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Remembering Jake: Godbold’s ‘billion dollar decade’ in Duval County

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After he was first elected in 1979, former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold created a record-setting decade for downtown development.

One 10 year stretch, known as the “billion dollar decade” in Duval County, cemented his legacy.

“It’s not about the names. It’s not about the brick and mortar. I think he left more than that,” said City Council member and former Mayor Tommy Hazouri. “When cranes start coming up in Jacksonville, that’s what Jake’s dream was. That is what all of our dreams were -- he wants to see cranes in downtown Jacksonville.”

By the mid 1980s, almost $250 million in projects had been completed in Jacksonville, and $287 million were hard at work. Another $600 million in construction would be underway by 1987, putting a billion dollars into downtown development over that decade.

One of the notable achievements, of course, was The Jacksonville Landing.

It opened in June 1987 with a large crowd and lots of excitement.

During that time, the Southbank Riverwalk was built, as was the Omni Hotel and the Haskell headquarters. The old Union Terminal train station was recreated, which would later become the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

Godbold’s supporters in the Downtown Development Authortiy said, “The dramatically changing skyline has created a strong sense of community pride. The enthusiasm is contagious.”

The impact was long lasting.

“For nearly a decade as mayor, he had this extraordinary -- influencing people to talk about downtown,” said News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney. “In the years that followed, he also had extraordinary influence. Right up to this very day.”

To build the “billion dollar decade,” Godbold pursued federal and state money. He also helped develop tax increment finance districts to redevelop downtown.

Thousands are expected at a celebration of life and memorial service for Godbold on Thursday. The former mayor remained active in the public until his death at age 86.


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