by: Katherine Hardwick in Spotlight No Comments  

On One Spark in Downtown Jacksonville:

“Crowded cars on the Skyway. Traffic congestion downtown. Long waits at restaurants.

Isn’t it wonderful?

More than once I heard someone talking about the vibe, even the seemingly negative aspects, by saying, ‘Isn’t this great? … This feels like a real downtown.'”

Read the the full article, “Mark Woods: Downtown felt like downtown should feel” at

Can’t get enough of One Spark? Here are a number of wrap-ups and recaps to get your fix, facts and figures:


When Shawn Thurston spray-painted his landscape mural on the storefront of Chamblin’s Uptown last month, the installation was an introduction of the public art to come. Using the inaugural One Spark festival as a catalyst, DVI continued its efforts in collaboration with the Cultural Council to bring art Downtown, acting as a liaison between artists and property owners and securing approval to add four temporary and permanent public art installations to Downtown’s building façades.

Doug Eng’s “Beyond the Facade”

Local photographer and fine artist, Doug Eng, installed large-scale images of nature and architecture called “Beyond the Façade,” over the boarded windows of the Laura St. Trio and Barnett Bank buildings at the intersection of Laura and Adams streets.

A familiar face in the Downtown art scene, Eng has participated in Off the Grid for a number of years, formerly with a studio space in Studio 121 and currently as a member of the artist cooperative, Southlight Gallery. Prior to “Beyond the Façade,” Eng has lead and participated in a number of installations and exhibits Downtown including “Message in a Bottle: Wall of Light” in Main Street Park last spring. The installation sculpture displayed thousands of messages from the community to raise the awareness of our military’s service to our country.

‘Currently the landscape of abandoned buildings, empty storefronts, and “Available” signage is the driver of depressed states of consciousness for the city. By creating interest, curiosity, and observer interaction, we can begin to transform the downtown experience to a positive one,’ said Eng.

“Rise from the Ashes” by Corey Kolb & Eric Hinote

Local activists Doug Coleman and Wayne Wood introduced “The Big One” project, which brought six larger-than-life sculpture and mural installations to Downtown for One Spark. Included in project is the “Rise from the Ashes” wheat paste mural spanning the width of the vacant Lerner Building, which sits across from The Carling residence at 20 W. Adams Street.

The mural was a joint collaboration by local artists and graphic designers Corey Kolb and Eric Hinote.  “We were trying to portray a positive message for the city in that it’s time to support Downtown and see it return to the epicenter it once was. We see that initiatives like Art Walk and One Spark can revitalize Jacksonville’s urban core by giving people a reason to visit and stay Downtown,” said Hinote. “We feel it’s time that Jacksonville embraces this notion and builds off the initiatives it has put in place to make Downtown more vibrant culturally.”

“Yarnbomb Downtown Jax” by Jackie Kuhn

Between the Laura Street Trio and Lerner buildings, sits an empty fenced-in lot, which came to life with whimsical knitted scenes lead by Jackie Kuhn from Neptune Beach, FL. The most temporary of the installations, “Yarnbomb Downtown Jax,” showcased this female dominated art form, which creates a dialogue between fiber artists and the public through non-permanent street art, called “yarn bombing.” In addition to the mural, yarn creations covered tree trunks, statues, poles and bike racks during the festival.

“Up-cycle” by SeeSAW

Two blocks down Adams Street, Matthew Hebermehl of Savannah, GA lead a project by SeeSAW, See Savannah Art Walls, to paint “Up-cycle.” This installation on the exterior of Burro Bar at 100 E. Adams Street, brings color to a formerly whitewashed wall highly visible from the Main Street bridge entrance into the Northbank core of Downtown. Inspired by the themes of renewal and cultural fire, the mural showcases the positive impact of community-centric public art.

If Thurston’s first mural was the introduction, the murals installed for One Spark are only the first chapter. Announced recently, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville has launched a Spark Initiative for the walking core of Downtown. Through this grant program, the Cultural Council will fund additional placement of art and culture, such as bike racks or benches; or events, performances, festivals, concerts and tours.

Have you had a chance to see the new art Downtown? What do you think? What would you like to see next?

Downtown Jacksonville’s The Elbow

The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to your thigh bone, and the elbow’s connected to…Ocean and Bay Street?

Now, The Elbow is more than a body part, it’s a series of nightlife venues located in the entertainment district Downtown which has developed around the Florida Theatre.

Trey Hebron, talent buyer for 1904 Music Hall, thought of the concept after realizing a fresh, new branding was needed for the entertainment district, similar to what Tallahassee has with “The Strip.” After tossing the name around between friends, Grant Nielsen of Black Key Designs jumped on board to help take the initiative to the next level.

Also launched by 1904 Music Hall is The Connection, an inexpensive, round-trip bus service from the Beaches “over-the-ditch” to Downtown. Started in February, it is now in its experimental stage, running on select nights and will expand further into the Elbow. Fares are $5 a trip. Recently, The Connection has partnered with Bus To Show, which works to reduce intoxicated driving while  building a community among event-goers and fundraising. It’s definitely a great pre-party for the evening.

Downtown Throwdown, presented by Folio Weekly, kicked off last month and takes place every third Thursday, featuring free live music in nine of The Elbow venues from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. This month, don’t miss the Launch Party during One Spark on April 20th, where the brand new website featuring The Elbow initiatives, an events calendar, event previews, concert reviews, album reviews, venue profiles and much more will be unveiled. The Launch Party starts at noon and lasts until 2 a.m. with a huge FREE show at 1904 Music Hall.

