Council discusses a more 'family-friendly' Jax Beach

Transportation alternatives, attractive public spaces and family friendly events were the focus

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter
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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Community and business leaders gathered Monday night to exchange ideas on how to make downtown Jacksonville Beach more family-friendly.

A consultant from California was there to offer his vision for a "hospitable downtown" Jacksonville Beach.

"I think it was very informative, it's been a long time since anyone was able to hold my attention or a crowd this large attention for such a long period of time, it was a lot of good information," said Rick Knight who lives in Jacksonville Beach.

Grady R. Kearsey has lived in Jacksonville Beach since 1959 and said he's seen the area transform and grow. He served two terms on city council and currently serves on the planning commission. He agrees the downtown area needs to be more hospitable for longtime visitors.

"I hope to make it a more vibrant city as the man that was talking to us said, that we should make it much more of a vibrant, more of a destination... Rather than just a place for people from jax to just come over, drink and party then leave," said Kearsey.

Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham says the workshop was held just for informational purposes and it had a great turnout.

"We got a great turnout, very diverse crowd...we got developers, business owners, property owners, residents, citizens, homeowners," said Latham.

The workshop also focused on creating a new economic environment.

"At the beginning of the presentation, we talked a little bit about the evolution of Jax Beach and what's happened over the last 20 years has led us to a point where it's time for us now. We've got a beautiful destination location, we got a lot of people coming into town, we're a city of 22,000 people but on weekends we see anywhere from 10 to 50,000 additional people so what do we want that downtown infrastructure to support?" Latham said.

One resident we spoke with wants to see downtown Jax Beach continue to prosper.

"You know this is a very tight knit community it's a family, a large family and we're all very concerned we need people to come visit and support all these business. I can walk within one mile out of my house and go to 30 or 40 restaurants and that's very nice," said Knight.

Some of the areas of focus are transportation alternatives, attractive and inviting public spaces, and a diverse choice of family-oriented events.

People were divided into groups of 10 for tours downtown to take a look at the facilities and see what people see at different times of the day. They have the opportunity to fill out a survey on their experience on what's going on in Jacksonville Beach.

"We start to take the tours, fill out the surveys, gather the data and then start to look at the plan and the plan is gonna be specific. What do we wanna accomplish, when's it gonna be done and who's gonna be responsible for each element of the plan, so we're excited," said Latham.

The next step in the process is for the city to look at the plans more in depth and come up with a time frame to implement some of the ideas.

"The feedback we're getting is that they're very glad that the council is seeking the input from businesses and residents and that's what the four of us came to city council about a year and a half ago and a lot of us had similar platforms that we wanted a more open form of government, take more input from out local businesses and residents so we're excited and I think they are too," said Latham.

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