Ambassador program. He came to us from City Rescue Mission and worked for DVI as a temporary employee during One Spark, standing out among a group of 12. When a position became available, we knew we had to have him as a part of our permanent team.

Willie graduated from the City Rescue Mission program shortly after his hire, and currently serves as a mentor to the program. He is our first hire under DVI’s “Second Chance Program,” a program providing employment opportunities for individuals who may be considered unemployable due to prior non-violent convictions. Willie started as a clean team member but was switched to safety and hospitality, a position in which he truly thrives and is an irreplaceable asset.

Willie has received praises from Farah & Farah and Regions Bank for his positive attitude and helpfulness. He also receives the most comment cards from the public, who are so touched by Willie’s thoughtfulness and helpfulness, that they take the time to send these notes in to us. Thank you Willie, and all our Ambassadors, for making Downtown Jacksonville a cleaner and safer place.

 

Learn more about the Downtown Ambassadors here.