DVI’s Valerie Feinberg on the importance of effective public spaces

Valerie Feinberg
Valerie Feinberg

Public spaces are an important part of the fabric of every urban environment, including Downtown Jacksonville. Below, DVI’s Valerie Feinberg discusses the importance of effective urban public spaces. Valerie, DVI’s director of strategic partnerships, has a diverse background in urban planning with expertise in healthy community design, walkable places and beautification She holds degrees in both Interior Design and City and Regional Planning.

What is the value of public space in downtowns?

Public spaces are a vital part of every day life in cities, starting with the streets we pass on the way to work. It includes public parks and open space, and in Downtown Jacksonville, it is where our most fabulous asset is enjoyed — the St. Johns River. Public space provides places for sitting and social gatherings or a respite from the hustle of daily life. Quality public spaces have a positive impacts on physical and mental health; reduce crime and the fear of crime; and promote social interaction. In addition to the qualitative value of public spaces, there is a direct economic impact when cities provide well-designed and well-maintained public places that attract customers and workers.

How does Downtown Jacksonville compare with other cities’ open spaces?

I just returned from a visit to Downtown Chicago. What a fabulous city full of wonderful public spaces! It is clean and well-maintained. I observed a Downtown Ambassador picking up litter and felt proud that our own Ambassadors work as diligently, picking up litter and pressure-washing our streets.

While in Chicago, I was particularly focused on the beautiful plant containers with a variety of vegetation accented with colorful flowers. As I walk our Downtown streets, I am encouraged by all of the opportunities we’ve identified for beautification. Chicago benefits from a large tax base dedicated for public space enhancements and maintenance. We have a few challenges with respect to funding, so partnerships are key, something DVI is working on for future beautification initiatives.

Friendship Fountain
Friendship Fountain

What is your ideal public space?

For me, it’s a place where I can close my eyes, look toward the sky, feel the sun on my face and hear water splashing in the background. In Jacksonville, I consider Friendship Fountain an ideal public space on the Southbank. It is a place where families can enjoy the majestic fountain with our beautiful Downtown skyline as a backdrop. There are places to sit and places for kids to run. And very soon, with the renovation of the Southbank Riverwalk, we will have updated, more effective connectivity to Southbank parks, residences, businesses and activities.

What are Downtown Jacksonville’s other successes?

In addition to Friendship Fountain, we have seen an increase in public art on the Northbank. DVI and the Cultural Council understand the importance of public space as both organizations facilitated recent mural projects Downtown — DVI worked with Chamblin’s Uptown on a façade mural and the Cultural Council sponsored the Yates Parking Garage murals. Not to overlook, either, is the efforts of several One Spark creators, who’ve added other examples of incredible public art to the Downtown street scene.

We have great foundation on which to elevate our existing public spaces and create new gems as we look toward redevelopment opportunities Downtown. In addition to the physical and natural elements that create successful public spaces, activity is an integral element — people enjoying public spaces whether it be a programmed event or a relaxed experience.

For more information on public spaces, ideas for future spaces or sponsorship opportunities, contact Valerie at