A consulting team commissioned by global technology services company IBM delivered a final report with an array of ideas and goals supporting Mayor Alvin Brown's vision to revitalize downtown.
The report comes as part of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, a worldwide initiative to distribute a total of $50 million worth of services and technical assistance to 100 cities through 2013. The research project carries an approximate value of $400,000 at no cost to Jacksonville taxpayers.
The recommendations include directing focus on mixed-use redevelopment and identifying a core "epicenter for growth" downtown, while endorsing the mayor's recently created Downtown Investment Authority, according to a city news release. Unanimously approved by the City Council, the DIA board recently held its first meeting to begin carrying out an action plan to drive investment and opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy a more vibrant downtown.
"We have built great momentum to reactivate downtown and encourage more investment," Brown said in the release. "I appreciate the hard work and recommendations made by the IBM Smarter Cities team, and look forward to the DIA board's active work to determine and drive our best ideas into a reality that enhances investment and activity in our urban core."
The IBM team compared best practices in other cities. The findings suggested Jacksonville increase signage, take advantage of historic buildings and build a stronger sense of identity to promote downtown. The IBM team also endorsed a system to measure results and to provide accountability to taxpayers.
Jacksonville was selected for the Smarter Cities Challenge grant earlier this year among just eight cities nationally and 33 globally after Brown and a number of stakeholders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors met with IBM representatives at City Hall to make the case for downtown. During the course of its engagement, the IBM team met with more than 80 organizations ranging from the mayor and city staff to business, religious, academic and nonprofit leaders.