Laying groundwork for downtown Jacksonville's future

Several revitalization projects proposed to attract people downtown

By Bruce Hamilton - The Morning Show anchor, Roxy Tyler - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Downtown Jacksonville is the geographic center of the region.  The vision is to make it the center of the city for the arts, history, business and innovation.

Over the past 18 years some $2.5 billion has been spent to help revitalize the city's downtown. And in the future there are plans to invest another $3.5 billion in the area to grow it further.

“For me, all these public-private partnerships are the future of downtown, where you have a big investor, similar to a Vystar, which just bought a big tower downtown,” said Downtown Vision CEO Jacob Gordon. “And then, they want to be a big partner with the city and bring all their employees downtown and work together and make a much better community here. That’s really going to be the future, in my opinion, working together to be the city we really can be.”

The Barnett Building and Laura Street Trio is being revitalized. The old bank will be home to the University of North Florida's Business school with the hope of drawing a large student core. Plans for the rest of the trio include a boutique hotel and a high-end restaurant.

And there’s the Shipyards. The Shipyards is the area along the Northbank between downtown and the sports complex. Shad Khan's company has plans to build a convention center, hotel and an entertainment complex there.

Also moving forward are projects to tear down the ramp to the Hart Bridge. Federal funding has been approved.  That will help pave the way for surface streets and public transit. It opens the door to tomorrow. The city also plans to develop what it calls an innovation corridor for autonomous roads, solar roads and sidewalks and a smart infrastructure.

“We have the ability to be just like a Nashville, just like an Austin, just like a Philadelphia, whatever other city you want to name, if you focus on what you want our community to be,” Gordon said.  “And even in the last three years you’ve seen unbelievable growth with the entertainment district, Daily’s Place, these buildings downtown, with Hemming Park, with all sort of improvements, but really, you can compare us to all these other cities, but we just need to do better than what we do right now for what we want.”

Gordon said what the city wants is more people downtown.

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