The final voyage is over for the only Navy vessel ever to be named after the city of Jacksonville. Now it will be defueled and dismantled before it is decommissioned sometime next year. The crew of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Jacksonville left Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii on Dec. 4 to change home ports for the final time, according to the Navy. Last week they arrived at Kitsap-Bremerton Naval Base in Washington where the inactivation and decommissioning process will take place. “I want to welcome USS Jacksonville to the beautiful Pacific Northwest,” said Capt. Michael Lewis, the commander of Submarine Squadron 19. “We look forward to working with her over the next several months as they prepare to decommission.” The Jacksonville returned to Hawaii from its final deployment Aug. 10. That deployment included 209 days out to sea and took the crew to port calls in Bahrain, Guam, Oman and Singapore, according to the Navy. The Los … [Read more...] about USS Jacksonville makes final voyage before next year’s decommissioning
Downtown Jacksonville has long been an anchor for government, churches and nonprofits, which bring thousands of workers, worshipers and customers to the urban core. But that anchor causes a drag on the amount of property taxes paid in the three Downtown taxing districts. Those institutions typically don’t pay property taxes, as long as the property’s primary use is for an exempt purpose. Other exemptions include residences with an assessed value less than $25,000 that have the standard $25,000 homestead exemption. Last year, those exemptions resulted in no taxes being collected on the tax accounts that make up 43 percent of the urban core’s $3.02 billion assessed value. Those tax-exempt organizations do pay taxes when operating a non-exempt business, such as a parking garage. For example, government agencies owned nearly 400 sites owned by government agencies are worth more than $1.07 billion, but they were taxed on just one property that had a taxable value of … [Read more...] about Who owns Jacksonville’s Downtown?
The Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, bless its heart, is still the grand Neo-Classical Revival monument that, in its time as Union Terminal, welcomed thousands of people to Jacksonville every day for more than a half-century. These days, it’s being crowded, and even obscured, by the new Jacksonville, with the Lofts at LaVilla smack in its front yard and the new Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center arising on its north flank. But if you get the right angle, the Prime Osborn retains much of its grandeur and some of its dignity, after having been repurposed 30 years ago into an expansive meeting facility. “With 265,000 square feet of space,” its marketing material says, “the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center is large enough and versatile enough to accommodate gatherings of virtually any size.” But it’s not a convention center. Its floor space and easy parking make it ideal for community events, trade shows, QuiltFests, Home & Patio … [Read more...] about Does Jacksonville need a new convention center?
It’s still in the vision phase, but what a vision: a neighborhood in the heart of the city with a heart for the city. While most of the Downtown attention has been focused on Jacksonville’s riverfront, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral has been quietly working on its own redevelopment initiative to make the environs around the church a vibrant, walkable, multigenerational residential community. It’s an opportunity for private investors to invigorate an overlooked part of the Downtown core with tax-generating residential and retail developments. It will need at least a little help from the city. The vision is modeled on the medieval cathedral, which was the center of village life, the source of education, art and worship. It’s also the answer to a problem that the Cathedral helped create. In the 1960s, the core city was in serious decline as people moved to the suburbs, a crisis that eventually led to the consolidation of Jacksonville and Duval County in 1968. … [Read more...] about An Urban Revival: Jacksonville’s Cathedral District
It’s no secret to young folks that Downtown Jacksonville is entering its Renaissance. We come in search of a good time, local grub and a good backdrop for shots worthy of Instagram, bringing with us a sense of exploration that’s duly rewarded with land yet uncharted in the city we call home. Even a once-monthly visit yields spoils in the form of new businesses, music and art. It’s about time intergenerational crowds, to use a polite term for you older folks, took notice, too. Leading that charge is “The Elbow,” the L-shaped stretch greeting visitors just off the Main Street Bridge that aims to continually cultivate the growing nightlife Downtown. The independent collection of more than 20 local establishments is responsible for much of Downtown’s weekend buzz, bolstered by the monthly art walks, lounges, local fare and gallery space. Its pickings — a smattering of bar, food and entertainment venues — have the propensity to become a second … [Read more...] about Jacksonville’s Elbow emerges as a center of Downtown entertainment
As Downtown edges toward its future as a more vibrant city center, the network of waterways that define it will become an ever more important part of what will be a lively urban scene. Just imagine: sails skimming across the St. Johns, the whir of motors as boats slip under Downtown bridges, myriad docks extending into the river at the Shipyards marina, and a flurry of activity around the two creeks that form the extensions on Downtown’s Emerald Necklace. These waterways will give Jacksonville’s heart a vitality matched by few other cities. