JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Community leaders broke ground Wednesday on a new city park in the historic LaVilla neighborhood. It’s located on property that was the birthplace of brothers James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson, authors of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” which is considered the Black national anthem.
Park renderings show the park (see below), on Lee Street two blocks north of the Prime Osborn Convention Center, will eventually have gardens, statues and markers. Construction is expected to begin this spring.
“There is a rich, really rich, African-American history from out of Jacksonville that, frankly, just hasn’t been honored and recognized,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said. “So, this is honoring and recognizing it. But it’s also teaching all of the children of our city about our past and, also, as we learn from our past, I think we can be better people.”
Eventually, the park will tie into a larger project known as the Emerald Trail -- proposed as a 30-mile strip of green space that will connect to 15 historic neighborhoods around Jacksonville.
“LaVilla is a beautiful historic neighborhood that needs a lot of investment on its own, and every great neighborhood needs an investment in public spaces,” said Jake Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision. “The renderings of this park, if you see them, are incredible and it’s going to be a cornerstone for neighborhood development for decades to come as this neighborhood.”
The city has committed more than $710,000 to the project. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund, the Chartrand Family, and TIAA Bank will also contribute to building the park.