JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite the pandemic, Downtown Jacksonville is growing -- with new restaurants, shops and entertainment venues popping up.
Some investors are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into making the River City’s Urban Core district more appealing to locals and tourists alike.
Some of the Jacksonville area’s movers and shakers are getting in line behind Alex Sifakis. His company, JWB Real Estate, is making bold investments to the tune of $125 million in Downtown Jax.
“I really just want an urban, lively, walkable downtown,” Sifakis said. “The same thing that the DIA (Downtown Investment Authority) wants, that the administration wants, but everyone really hopes to get in Jacksonville. The thing that people in Jacksonville travel to -- that’s what we want here.”
Downtown Jacksonville is a hot topic -- between the vacant buildings, the renderings that have never become reality and the lawn that used to be The Jacksonville Landing. But Sifakis has shown a half of a billion dollars worth of projects from a number of developers, many of which are already in the works.
Some are already opening up, like the alleyway, the rooftops and the restaurants around the VyStar Tower and the Barnett Building.
Others still have years to go, like the Laura Street Trio and buildings in the Cathedral District.
News4Jax asked Sifakis what he would like to model the developments after.
“There’s so many different things. For the walkability, for the retail, Savannah,” Sifakis said. “Also, (with) respect for the historic buildings, Charlotte (has done) an amazing job in the past 25 years. They’re an NFL team like we are. Cincinnati, Ohio; Birmingham, Alabama; Greenville, South Carolina -- all the cities that have done an amazing job.”
Sifakis said the arts and the outdoors are key to bringing people downtown again. Taking risks, having faith and patience, Sifakis says, could be the key to a booming city.
“It’s not rocket science. This has been done in other cities,” Sifakis said. “Now we’ve got the administration, the DIA, the City Council -- everyone is on board and they’re pushing to make this happen.”