Dr. Frankenstein’s downtown: Revisiting the 1971 Master Plan
MetroJacksonville.com uncovers a futuristic plan that would bring a smile to the faces of George Jetson, Buck Rogers, Dr. Spock and Chewbacca
By the 1970s, right off the heels of Axe Handle Sunday, downtown had become a decaying district suffering from many of the same factors that decimated urban cities throughout the United States like white flight, racism, and blight.
Mix in a draconian parking meter situation, toll bridges, poor marketing along with new suburban malls, and you have a potent combination for ultimate failure.
To stop the hemorrhaging, a new public entity known as the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was created. Unfortunately, instead of successful revitalization, the DDA would end up assuming the role of a bull with downtown being its own personal china shop.
The famed 1971 Downtown Jacksonville Master Plan would be the first of many studies produced by this group that would eventually drive the final nail in the Downtown retail scene’s coffin.
Worst of all, the DDA had no problem spending taxpayer money as if it flowed freely from the land of milk and honey.
The firm Rogers, Taliaferro, Kostritsky, and Lamb (RTKL) of Baltimore was known for its impressive work on the Charles Center area in downtown Baltimore.
RTKL believed downtown revitalization would be most effective by transforming the area into a mall-like environment to help rejuvenate retail sales in an area that had suffered from the competition of new suburban malls like Regency, Gateway, Roosevelt, and Normandy.
A sketch of the 1971 Master Plan from a Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce brochure about downtown revitalization.
THE TRANSPORTATION LOOP SYSTEM
A major part of the Master Plan was to separate vehicular and pedestrian traffic throughout the downtown core. A new loop system was the solution recommended by RKTL. Vehicular traffic would be routed around the heart of the Northbank, and in the process convert the core of downtown into a large pedestrian mall. The loop system consisted of converting Water, Ocean, Beaver, and Pearl Streets into a one-way outer loop, while turning Main, Ashley, Julia, and Bay Streets into the inner loop. Parking garages and surface lots containing at least 5,000 spaces would then be constructed along those streets.
A pedestrian street, or pedestrian mall, is a street where foot traffic is given partial or total priority over all other kinds of traffic. It is a limited form of an auto-free zone.
Under the 1971 plan, Hogan between Duval and Bay, Laura between Church and Bay, and Duval between Hogan and Laura, would have been converted into pedestrian use only and would be divided into three major sections.
1. New Riverfront Center
2. Laura / Hogan Axis
3. Retail Core Area
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