By Amy E. Pittman, DVI Intern


It’s 7 a.m., and I’m at the top of the Main Street Bridge. My breathing is heavy as I take out my ear buds and lean against the blue railing. My legs are tired from the distance they’ve already carried me, but I know I won’t regret taking a moment to watch the sunlight spilling over into our city to wake it up. Besides the obvious health benefits, the best part of running is exploring, in my opinion. Downtown Jacksonville is a great place to explore through exercise because the terrain is diverse, the sidewalks are safe, and the views from the bridges are perfect.


While sitting outside my favorite café where the owner knows exactly what I order every time I walk in the door, it made me wonder: What makes outdoor seating Downtown so popular, and why do people choose it over its climate-controlled counterpart? Could it be the feeling of freedom in escaping the office, the ability to bring our pet with us to catch a breath of fresh air, or to simply enjoy the hustle and bustle of Downtown? Whatever your reasons, outdoor seating or café seating has become a permanent part of urban culture.

Within the last few years, the City of Jacksonville has allowed restaurants to setup outside seating for those who have applied for the permit. Since early 2013, Downtown Jacksonville alone has seen an increase from 17 to 22 businesses with outdoor seating, according to DVI’s recent survey, which includes restaurants, designated smoking areas and seating outside offices.

“It’s great the city allows outdoor seating, and we’re lucky we could expand to the sidewalk,” said Ian Chase, Chomp Chomp co-owner. By allowing cafés and restaurants the opportunity to increase seating outdoors, it provides a quick and inexpensive way for businesses to expand, and it improves the pedestrian experience. For Chomp Chomp, this became a necessity as demand has grown significantly in the last year.

The current cost of a Downtown Jacksonville sidewalk café permit is only $250. Orlando’s price is double at $500, whereas Tampa ($300) and Charleston ($200) are similar to Jacksonville’s permitting cost. DVI encourages restaurants and cafes to take advantage of this opportunity to set up sidewalk seating. For information on how to obtain a permit for your business, visit coj.net.

by: Admin in Placemaking No Comments  

Recently on vacation, I spent a few hours exploring Downtown Richmond.  Though it was still early in the morning – before many of the shops had opened – Richmond was full of culture, color and activity. Nowhere was this more evident than in its unique public spaces.

Belle Isle Pedestrian Bridge

My first stop was Belle Isle, home to a prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War and later to a nail works, granite quarry and hydroelectric plant. Today, it’s a thriving city park: a scenic and wooded retreat accessible by the Belle Isle Pedestrian Bridge suspended over the James River.

Grateful Dead Rock at Belle Isle

Located within Downtown, the 52-acre island offers miles of hiking and biking trails, and access to canoeing, kayaking, camping and even rock climbing. Scattered throughout the island lie picnic areas created amid old buildings remnants. Huge, flat boulders line the river and are used in the summer for picnics, sun bathing and relaxing.

Outside the James River Power Plant Building

Richmond’s Canal Walk was our next stop. The Canal Walk features four centuries of history displayed by statues and exhibits along a 1.25-miles stretch on the banks of the James River and Kanawha and Haxall canals. Along the way, we stumbled upon the James River Power Plant Building and Floodwall, an open-aired building boasting amazing murals created during the Richmond Virginia Street Arts Festival. While I was busy snapping pictures, pedestrians were walking, running, bicycling all around me on this busy route to get to work or enjoy some morning exercise.

In just a short time there, I fell in love with the way Richmond embraces its public spaces utilizing empty walls to create public art; capitalizing on its natural resources, like the river, to encourage outdoor activities; and showcasing its history. Residents and tourists of Richmond have a great opportunity to explore the nooks and crannies of their city.

We too, in Downtown Jacksonville have so much local cultural, amazing natural resources and fascinating history to embrace. With nearly three miles of Riverwalk and waterfront parks like Friendship Fountain and Metropolitan Park; with more and more public art to brighten our streetscapes; and with wonderful historic tours, like the Top to Bottom Tours there is already much to enjoy.

And there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes for further enhancement. The City of Jacksonville is currently reviewing an Request For Information on the 40-plus-acre for the development of the Shipyards property and it’s about to issue an Request For Proposal for the management of Hemming Plaza. Also, the Cultural Council of Great Jacksonville is currently reviewing applications for its Spark Grant Initiative, which aims to bring three-to-four major public art installments to the core of Downtown. These and other new initiatives will be key in enhancing Downtown’s appeal and activating our public spaces.

by: Admin in Placemaking No Comments  

“I love this city, and I’m doing what I can to make it a better place.”
-Artist Shaun Thurston

It’s not a far stretch of the imagination to believe art has a positive affect on communities. In a recently released video, local artist Shaun Thurston shares through his own words – and artwork – why public art matters.

