High hopes for LaVilla: Decades-long proposal for ‘LaVilla Link’ breaks ground

The 30-mile trail will connect several Jacksonville neighborhoods, starting at Brooklyn and LaVilla downtown.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are high hopes in place for a decade-long proposal to construct the LaVilla Link to bring the area once known as the Harlem of the South back to life.

LaVilla was once home to 600 Black-owned businesses and a hub for black culture and entertainment during segregation, but in the 1970s, when Union Terminal shut down, the area floundered.

Groundwork Jacksonville has been working to change that, and that proposal is set to come to fruition with the beginning construction of the Emerald Trail, which is only but a part of the LaVilla Link master plan.

“We believe it’s going to bring economic opportunity and development,” said Groundwork CEO Kay Ehaus.

A $3.9 million project, the LaVilla Link, will include a boardwalk, new greenery, and improved pedestrian and bicyclist paths. When it is complete, it will be almost a mile and a half long.

The 30-mile Emerald Trail will connect 14 historic urban neighborhoods to downtown, 16 schools, two colleges, and 21 parks among other destinations.

“Hopefully it’ll make people oh you know what we should move back,” said Ehaus.

The city broke ground on the Emerald Trail on Tuesday.

“This is a big deal and will have lasting benefits for the neighborhoods linked by the Emerald Trail for all of Jacksonville as a whole,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

Groundwork Jacksonville said it will start designing another part of the trail while the first is under construction, to keep things moving.

The entire project is expected to be complete by 2029.

The city broke ground on the Emerald Trail on Tuesday. (WJXT)

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This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.