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Opening the Vaults: Unlocking Downtown’s hidden treasures on an Ambassador tour

View from the 42nd floor of the Bank of America building.

Admittedly, before my internship with the Downtown Vision organization, I spent little time in the Downtown area. After being accepted for an internship here, I worried I would easily get lost and a five-minute errand would somehow turn into a 30-minute ordeal with me resorting to the map app on my phone like a tourist. Thankfully, every DVI intern takes a tour with one of the Downtown Ambassadors. You may have seen these Downtown employees, who are easily identified by their bright orange polo shirts and friendly smiles.  The Downtown Ambassador program helps Downtown visitors with questions and directions, street and sidewalk cleanliness and safety. On my tour, Ambassador Michael helped me figure out how to navigate Downtown and even showed me some of the Downtown treasures.

One of our first stops was to the Skyline Dining and Conference Center on the 42nd floor of the Bank of America building.  This café and conference center is located at the highest point in Downtown and offers breathtaking views of the St. Johns River and Downtown. The Skyline provided great food and variety and the conference rooms with various views are available to the public for meetings and event rentals. The common area is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows and allows you to sit and relax while admiring the stunning views.  Bring a book and enjoy your lunch while basking in the beauty of this urban treasure.

We then went from the very top of Downtown to the very bottom of it – into the vaults and tunnel system that runs underneath the city.  These tunnels and vaults were used at the turn of the century by the many of the banks in the area to safely transport large amounts of money from bank to bank. It was so interesting to see this part of history and actually step inside some of these old bank vaults.  Some of them still have the deposit boxes and a few preserved keepsakes on display like old letters and checks. A few restaurants and offices have made use of the vaults, and I would definitely recommend that you give this piece of history a visit.

We continued our tour of the city with a few more trademark Downtown spots, but what really caught my eye was the amazing public art that engulfs this metropolis.  Some of the murals and paintings were done during the One Spark event while others were commissioned from popular artists like Shaun Thurston.  It was amazing the see the detail and beauty he can create using only spray paint, and his work truly accentuates the natural beauty of the city.  Everywhere you look, there is a splash of color confirming the public art of Downtown is another true treasure this city has to offer.

                                   

The Ambassadors, along with this internship, have taught me so much about the beauty and hidden treasures that are all around this great city center.  While I may still have to occasionally pull out my map app, I am definitely more confident and educated about Downtown and all the amazing things it has to offer.  While the ambassador tour is not available to the public, you may enjoy a similar experience with the Jacksonville “Top to Bottom” Walking Tour offered every Tuesday.

For more information about the Downtown Ambassadors or things to do Downtown, visit downtownjacksonville.org.

 

By Emily Gregorchik, DVI Intern
DVI offers marketing and communications internships each semester. More information on this program can be found here.