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.

IDA New Logo 2-9-10Announced this week in San Francisco at the International Downtown Association‘s annual conference, Downtown Vision, Inc., Downtown Jacksonville’s business improvement district, is the recipient of two Merit awards within the 2015 Downtown Achievement Awards. The IDA award recognizes excellence in the areas of innovation, representation and sustainability.

DVI submitted award applications for two categories, “Public Space” and “Marketing and Communications.” The first project, “Hemming Park Revitalization,” was submitted for DVI’s work in the formation of Friends of Hemming Park (FOHP) last fall and for the strides made by FOHP in improving the park thus far. DVI – in partnership with the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville and Dr. Wayne Wood – was a critical component in jump-starting the revitalization of this central public space.

A packed Hemming Park during the monthly First Wednesday Art Walk

A packed Hemming Park during the monthly First Wednesday Art Walk

By guiding the concept through the legislative process, board development, fundraising and staffing, DVI is thrilled to witness how Friends of Hemming Park continues to bring vibrancy to a park that struggled for decades. Today, DVI CEO Jake Gordon works closely with FOHP as a member of the organization’s board of directors. DVI also provides Ambassador clean and safe services for the park seven days a week.

To read the “Hemming Park Revitalization” IDA Merit award project summary, click here.

You can also download the full presentation here.

The second Merit award was bestowed in the category “Marketing and Communications” for DVI’s “#DTJax Twitter Promoter Program.” The application outlined the social-media campaign aimed to debunk Downtown myths through authentic Twitter conversations, tracked using the hashtag #DTJax.


Social-media snapshots of some of DVI’s #DTJax Twitter promoters.

Running from November 2013 to April 2014, the Promoter Program targeted @DTJax’s most influential Twitter followers, educating them on Downtown Jacksonville’s biggest misconceptions and offering incentives – tickets, bar tabs, etc. donated by Downtown businesses – to encourage Promoters to spend more time Downtown and tweeting authentically about their experiences.

A snapshot of the Twitter campaign’s impact:

3To read the “#DTJax Twitter Promoter Program” IDA Merit award project summary, click here.

You can also download the full presentation here.

DVI would like to thank all of their partners and friends involved in these two efforts as well as the International Downtown Association for the recognition. It’s partnerships with and support from like-minded, hardworking urban enthusiasts that truly make an impact on creating better cities, #DTJax included.

After a decade on the Southside, the Cathedral Arts Project has returned home to Downtown. Founded in 1993 at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, the non-profit organization works to provide access to visual and performing-arts instruction for underserved, school-aged children. Thrilled that CAP is once again Downtown, we recently caught up with CAP Chief Operating Officer Forrest Holland, who oversaw the relocation to and interior design of their new space Downtown.


The common area at CAP's new Downtown office.

The common area at CAP’s new Downtown office. Photos by DVI.

Why did CAP want to return back to Downtown?

At such a pivotal moment in CAP’s history, it never felt more appropriate to return to the core of Downtown. We made a conscious decision to position our new headquarters in closer proximity to our civic, community and cultural partners. Not only does the urban core give CAP higher visibility, but also it reflects our long-term commitment to Jacksonville’s future and participation in Downtown revitalization.

Why did you all decide on the Elks building?

If you can believe it, this was a two-year search. While there were numerous buildings with available space Downtown, very few fit our desired criteria when looking for a permanent home. When we learned about the availability of the third floor in the Elks Building, we were elated! After our first visit, I knew I wanted to do anything possible to secure this space for CAP.

by: Admin in Thought Leadership No Comments  

20120907-DSC_3766_67_68_69_70_web The Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition of Northeast Florida (ESHC) recently released data from its annual count of homeless persons in the region. According to a recent Florida Times-Union story, the data revealed that chronic homelessness city-wide decreased by 60 percent over the past six years. This decrease can be attributed to a number of factors, including an improving economy, the “Housing First” model (finding stable, permanent housing quickly) and strong partnerships among service providers.

In the past year alone, significant decreases were observed in the number of chronically homeless individuals (25% decrease) and in the number of homeless veterans (18%), with an 11% overall decrease in the number of homeless persons in Northeast Florida.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Downtown Vision, Inc., Thought Leadership No Comments  

p1 coverEach year, Downtown Vision, Inc. publishes its “State of Downtown” report. The publication analyzes the previous year’s trends and successes, providing a snapshot of Downtown Jacksonville’s health and progress.