“Artwork, I hope, makes people feel inspired,” he says. “It can make them feel loved and appreciated, and that can add to a sense of community.” The video chronicles the spring installation of Thurston‘s mural above Chamblin’s Uptown & Cafe on Laura Street, as part of DVI’s Laura Street Facade Grant Program in conjunction with the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville‘s “Art in Public Places” initiative:

DVI’s Laura Street Façade Grant Program, a matching grant program established in 2011 to provide economic incentive for property and business owners to improve building facades and storefronts. – See more at: http://downtownjacksonville.org/blog/?s=facade#sthash.vuBWqYoI.dpuf
a matching grant program established in 2011 to provide economic incentive for property and business owners to improve building facades and storefronts. – See more at: http://downtownjacksonville.org/blog/?s=facade#sthash.vuBWqYoI.dpuf
a matching grant program established in 2011 to provide economic incentive for property and business owners to improve building facades and storefronts. – See more at: http://downtownjacksonville.org/blog

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, public art fosters community appreciation and attachment:

 “The Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community initiative surveyed some 43,000 people in 43 cities and found that “social offerings, openness and welcome-ness,” and, importantly, the “aesthetics of a place – its art, parks, and green spaces,” ranked higher than education, safety, and the local economy as a “driver of attachment.” Indeed, the same story may be playing out locally in Philly: a survey of local residents found that viewing public art was the 2nd most popular activity in the city, ranking above hiking and biking.”

With Downtown Jacksonville’s public art boom underway, we’re one step – and a few murals – closer to a more robust city center. For even more progress on North Florida’s largest art gallery, known simply as “Downtown Jacksonville,” check out the Jacksonville.com Yates parking garage photo gallery.

by: Admin in Thought Leadership No Comments  

Enjoying views of the Arno River.

I recently returned home from the trip of a lifetime.

In a series of events that can only be filed under “Luckiest Girl Alive,” I was able to spend 10 days wandering around Florence and Rome with my boyfriend and his family. I came back cultured, educated and a couple pounds heavier but also with a fresh appreciation for Downtown Jacksonville.

We spent a full week of our trip in Florence. For those of you that napped through a few art history classes like I did, here’s a refresher course:

Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance. The population of metropolitan Florence is similar to Jacksonville, approximately 1.5 million. Like Jacksonville, it is a river city. Built around the Arno River, multiple bridges span the water. For a brief stint in the 1860s, it was the capital of Italy.

Browsing masterpieces in the Bargello National Museum.

Florence is believed to have the greatest concentration of art in the world. The home of Galileo and da Vinci, the city is saturated in history, science, sculptures and frescoes. It was a strange phenomenon for me to see such magnificent works of the human ability juxtaposed with modern conveniences. Next to palaces that used to house Italian royalty are touristy T-shirt carts and overpriced cafès. Fiats and Vespas speed down streets once reserved for the Medici family. Italian school children listlessly scroll through iPhones while on field trips to the most venerated art museums in the world.

I found myself intrigued by these students. They were napping in Loggia dei Lanzi and painting their nails in the Boboli Gardens. Why were they not in awe like I was? I became enchanted by everything around me. I felt like a Disney character, wide-eyed and whimsical, meandering through galleries and museums and cathedrals. But these kids were just on another field trip, probably one they’d been on every year since primary school. They rolled their eyes and listened to their iPods. It baffled me.

But then it occurred to me after my Italian fairy tale had ended that maybe I’m not as reverent about Downtown Jacksonville as I should be. If we all look at our city from an outsider’s perspective, it is a beautiful place to be. How often do we drive to work over the Main Street Bridge as the sun is coming up and just curse the traffic jam? How many times do we walk past a public art piece on our way to lunch without a second look? When was the last time we walked along the river at night, looking at the lights of Downtown like a tourist in our own city?

This weekend, take a trip Downtown and look at our city with a fresh pair of eyes. Check out our events calendar, and try something new. A little whimsy is available around every corner.


– Angela Bruno, DVI Intern

by: Admin in Placemaking No Comments  

NPR photo

Thought-provoking public art and effective placemaking knows no borders. Walk the streets of Downtown Jacksonville, and you’ll see yarn-bombs, murals and sculptures. Walk the streets of Brazil’s Sao Paulo, and you’ll likely run into the same.

A recent NPR story chronicles the public art and placemaking scene of Downtown Sao Paulo, along with the artists who make it happen:

“[Crochet artist Leticia] Matos covers trees and street poles with woolen sleeves and small, colorful pompoms. Her works look like whimsical webs of rainbow yarn; the effect is surprising and oddly comforting.

‘I want people to have something familiar in the city. Here in Brazil we teach knitting from mother to daughter,’ Matos says. ‘When they see my art, they suddenly feel comfortable walking these cold streets. And you can feel better.’

Urban landscapes have always inspired art, and Brazil is no exception. A new crop of artists like Matos not only is taking inspiration from Sao Paulo’s streets but also is trying to give something back.”

Read or listen to the full NPR story: In Gritty Sao Paulo, Artists Take To The Streets. In the comment section below, share your ideas for public art and placemaking in Downtown Jacksonville.

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?