JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If Jacksonville councilman Matt Carlucci gets his way, the riverwalk near Metropolitan Park and areas along Bay Street may someday become just as vibrant as Venoy Park and downtown St. Petersburg.
Carlucci recently took a trip to the St. Petersburg area to meet with former mayor Rick Baker who is credited with turning that city’s downtown area close to the bay into a destination hot spot.
And he says he learned a lot from the former mayor.
“You value your waterfront for your people. Not for business interest but for the people. When that happens, it enhances business opportunities,” said Carlucci, who is running to become the next mayor of Jacksonville in 2023.
Councilman Carlucci wants a family-friendly idea that he says will make people want to visit this area.
Jacksonville has always been known as the River City but according to Carlucci, the city isn’t living up to its nickname.
“We are the River City and we are not doing what we should be doing with it,” Carlucci said.
Carlucci says areas along the river could be more vibrant, greener and offer more for people to enjoy. He wants to see 75-acres of city-owned property downtown along the river turned into a park. This is a rendering of what he’s proposing between Metropolitan Park and the Berkman Marina. Lots of greenery with lots oak Trees providing shade.
“You could have weekend festivals. You could have concerts. You could have cultural activities. Places for kids to play in splash parks,” Carlucci said.
Carlucci also says the park would be great for downtown homeowners.
“It kind of provides people who live downtown with a backyard. It brings vibrancy and adds value to the buildings,” Carlucci said.
Plans include a floating restaurant and pier. The renderings also include Shad Khan’s proposed Four Season’s Hotel. Carlucci says he would like to see café's along Bay Street to give the area more flare.
He recently traveled to St. Petersburg where he sought advice about these plans from Baker who served as mayor for nine years. Baker says the waterfront now plays host to hundreds of events that draws crowds and generates money for the city.
“Some beautiful concerts on the water to our Saturday morning markets on the water downtown, running races to the Grand Prix which races along the waterfront,” Baker said.
Mayor Baker said having that green space on the water was the catalyst for revitalizing downtown St. Pete. Carlucci wants to bring that kind of revitalization to Jacksonville’s riverfront.
Carlucci said bringing more greenery to the area will also act as a buffer when major storms combined with high tide caused the river to overflow.
On Aug. 25 there will be a town hall meeting at the Jessie Ball Dupont Center to discuss the proposal and hear ideas and concerns. The meeting will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.