Folio Weekly: Town Center Cannot Be Town Square

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If there was a bullseye on Downtown thinking, Folio Weekly‘s Denise M. Reagan hit the mark in this week’s editor’s note.

Reagan disputes the belief by some that the St. Johns Town Center is the true focal point of Jacksonville:

“Can you imagine a Simon Mall and its surrounding shopping centers fulfilling the role of a city center?

Would Simon allow activists to gather signatures for a petition to place a library tax district on the ballot in front of Dick’s Sporting Goods? Or to congregate around the duck pond to protest government action in Syria or to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act? Would a corporation appreciate the funky free speech practiced at First Wednesday Art Walk or One Spark? Would food trucks be welcomed or seen as competitors to the mall’s restaurants?”

Reagan posits that one can’t ignore recent successes:

“There are some vacant buildings, but several have been bought and are being developed. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund is renovating the old Haydon Burns Library into an office complex for philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. SouthEast Holdings purchased the Laura Street Trio (Florida Life, Bisbee and Florida National Bank, also known as the Marble Bank, at Laura and Forsyth streets) to create a complex featuring a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, two restaurants, a commercial bank and a rooftop bar. SouthEast also bought the Barnett Bank building at Adams and Laura streets but has not announced its plans.

Destinations like the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville and the Museum of Science and History draw people to both sides of the river. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Riverside and the Karpeles Manuscript Library in Springfield are nearby draws to the core. Dozens of art galleries feature constantly rotating shows of local and national artists. The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville awards grants to artists to create public works in the core and helps galleries find spaces in the area.”

Read Reagan’s full editor’s note here. As you reflect on the kind of city you want Jacksonville to be, we echo Folio Weekly‘s question:

Does Jacksonville want to be known 
for having a great mall or a great city?