Today, we are pleased to release the 2014 report, which covers information on:
  • investment + development
  • office + employment
  • residential
  • culture + entertainment
  • restaurants + retail
  • hotels + convention
  • clean + safe
  • getting around

by: admin in Thought Leadership No Comments  

By Tenley Ross, DVI Intern

With early voting in full swing, we’ve updated the guide of candidates available for your votes for mayoral, city council district and city council at-large elections. All citizens can vote for at-large members regardless of where they live. Courtesy of The Florida Times-Union‘s “Meet the Candidates” Q&As, get a closer look at where candidates stand on revitalizing Downtown below. Early voting runs through May 17 at select locations city-wide, and the general election will be held at all precincts Tuesday, May 19.


Mayoral Election





Bio excerpt: On July 1, 2011, Alvin Brown made history by being sworn in as the first African American mayor of Jacksonville. Since his first day in office, Mayor Brown has kept his word and put Jacksonville first.

Mayor Brown has led with a vision of bringing Jacksonville together — working with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — to create greater opportunities for the city. He has moved Jacksonville forward, and has helped grow the economy, protect taxpayers, and improve education and public safety. Since first being elected, Mayor Brown has put politics aside and has focused on fostering business and employment opportunities for Jacksonville — for which the city has received national recognition.

What is your top priority for reviving downtown?

Before I was elected, I said a vibrant and modernized downtown would be a priority in my Administration. I’m proud to have kept my word and led the way on revitalizing Downtown Jacksonville during my four years in office. My Administration has worked with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents on making today’s downtown a reality. Downtown is now going through an economic and cultural renaissance. I helped create the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA), which has played a vital and positive role in helping to jump-start downtown development. Thanks to my Administration’s leadership and the DIA’s work, Downtown Jacksonville now has clear momentum. In the last four years, we have partnered with the private sector to achieve significant progress for downtown. For example: The Brooklyn area of downtown has been revitalized since 2011, with a Fresh Market, multiple restaurants, and more than 600 new housing units, which will all have a total economic impact of hundreds of millions of dollars for Jacksonville. EverBank has already relocated downtown and Citizens Property Insurance Company will soon be relocating downtown as well — together bringing thousands of new employees to Downtown Jacksonville. We worked with City Council to save the historic Bostwick Building and enable new ownership that will revitalize this critical structure at one of the entrances to downtown, while preserving its historic character. By joining together with a private partner, we have begun to renew the iconic public space at Hemming Plaza to make it safer, cleaner, and more attractive as a venue for community activities.

One Spark has brought national attention to downtown, as has the city’s partnership with the Jaguars in upgrading our football stadium to help attract events from around the globe. As a result of bringing a larger number and more diverse events to downtown venues, over 200,000 more visitors came to downtown in 2013-2014 than in the previous year. The Miami Herald recently said, “Downtown Jax has changed dramatically over the past three years” and “the city core has gone from drab to dynamite.” The Florida Times-Union said it best when they said, “Downtown is roaring to life.” Revitalizing the Jacksonville Landing, developing the Shipyards, and hopefully bringing life back to the Laura Street Trio are priorities for my Administration in taking Downtown Jacksonville to the next level.

I was proud to recently sign the DIA’s redevelopment plan into law, and I look forward to working with DIA leaders, the business community, downtown merchants and residents, the arts and cultural community, and others to help downtown realize its full potential. Over the next four years, I will build on all the success we’ve had over the last four years and continue to invest in Downtown Jacksonville so that it becomes a destination, not a pass-through to other neighborhoods. We can continue to make our city a world-class city, where people want to live, work, and play.

by: Admin in Thought Leadership 1 Comment  

Photo by Rob FutrellAs I wrapped up my position as executive director of Downtown Vision, staff asked me to pull together some thoughts and observations about my time Downtown.

We forget how much things have changed Downtown.

  • In 2001, we had no market-rate residential units. Today, we have close to 1,700 market-rate residential units in 12 residential projects, with an additional 600 units coming on line this year.
  • In 2001, the Northbank Riverwalk was only in front of The Landing and Times-Union Center. Today, it is approximately four times as long and easily connects to Riverside. The St. Johns River is, without question, one of the most magnificent rivers in the country.
  • When I came to Jacksonville in 2001, there were only three places in the Northbank core to stop for a drink after work – The Landing, the Omni and the VooDoo Lounge. Today, there are close to 20 options to grab a drink.
  • It was only about eight years ago that we sat at public meetings to discuss building a parking garage at the foot of Hogan Street on the riverfront. Now, we are talking about a new design plan for The Landing and better incorporating Hogan Street into this plan. Talk about progress: we are now thinking smarter and bigger, focusing our development energy – and dollars – on projects that will truly make Downtown a destination.