Who doesn’t want to be Downtown? There are local brews and specialty cocktails to drink, DJs and live music to dance the night away each night of the week in The Elbow. If you’re not down here any night of the week, you’re definitely missing out.

The bars of The Elbow include: 1904 Music Hall, Burrito Gallery, Burro Bar, Chomp Chomp, ClubTSIDiscotheque, LIT Downtown, Mark’s Downtown Club/Lounge, Northstar “The Pizza Bar” and Underbelly.

Sign up for The Elbow’s newsletter, “The Elbow Express” to find out more about the site launch.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Advocacy 1 Comment  

Mayor Brown’s proposal to invest $11 million into Downtown and Jacksonville-wide economic improvements is now in the hands of City Council.

With $9 million of the plan dedicated to leveraging private investment in Downtown, it may not be a simple sell. The funds — a result of successful debt refinancing – will be deposited into an economic development trust fund and distributed by the Downtown Investment Authority. An additional $2 million is slated for citywide economic improvements and expansion.

Some may argue that $9 million is too much for Downtown, or that we’ve already spent enough Downtown.

$1.4 billion has been invested in Downtown between 2000 and 2011. Of that, 20% was federally funded; 1% was state-funded; 18% funded the Better Jacksonville Plan: public projects such as the Main Library, the Veteran’s Memorial Arena and EverBank Field; and just 11% was City-funded. The remaining half was private investment.

Successful Downtowns are built on public-private partnerships, with public investment incentivizing private. The public—Jacksonville residents—desire a successful Downtown, ranking Downtown as the number one issue for improvement by the year 2025 and believe a vibrant Downtown is important to the economic health of the region.

DVI believes this $9 million of capital investment will make the biggest impact for Jacksonville when invested in Downtown, fostering activation and growth of the Downtown tax base.  Join us and voice your support for investment in a stronger Downtown and, ultimately, a stronger Jacksonville. Call or write your council members and ask them to support bill 2013-0089. A short sample letter is provided below.

A public hearing on the bill is set for Tuesday, Feb. 26, at City Hall. The bill will also be addressed by the Finance Committee on March 5 at 10 a.m. and by the Recreation Community Development (RCD) Committee on March 5 at 2 p.m. The final vote on the bill will take place on March 12.

Sample Letter
Dear City Council Members,

A strong Downtown is important to the economic health of the Jacksonville region. I urge you to approve Ordinance 2013-89, which would infuse Downtown Jacksonville with $9 million of capital investment. This sum is essential to leverage private investment that will activate and revitalize our Downtown.  


by: Katherine Hardwick in Downtown Vision, Inc., Thought Leadership 1 Comment  

As the discussion surrounding Hemming Plaza heats up with tomorrow’s meeting to discuss the restriction of games in the park, Downtown Vision, Inc. (DVI) wanted to weigh in on some possible solutions for revitalizing and re-energizing the park.

In January 2012, DVI made a presentation to the Hemming Plaza Ad Hoc Committee regarding best practices in urban parks and how these might be applied to Hemming Plaza.  You can view the presentation here.

Our goals for Hemming Plaza are to create an atmosphere that makes the urban park attractive to the entire community and to leverage the economic impact of a positive, active urban park space.

Best practices in urban parks tend to fall into three categories:

  1. Make the space clean, safe and attractive;
  2. Create events and activities to bring visitors to the park; and
  3. Redesign the space based on how the community wants to use it.

With regard to making the area clean, safe and attractive, those who manage the park should:

  • Improve park maintenance;
  • Strictly enforce park rules and city ordinances;
  • Provide visible, active police or security presence;
  • Maintain landscaping and clear sightlines; and
  • Improve lighting.

A key component of successful urban parks is creating events and activities that attract visitors. These activities can include:

  • Programming small, free or inexpensive activities, such as garden clubs, book mobiles, pet adoption, small lunch concerts, art and exercise classes, reading rooms;
  • Partnering with other organizations to bring events to the park – make it easy, such as MOCA’s recent “Park Your Art” event;
  • Attract high-quality kiosk retail, such as a cafés or coffee shops;
  • Improve vendor quality and variety; and
  • Use event fees and percentage of sales revenues to offset cost of maintenance and operation of park.

Design is a critical component of creating welcoming spaces and the public’s safety concerns should drive the park’s design. Successful urban parks have included the following design elements:

  • Use moveable seating; spread out limited stationary seating to reduce crowding;
  • Use softscape (plants and flowers) instead of hardscape.

Dan Biederman, president of the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation and a widely respected expert on revitalization of urban parks had the following to say about park design, “Create a space where women want to be – they are an indicator of the safety and success of a public space.”

These strategies have proven successful throughout the country, with Houston’s Market Square Park being a good example, as you’ll see in the presentation. Before implementing new rules and regulations, the City should ensure that existing rules and regulations be enforced and implement relatively low-cost incremental improvements that can spur activity and revitalization in Hemming Plaza.

Please share your ideas on revitalizing Hemming Park in our comments section. We want to hear from you!


If you’re interested in learning more or making your voice heard, you can attend the Hemming Plaza Ad Hoc Committee meeting, tomorrow, Tuesday 10/23 at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, City Council Conference Room A (please note new location), 4th floor.