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.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Thought Leadership No Comments  

The Florida Times-Union opinion piece “Huge changes likely to revive the nation’s core cities” on the trend of “new urbanism” does an excellent job shining a light onto a nationwide trend taking root in Jacksonville.

“For generations, families that were moving up also moved away from downtown.

Now it appears that trend is reversing in a way that spells a renaissance for American central cities.

Author Alan Ehrenhalt calls it ‘The Great Inversion.’ That’s the opening title of his new book, “The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City.”

Ehrenhalt doesn’t see the suburbs disappearing. But he does see strong reasons why young people and many boomers are gravitating to the excitement and vitality of core cities.”

Trends like new urbanism are a key topic among members of the International Downtown Association. Having had the chance this month to spend time with more than 700 Downtown and Central Business District practitioners at the International Downtown Association’s World Congress in New York City, DVI’s Terry Lorince elaborated on some of the trends learned on First Coast Connect.

first_coast_connect_logo_01Listen to the full interview here, beginning at 29:05 minute mark.


Traffic lane reclaimed for pedestrians in Midtown Manhattan.

Here are some key takeaways learned in New York. Young and budding professionals in the Millennial generation overwhelming favor a walkable, active and authentic lifestyle afforded by downtowns. Seventy-seven percent of millennials prefer to live in an urban environment. And studies show that more than 53 percent of 16 to 21-year-olds don’t have driver’s licenses. Unlike previous generations, Millennials value mass transit and bikeable and walkable neighborhoods, like Downtown.

Attracting human capital, such as young professionals, takes a vibrant urban vibe. Activating Downtown is key to attracting more businesses, residents and foot traffic. In the long term, the goal is to reduce vacancies Downtown. In the short term, however, it will take more events and activities to bring people Downtown. Creating things like a strong café culture and plentiful bike paths can be done incrementally.

For example, a key challenge for New York City is combating congestion. However, instead of costly infrastructure improvements, the city is reclaiming traffic lanes to create room for pedestrians to linger, socialize and ride bikes. Learning from the successes – and mistakes – of other cities is key in Downtown revitalization efforts, but the easiest take away is this: just try something. If it doesn’t quite work, learn what you can and try something new. It’s thanks to trials and errors like this that you can now enjoy a cup of coffee right in the streets of New York City, and that’s pretty neat.

With events like One Spark and other developments on the horizon earlier this spring, DVI submitted Jacksonville for the International Downtown Association‘s (IDA) “Downtown of the Month” feature. Jacksonville was awarded the spot for May, which was announced in Wednesday of this week.

The mission of the IDA is to connect diverse practitioners who transform cities into healthy and vibrant urban places. The organization’s vision is to see a world full of vital and livable downtowns.

Enjoy the full article below and come be a part of our beautiful River City.

Downtown Jacksonville

About Downtown Jacksonville

Downtown Vision LogoDowntown Jacksonville is the heart and historic cornerstone of Florida’s First Coast. Centrally located in the Northeast Florida region, which is home to 1.5 million people, Downtown is a 30-minute drive to the beaches and 45 minutes to St. Augustine and Amelia Island. Here, diverse, big city offerings fuse with small town charm and southern hospitality. Set along six stunning miles of the St. Johns River waterfront, Downtown Jacksonville also boasts one of the largest stocks of historic buildings in Florida.

The creative class delights in an urban canvas of art events, galleries and museums. Downtown Vision Inc.’s First Wednesday Art Walk is frequently voted Jacksonville’s ”Best Artsy Event” and attracts an average of 8,000 people monthly to celebrate the urban environment, people watch and savor Jacksonville’s creative talent. Downtown has welcomed seven new public art murals in 2013—with two more in the works—and a recently announced Spark District Grant Program will fund additional placement of art and culture, events, festivals, concerts and tours in the walkable core.

Jacksonville EntertainmentDowntown Jacksonville is a destination for doers. Sports fans cheer year round for Jacksonville Jaguars NFL football; Jacksonville Suns Double-A baseball; Jacksonville Giants minor league basketball – the 2011-2012 National Champions of the American Basketball Association; and Jacksonville Sharks arena football – the only team in the history of all professional sports to have won the championship of their division in every season of their existence. Music lovers thrive on the local live music scene and national performing acts alike. This year has welcomed a new collaboration of nightlife venues in Downtown’s entertainment district called, The Elbow. Together these authentic, locally owned and operated bars and clubs host monthly live music events and offer charter transportation to the nearby beaches area.

As a hub for innovators and entrepreneurs, Downtown Jacksonville boasts CoWork Jax, a co-working location for independent workers to collaborate, conspire and build community. Following suit, design, marketing and tech companies are flocking to the Downtown core for an authentic, urban experience to augment their creativity. Last month, 130,000 people assembled in Downtown Jacksonville for the launch of the world’s first crowdfunding festival, One Spark. Over the five-day event, more than $250,000 in crowdfunding was distributed among 500 art, music, science and technology and cause exhibits. Plus, STACHE Investments, a venture of Jacksonville Jaguars owner, Shad Khan, will invest in five-to-seven companies selected at One Spark and work with them to support, build and grow their ventures in Jacksonville, FL.

