More than 100 volunteer to clean and green Hemming Plaza

Volunteers hard at work.
Volunteers hard at work.

Early-morning rain didn’t deter more than 100 volunteers from spending last Saturday morning sprucing up the center of Downtown’s core, Hemming Plaza.

Men and women of all ages in T-shirts, tennis shoes, hats and gloves took to the dirt March 22, raking, digging, planting and mulching their way to an improved Plaza and, ultimately, an improved Downtown. This event — organized by Downtown Vision, Inc. in partnership with Greenscape of Jacksonville, Late Bloomers Garden Club, The Paul Bryan Group, Interline Brands, Dalton Agency and the City of Jacksonville — was funded by a $35,000 grant from Wells Fargo, as part of its NeighborhoodLIFT program.

“We’ve been planning this for eight months,” said Valerie Feinberg, DVI’s director of strategic partnerships, in a WJXT news segment. “It’s fabulous. It’s so nice to see it come together.”

Pre-event stretches at the opening ceremony.

Organizers gathered teams of volunteers, plants and supplies courtesy of several Downtown businesses and pro-Downtown organizations, including Wells Fargo, Interline Brands, the City of Jacksonville, Late Bloomers Garden Club, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Dalton Agency, CSX and individuals from the community. In essence, the project represented a strong collaboration of public and private partners who came together to be the driving force in making positive change Downtown.

“Hemming Plaza looks incredible, and I’m so proud to have been a part of the plaza’s redesign by donating the landscape design,” said Paul Garwol, president of The Paul Bryan Group. “This is a true example of a public-private partnership, bringing together the City of Jacksonville, business leaders and community advocates to create a gathering space in the center of our city that we can showcase during One Spark and cherish for years to come.”

Mayor Alvin Brown at the opening ceremony.

The morning began with a bang – literally – as Mayor Brown helped fire a mini-cannon marking the occasion. DVI’s executive director, Terry Lorince, led more than 100 volunteers in a series of pre-greening stretches.

Other speakers at the ceremony included: Anna Dooley, executive director of Greenscape of Jacksonville; Paul Garwol, The Paul Bryan Group; Wayne Wood, Friends of Hemming Park; and Damien Haitsuka, First Coast Area President for Wells Fargo. McDonald’s provided free breakfast, and Beau and the Burners provided live entertainment for volunteers as they worked.

A sample of the plants installed.

After more than four hours of cleaning and greening, Hemming Plaza was transformed into the new home of:

  • 1,040 jasmines
  • 434 cast iron plants
  • 1,007 mondo grass plants
  • 218 holly ferns
  • 104 drift rose bushes
  • 151 countie palms
  • 3,708 Algerian Ivy plants
  • 1,084 bags of pine bark
  • 1,134 bags of topsoil
Southpaw cheering on our efforts. Thank you, Jacksonville Suns!

As DVI continues to work to improve Downtown Jacksonville in areas of advocacy, business growth, Downtown education and awareness, events and other initiatives, this Hemming Plaza beautification project is meant to showcase Downtown’s center as a vibrant, welcoming place for all, just in time for one of Downtown’s largest events of the year, One Spark, and many other springtime events.

For more information on this Hemming Plaza cleaning and greening effort, or to learn how you can get involved in future projects, contact DVI’s Valerie Feinberg at

Thank you to the following groups who made this day a huge success: Downtown Vision Alliance, Wells Fargo, Interline Brands, Greenscape, The Late Bloomers, Friends of Hemming Plaza, CSX, Hyatt Hotel, PSS World Medical, JEA, The Paul Bryan Group, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Clara White Mission and Navel Air Station Jacksonville.

Check out the video recap from Jax Parks here.