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Hopes of downtown revitalization still alive

One business says it can't wait for future

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As City Council works to crunch the numbers, the mayor's staff is hopeful reorganization can play a role in bringing in more revenue to help fund a nearly $1 billion budget.

It may not be this year, but the city's chief financial officer, Ronnie Belton, says he's confident the mayor's plan of revitalizing downtown can work. The city hopes it can bank on businesses brought in by the proposed Downtown Investment Authority.

"I think what we're looking for from the DIA is to bring new vitality to downtown and become a real revenue source, and I think that's all possible," Belton said. "I think it's real. I think it works, and we're getting indication that there's going to be a lot of participation in it."

It's a dream for downtown many residents are hoping to see come true. For now, they say it seems to be slow-going.

"I was told that if you go downtown, that's where normally you can find things to do, and I was pretty disappointed when I got here and downtown was not the place to be," resident Amber Thayer said. "But since I've been here for a year, it has gotten better. I still think it needs some work."

Despite the availability of space, like across from the new courthouse, some business owners say that in their experience it's still too tough to survive.

"Just the nature of the beast," said Nader Oweis, store manager of What's Good? "There's no business down here, and you just have to go to where it is."

Oweis' store is shutting its doors and dropping the "Downtown" from its name, opting for Orange Park instead.

Oweis said none of the mayor's campaign promises of revitalization can keep the business around.

"We love the area, we really do," Oweis said. "We've met a lot of really good people. It's just, you can't sustain on just hopes of something in the future that could take years to happen, can't just pay out of pocket forever. So it just is what it is."

The DIA is not a reality yet, which leaves downtown in limbo waiting for what's to come.