Jacksonville WaterfrontWalkScore, an organization which helps people find a walkable place to live and enjoy a walkable lifestyle, gives Downtown Jacksonville a score of 78 – the highest for any Jacksonville neighborhood, and lauds the Northbank core of Downtown as a walker’s paradise with a score 91. This walkability is one key to Downtown Jacksonville’s desirability among residents and workers.

Historic architecture and modern amenities join to create more than 2,300 residences, from luxury riverfront condos to stylish lofts to cozy townhomes. With 93% occupancy in Downtown Jacksonville, its good news several hundred more units are on the way.

As the largest regional office submarket with more than 7 million square feet of commercial space, business is done from the boardroom to the ballpark. Employees enjoy unparalleled lunchtime and happy hour options steps from their offices, plus daytime activities and exercise options along nearly three miles of Riverwalk and bridge trails found only in the urban core.

Downtown Jacksonville offers something for everyone – visitors, workers and residents alike. Downtown’s calendar of events is chocked full of more than 100 events in May alone, including the renowned Jacksonville Jazz Festival and a new partnership with The Elbow this year for Jazz Fest After Dark.

Jacksonville FireworksWithin Downtown Jacksonville, sits the 90-block Downtown Improvement District administered by DVI. A dedicated staff and board of directors act as the management arm for Downtown, employing advocacy efforts, stakeholder and community support, and public realm enhancements to ensure Downtown is a desirable place to live, work, play and visit.

DVI works tirelessly towards a fully revitalized and dynamic Downtown with a number of partner organizations including the newly formed Downtown Investment Authority, the Downtown Marketing Collaborative, JAX Chamber, Visit Jacksonville and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. Together these organizations and more are capitalizing on today’s momentum to build a business powerhouse and 24-hour epicenter of first-class culture, innovation and entertainment opportunities.

For more information, visit or contact executive director Terry Lorince at Follow Downtown Jacksonville on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Photos by Rob Futrell.


Guerrilla placemaking brings unconventional, radical, or under-the-radar approaches to creating or enhancing public spaces. It meets unmet community needs, brings underused places to life and can provide a tool for public engagement. Guerrilla placemaking also tends to be low cost, but high impact.

I had the opportunity to attend sessions devoted to this topic at the International Downtown Association conference this fall in Minneapolis. Examples from St. Paul and Phoenix were highlighted. While the actual guerrilla placemaking initiatives varied from place to place, they exhibited some common themes: they were low cost, low bureaucracy, context sensitive, and had a magical, unexpected quality.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, a group called Irrigate has taken an artist-driven approach to guerrilla placemaking.  Many of their installations have been short-lived since permits are not always obtained, but the impact is immediate. Projects have included a “Before I Die” chalk wall by artist Candy Chang, art bike wayfinding signs and numerous pop-up events.

In Phoenix, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership has undertaken a variety of activities that add pops of color in a “greige,” or gray-beige colored, city. Through the “Little Library” program artists have adorned small wooden boxes throughout Downtown that serve as free book exchanges to promote reading. Poetry day was celebrated by clipping pieces of poetry to trees and writing passages in chalk on downtown sidewalks.

As these few examples demonstrate, guerrilla placemaking initiatives are creative and inexpensive ways to inject some fun into the cityscape and engage the community.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Thought Leadership No Comments  

According to American urban studies theorist Richard Florida, “Public art plays two roles in a community: It helps to create an authentic sense of place and serves as a tool for revitalization. Quality of place is one of the defining issues of the creative economy. Places that are aesthetically pleasing help to attract innovative, creative talent. The arts can also help play a role in revitalization. Investment in the arts (galleries, public arts, common spaces, etc.) provides public leaders with a viable alternative to the large capital investments such as stadiums, convention centers, and so on.”

Downtown Minneapolis has done an amazing job of engaging local artists and installing art in public spaces. We got to see much of this public art first-hand at the recent International Downtown Association conference.  Here are a few snapshots of how public art can change Downtown.


What ideas do you have for public art in Downtown Jacksonville?


by: Katherine Hardwick in Thought Leadership (4) Comments  

How many times have you visited another city and come home to Jacksonville and said, “I wish we could do that here.”?

Each year, members of Downtown Vision attend the International Downtown Association (IDA) conference where we network with industry contemporaries, attend workshops, hear from internationally renowned speakers and take home plenty of enthusiasm and new ideas. This year’s conference titled, Poised to Compete, was held in Minneapolis in September.

Our trip wasn’t all work and no play. Amid our schedule of workshops and presentations, we got a first-hand look at how Downtown Minneapolis has created a sense of place.  The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District was formed in 2009 and the city has made great strides in creating an inviting, vibrant Downtown.  Public art was plentiful along the streets giving new meaning to the term ‘sightseeing’. Large information and directory kiosks also served as public bulletin boards where local residents could interact and connect. Outdoor café seating along the sidewalks lets residents take full advantage of the more seasonal months in Minnesota. Nightlife thrived with an abundance of late night restaurants and bars in both the Downtown core and the revitalized Warehouse District.  And the famed riverfront Mill District has been restored with urban loft apartments and walking trails.

Role model cities, like Minneapolis, provide great roadmaps to Downtown revitalization.