What is the future of development in downtown Jacksonville? This group will help decide

Mayor Curry rejects reputation as “Tear Down Mayor”

VIDEO: There are new questions about the future of downtown Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are new questions this week about the future of downtown Jacksonville.

The mayor put a group of business leaders together to determine what’s next. The new group is hoping to overcome some hurdles like the Lot J plan that didn’t pass.

Two years ago when the city blew up old City Hall, it was supposed to be a catalyst of major downtown development. Now it’s just an open field still waiting for development. The same thing where the old courthouse stood — just a grassy field.

Then a year ago, The Jacksonville Landing came down. That resulted in another big grassy field downtown and there are no concrete plans for what’s going to take its place.

While talks are in the works on both sites, there are other projects that also have been left in the dust such as the rejected Lot J development.

The sting of projects has left Curry with the reputation as the “Tear Down Mayor.”

“I resent that premise,” Curry said. “Things have happened downtown.”

Curry says you have to leverage opportunities before you can create them. Curry pointed to projects like the new JTA building, the Laura Street Trio and the new JEA headquarters as success stories.

On Monday, Curry took more action by bringing business leaders together to discuss the future of downtown and what needs to happen to improve the quality of life there. The public had a chance to weigh in. Many had positive comments but others said the city needs to reach further.

“You can’t have a plan just for downtown and not have a plan holistically for the city,” said Timothy Sloan.

But the biggest discussion had nothing to do with businesses it had to do with the growing homeless camp that is downtown and what has to happen before development can actually take place.

“I have homeless people sleeping on my front porch,” said Shelby Vanderbort who lives near the homeless camp. “I’m actually a block away from the tent city that people call it. I feel like people aren’t really addressing the real issues.”

The committee plans to make the homeless situation a top priority.

There was also some encouraging news concerning the abandoned Berkman II site — the eyesore will be torn down soon.

Also Monday it was announced that the North Bank Riverwalk is going to be extended further down towards the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium.

There is also talk of changing some of the downtown one-way streets to two-way in order to slow down traffic and make people more aware of downtown as a destination and not a place just to drive through to get home.

While these are just some of the ideas, the group plans to meet again in two weeks and begin the process of recommendations.

More vision of downtown will be discussed Tuesday at noon. It will focus on riverfront development.

The Downtown Investment Authority will look at the shipyards, the former Jacksonville Landing site and other projects that are set to happen but have been delayed.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.