The downtown you’re seeing right now on the sidewalk or through your car window is not the Downtown you’ll see in the second issue of our J quarterly magazine this week.
Since it went to press before Irma swamped us, you won’t see flood detritus, fractured riverwalks, jumbled boat docks, caked mud, piles of tree branches, sandbags or the shuttered Wells Fargo Center and Hyatt Regency. All that’s temporary and quickly being cleaned up.
What you will see as you read through J’s 100 pages are visions of the new Downtown, the one we need and want, the one that is emerging.
You’ll read about construction cranes popping up all over, a progress report on the developments from EverBank Field to LaVilla and a guide to the Elbow entertainment district. You’ll see the signs on the coming Cowford Chophouse, the cleanup of a prominent company’s visual pollution and an artist’s conception of an energized Cathedral District.
You can put your feet up and read major pieces about who owns Downtown — you’ll be surprised — about whether it’s time for us to build a real convention center, and the inside story of downtown transients and what to do about them.
You’ll come away from the new J with a real sense of energy and momentum, and unless you’re a determined skeptic, you’ll start to be convinced that the vivacious Downtown that we’ve been wanting for decades is finally coming together.
It’s far from soup yet. The true catalysts — the Shipyards, the Laura Street Trio/Barnett Bank buildings, possibly a convention center — are still just plans on paper, trudging through necessary but tiresome processes. The Jacksonville Landing is still just a big orange question mark.
But now the leadership is committed: Mayor Lenny Curry and Jags owner Shad Khan, as well as the City Council, some civic leaders and an eager group of private investors, who are poised to do some deals but reluctant to be on a bleeding edge.
They’re stepping out front of some momentum that already has gained real traction.
Even that determined skeptic can’t argue with the numbers in the 2016-2017 State of Downtown Report by Downtown Vision. Download it from dtjaxreports.com, and spend a few minutes reading some encouraging statistics:
Downtown has seen more than $910 million of investments since January 2016, and there’s another $1.1 billion in proposed developments.
We once talked about the need for 10,000 people to actually live Downtown. Already, 8,500 do, in more than 4,100 residential units, with 95 percent occupancy — and another 500-plus units are under construction and more than 2,800 proposed.
Irma dislocation aside, more people are working Downtown, too. The office vacancy rate has been mostly declining since 2010, especially since 2014, and in 2016 fell to 15.4 percent, lower than the suburban rate for the first time in at least a decade. That’s despite the fact that downtown lease rates are higher, and rising.
While we have some terrific momentum, we have some tough challenges to the Downtown we’re demanding. This is no time to take anything for granted. Your role is to stay informed and keep the pressure on for progress now.
For seven-day home-delivery subscribers, the new issue of J will be included in your Times-Union on Monday. It also will be for sale at some Daily’s, Gate and Publix stores and at the Times-Union. You can also place an order online at Jacksonville.com/jmagazine.
If for some reason you can’t find a copy, get in touch with me or our president, Mark Nusbaum (email@example.com), and we’ll get you a copy somehow, maybe even deliver it to you, if you ask nicely.
We’ll undoubtedly remind you that you can keep up with all the news about downtown (and everywhere else) with a subscription to the Times-Union. We devote most of every Wednesday’s op ed page to Downtown.
You’ll also find the J stories on Jacksonville.com/jmagazine — which offers fascinating interactive maps to show who owns Downtown and who pays taxes.
However you read J, please take special note of our premium sponsors — some prominent companies like Haskell, Coggin and Watson, some public institutions like FSCJ and UNF and others like the Jags and the Y.
None of them is out to sell you stuff. They’re supporting J because, like the Times-Union, they want a Downtown worthy of Jacksonville and you.
firstname.lastname@example.org: (904) 359-4197