The JAX2025 project envisions what kind of community we want to be 12 years from now. That’s not a very long time, but for our children, it’s a lifetime. Will we, as a community, use that time wisely?
In 2025, my daughter will be 20. I hope she will be attending college and, when she graduates, I hope she — and her peers — will find enough options in Jacksonville to keep them here.
Once a month since January, hundreds of people have gathered at Prime Osborn Convention Center to help shape the city’s future. They’ve been following up on the survey answered by 14,000 people, to create and flesh out 10 vision statements for what our community should be like in 2025.
“Jacksonville’s creative community fuels a vibrant arts and entertainment scene.”
This is the area where Northeast Florida shows the most recognizable growth. Scan the listings in Folio Weekly for abundant arts and entertainment options each week.
Mayor Alvin Brown wants to attract more sporting events, though Alan Verlander, executive director of the city’s Sports & Entertainment Office, recently made some expensive missteps by not following city codes or getting the OK of the sports advisory commission in his breathless quest to stage a college basketball game on a ship to honor the Navy last November.
Brown is also supporting the Jaguars’ proposal to have the city borrow $50 million to install state-of-the-art video boards above the end zones at EverBank Field. The Jaguars say that because the city owns the stadium, the cost would be the city’s responsibility, but the video boards would help keep the aging stadium up to date and add “wow” factor. Maybe being the first in the country is cool, and it’s cheap to borrow money right now, and the boards aren’t going to get any cheaper, but is this the best use of our money?
The City Council recently approved a bill that waives noise rules at Metropolitan Park for Welcome to Rockville (April 27 and 28) and Funk Fest Jacksonville (May 10 and 11). But this issue must be settled once and for all so that promoters can count on booking shows into that space without a fight for each event.
“Jacksonville is a clean and green city.”
The St. Johns River is cleaner than it used to be, but it is threatened by constant extraction of water, industrial pollution and a JaxPort proposal to deepen the channel to 47 feet, which could dramatically change salinity levels. Bills in the Legislature could leave Florida’s waters without protection against toxic algae outbreaks.
“Jacksonville is renowned as a diverse and inclusive community.”
The City Council managed to avoid another embarrassment by reappointing Parvez Ahmed to the Human Rights Commission. Now, it needs to repair the damage it did last year by not passing the amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance to protect LGBT individuals.
“Jacksonville’s distinctive neighborhoods flourish, along with our urban heart.”
The re-creation of the Downtown Investment Authority and the city refinancing debt to free up $11 million to spend on Downtown projects were both good ideas.
SouthEast Holdings, with financing from Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, is buying the old Barnett Bank building and three buildings known as the Laura Street Trio. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund is buying the old Haydon Burns Library for a multi-tenant nonprofit center. Two new developments are going up on Riverside Avenue, and a new YMCA will be built across the street.
But the DIA has been moving at a snail’s pace and can’t even get a Hemming Plaza plan off the ground. They need to step it up to match the energy and investment that are happening now.
“Jacksonville’s vibrant economy is a global magnet for new business.”
Global shipping giant Hanjin decided not to build a $300 million cargo terminal here. Roy Schleicher, JaxPort’s interim CEO, said the authority will easily find another partner. “I’ve got people knocking on the door saying, ‘We want to be part of this, too,’” he told The Florida Times-Union. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, a 1-million-square-foot warehouse the size of 10 combined Walmart Supercenters is proposed for Cecil Commerce Center, but its use remains a mystery.
“Jacksonville prioritizes excellence in education at every age.”
The Better Jacksonville plan made unprecedented improvements to our libraries. Many of those enhancements have been dismantled through yearly budget cuts. A JCCI study recommended creating a special tax district for libraries, and the Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library are collecting petitions for a straw vote on the next available ballot (probably 2014). This tax district is the only way libraries could have dependable funding to serve the community that so desperately needs those services. It would not be a tax increase; it would just create a separate fund that would not have to compete against other city services.
“Jacksonville thrives due to exemplary governance.”
Duval County Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti held several meetings to listen to the community. After that feedback, he planned to restore busing for magnet schools and after-school activities. He and the School Board also adopted a strategic plan that emanated from dozens of conversations hosted by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.
“Jacksonville is among the healthiest communities in the country.”
Our health issues will require investment from businesses, nonprofits and government — and an influx of jobs with better pay and benefits.
“Jacksonville is a regional hub of smooth transportation.”
The city’s “mobility” fee was created to charge developers based on how projects are expected to affect transportation at the project location. The system was created in 2011, then waived for 12 months to trigger more development and create jobs. The city waived $3.2 million in fees that could have paid for sidewalks, bike paths and alternative transportation. Now, the Council has passed another version of the mobility fee moratorium. This means that taxpayers — instead of developers — will continue to pay for many infrastructure costs for development in outlying areas. We can only hope this moratorium will spur more job creation than the last one.
“Jacksonville is a place where people matter.”
Historically, Jacksonville has suffered from brain-drain. Talented, intelligent, artistic young people often have left because there was nothing to keep them here.
In 2025, my nephews will be 30 and 27. One will graduate from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts this year and attend the University of North Florida in the fall; the other attends Paxon School for Advanced Studies.
Will Jacksonville be able to keep them and their peers? If we can become the city that JAX2025 envisions, we have a good shot.