by: Katherine Hardwick in Spotlight 1 Comment  


2016 SPARK Grant Program – Sponsored in part by Florida Blue

– Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville staff, December 1, 2015
Republished with permission. 

The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville announces the third cycle of SPARK Grant awards to fund temporary arts and cultural projects in Downtown Jacksonville’s SPARK District. Projects will be implemented between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016, using $70,000 of funds raised from recent Arts Awards Gala including a sponsorship by Florida Blue.

The SPARK District is a Cultural Council initiative focusing on growing the economic vitality of downtown Jacksonville through unique arts and cultural experiences. The inaugural SPARK Grant Program funded four projects through privately-raised dollars in 2013. The second cycle comprised of five SPARK grants ending this year and sponsored by Florida Blue, focused on teens and children.  Projects for the upcoming 2016 cycle were sought from nonprofit organizations and individual artists from the five-county First Coast area to ignite the walkable urban district with arts and culture.  The investment in these projects brings the total amount granted directly to projects and organizations to $176,000.

Selecting from a competitive pool of applicants, a panel of community leaders awarded five SPARK grants to individual artists and non-profit organizations that will represent a wide variety of arts and cultural experiences.

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

If you haven’t picked up the April issue of EU Jacksonville what are you waiting for? One Spark may be over, but there’s much more Downtown goodness to discover. From the amazing article on the “Millentrepreneurs of #Duval”–faces near and dear to Downtown–to a fantastic spread on igniting the economic engine of Downtown through the Cultural Council’s Spark District initiatives, the issue elaborates on some of the best news in Downtown.

And then, of course, I’ll make a shameless plug for our very own Downtown column – a little bit about who we are and what we do day to day:

EU Jacksonville - April

Downtown, In Focus
A Conversation with Downtown Vision, Inc.

In the immortal words of former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold, “As your Downtown goes, so goes your city.” So then, how are things Downtown going today?

The number of Downtown residents is the highest it’s been in decades and residential properties are more than 90% occupied. Downtown office vacancy rates continue to drop each year. Crime in Downtown accounts for only 2% of serious crime in the entire City of Jacksonville. And, Downtown has more parking than Disney World, not including Animal Kingdom.

Downtown champions are hard at work. The Cultural Council has created a Spark Grant program for Downtown revitalization through the arts. The Elbow, Downtown’s nightlife and entertainment district brings together more than two-dozen businesses, all locally owned and operated. Events and ventures like One Spark and now KYN make Downtown a haven for entrepreneurs. And great advocates for Downtown, like the wonderful folks at EU Jacksonville, are helping to shine a spotlight on it all.

From where I sit, in my office on the corner of Adams and Hogan streets, it’s not just that the numbers are adding up, but there’s a tangible excitement in the air. You see, Downtown is not just a job for me, it’s a passion. I’m the director of marketing for Downtown Vision, Inc. (DVI), Jacksonville’s Downtown Improvement District (DID). And, my goal is to tell the story of Downtown.

Let me get technical for a moment in case you’re unfamiliar. A DID is created by commercial property owners within a downtown when they see a need for services over and above what their city government provides. They pay a self-assessed tax based on property values to fund the organization, which then tailors its services to fit the needs of its district. In essence, a DID acts like a homeowners association. More than 1,000 exist in the U.S., and New York City has more than 67 alone.  They exist in most of the 50 largest cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Downtowns are a fascinating subject. But if you’re not convinced yet, here’s why you should care: Downtowns are a source of community identity, culture, history and pride.  A thriving downtown attracts new businesses, jobs and a diverse work force, keeping dollars in the community and enhancing the quality of life for the entire city.

And so, DVI works as the management arm of Downtown Jacksonville to enhance the quality of life for Downtown property owners, and in turn, Downtown employees, residents and everyone who visits. Our resume includes everything from removing graffiti on the columns of the new County Courthouse to advocating for historic preservation to arranging dining promotions with two-dozen restaurants during their slowest time of the year. Our job is to pull all the pieces together.

DVI’s team of smiling Downtown Ambassadors in their orange shirt and pith helmets, are hard at work seven days a week to make Downtown cleaner, safer and friendlier. After all, you have to clean house before you have guests over. And, we’ve welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests over the years to more than 750 event days we’ve programmed, including the award-winning First Wednesday Art Walk. We leased more than 50,000 square feet of vacant retail space to artists with the Off the Grid initiative in partnership with the Cultural Council. And, we tell people what’s going, where to go and how to park at our resource for all things Downtown, Nobody knows Downtown better than us!

And we’re just getting started. Through a partnership with the new Downtown Investment Authority we’re able to do more to attract and retain businesses. Through a partnership with the Downtown Marketing Collaborative, we’re able to reach more people. And, through a partnership with Greenscape and The Paul Bryan Group, we’re launching new beautification initiatives starting in Hemming Plaza.

It’s an exciting time to be Downtown, and I look forward to sharing exciting news and insights on Downtown each month with you. Until then, subscribe to weekly “Things to Do” and Monthly Update e-newsletters, and learn more about our vision for Downtown, by reading our white paper: “Turning the Corner: Rethinking and Remaking Downtown” at Or, let us take you on a walking tour of Downtown and show you around, just contact me at

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.