Hemming Plaza relandscaped for One Spark

Problems still remain in downtown plaza

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some people think Hemming Plaza downtown has been an eyesore for years, and now the city of Jacksonville is trying to change that.

The plaza has been cleaned in time for One Spark, known as the world's crowdfunding festival, and many other springtime events.

While the area is newly landscaped, the main concern people have hasn't changed: the number of homeless people in the park.

"It's supposed to be a place for everybody, and so you know, urban living has a very diverse population and it's great," said Valerie Feinberg of Downtown Vision Inc.

While Feinberg was being interviewed for this story, she was interrupted by one of the homeless men in the plaza.

"Tell them the truth: It's a homeless park," the man said.

"I'm sorry. He's distracting me. Can you ask me again?" Feinberg said.

Another problem that's been well-documented is the rats in the area.

"Again, there's some things that need to happen in order to mitigate that, and we are working on that," Feinberg said.

Although the plaza still has a ways to go, hundreds of volunteers have been working on the landscaping for weeks to make it look as good as it can for now.

Public and private partners came together to make it happen. Wells Fargo provided a grant of $35,000 as part of their Neighborhood LIFT program.

Even with the spruced up landscaping, it may not last for long, specifically after One Spark is over.

"Maintenance is always a challenge in our public spaces," Feinberg said.

Mike Saylor of the Downtown Investment Authority said plans to fix up Hemming Plaza have been in talks for about 30 years.

"In some cases it's the first visual impression of out-of-town business people looking to relocate possibly to Jacksonville, move companies, move jobs," Saylor said.

He said the city would like to also improve the littering problem in the plaza.

The second year of One Spark lasts from April 9-13.

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