Thumbs up to Courtney Lewis, musical director of the Jacksonville Symphony, for signing a new three-year contract to remain as conductor.
It’s beyond debate that Lewis has been a transformative figure during his first three years leading the symphony.
Lewis has added innovative touches like the Symphony in 60 series, which has done a great job of attracting new, younger audiences.
And the dynamic Lewis hasn’t been afraid to pursue other initiatives to make the symphony and its music accessible to greater audiences — such as occasionally taking the symphony outside of its longtime home, the Times-Union Center, to hold performances at other Downtown venues.
The symphony is one of Downtown Jacksonville’s cultural pillars, and it’s exciting that Lewis will remain its leader.
We can’t wait to see — and hear — what new great things the conductor has in store for symphony audiences.
Thumbs up to the increasingly strong state of the hotel industry in Downtown Jacksonville.
According to stats collected in Downtown Vision Inc.’s 2016-2017 State of Downtown Report, here are some of the good things happening for the city center’s hotel industry:
• Overall hotel occupancy Downtown averaged 65.9 percent in 2016, up nearly 8 percent from the previous year.
• There were a total of 569,469 room nights spent in Downtown hotels last year, up 43,000 from 2015.
• During 2016, the average daily rate for a Downtown hotel room was $124.35; during 2015, it was $113.53 per day.
Jacksonville leaders travel to cities to obtain great ideas that will work here.
Aundra Wallace, CEO of t he Downtown Investment Authority, told a board meeting that the recent trip to Toronto was the best he has attended in large part because the Jacksonville group had a chance to brainstorm there.
He also learned that every city doesn’t have Jacksonville beat. For instance, it takes much longer to get a development to completion there, Wallace said.
Toronto also learned that during its explosive growth there needed to be more planning for transit and parks.
Jacksonville leaders also heard of a Toronto idea that would work well htere — a mini-beach.
That idea would fit perfectly along one of the “nodes” of our riverwalks. A littel sand and — presto — a beach.
Living Downtown is more healthy because it helps incentivize walking according to a classic study titled “Urban Sprawl and Public Health” by physician Howard Frumkin.
In many suburbs you need to get in the car to buy a newspaper or a quart of milk.
“Sprawl is associated with high levels of driving, driving contributes to air pollution and air pollution causes morbidity and mortality,” Frumkin wrote.
Denser cities with more public transportation have fewer accidents.
The most dangerous stretches of road are built to encourage fast speeds and are hostile to pedestrians.
Higher density, more mixes uses, more walkable neighborhoods all contribute to better health. And all of these are more likely to be found in downtowns.
GETTING WORD OUT
Many people, including some of the city leaders on the Toronto trip, were not aware of all of the activity taking place Downtown.
One super source for that activity is J magazine, the quartery publication from teh Times-Union’s editorial page staff.
It’s a sharp glossy magazine filled with newsy content — information with a edge.
This Wednesday OPED page should be considered a supplement to the magazine.
Read both and you’ll have a good feel for Downtown developments.
For the website presence: jacksonville.com/j-magazine.