December 1, 2021
In The Public Interest
Photo of a downtown
Credit: Wikipedia

Dueling Downtown Visions?

CURRY ANNOUNCES MEETING WITH BUSINESS LEADERS ON URBAN CORE FUTURE

Mayor Lenny Curry announced yesterday that he will meet with “six Jacksonville business owners and local leaders with vested interest in Downtown Jacksonville” on Monday “to openly discuss ways to improve the urban core.” The meeting, to be held at 9 a.m at the main public library downtown, is open to the public though the announcement does not explain if the public may observe virtually.
https://www.coj.net/welcome/upcoming-events/all-events/meeting-to-discuss-improvements-in-downtown-jackso

Curry’s announcement comes on the heels of the Downtown Investment Authority’s announcement to host a workshop on Tuesday to share plans for developing the St. John’s Downtown Northbank riverfront.

WHAT’s MISSING FROM THE MAYOR’S MEETING?

The Vestcor Companies, FIS, JAXUSA, Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Hanania Automotive Group, and GreenPoint Holdings LLC will join the mayor. Unless this is one of a series of mayorally-led discussions on the future of the “urban core,” critical perspectives are missing from the Mayor’s meeting: cultural institutions, an environmental perspective, a health perspective, and an educational perspective. Clearly the Jacksonville Symphony and The Museum of Contemporary Art have a “vested interest” in downtown, and serve as anchor institutions that attract people downtown. They also contribute economically.

And at least 10 environmentally-focused civic organizations collaborating as Riverfront Parks Now have a “vested interest.” https://jaxlookout.com/dia-workshop-downtown-development-parks/. Collectively, they are advancing the need to make downtown more resilient, greener, and cooler, as well as more inviting. Anyone who has traveled to some of the world’s great cities understands the importance of downtown shade tress and urban open green space. The people of Jacksonville understand these essential features of successful downtowns, and are hungry for such public space in the urban core and along the river.

CITIZENS AS BYSTANDERS

Being allowed to observe a discussion between 6 business CEO’s and the Mayor, and being permitted to comment and ask questions of DIA about its plans treats the citizenry as mere bystanders and not participants in decisions that will alter Downtown Jacksonville for a generation or more.

Why is it so difficult for the local citizenry to be considered a partner in these critical decisions? We may not always agree on the best path forward, but Jaxson’s want to be involved in decisions affecting the redevelopment of the urban core and the St. John’s Northbank Riverfront.

We know DIA held public meetings in the past, but the earliest of those meetings were held almost a decade ago. What’s changed? Mother Nature in general. And the open vista created when The landing, the old courthouse, and the former city hall were demolished has sparked the public’s imagination.

Those buildings effectively created a concrete wall—a visual barrier—between the people and the river.

The people want green space. We want trees, we want access to the river, we want an iconic downtown park and an inviting public gathering place.

We hope someone is listening.



Written by
Sherry Magill

Sherry Magill is a community leader and retired private foundation executive. She is a co-founder of Jaxlookout.

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Written by Sherry Magill

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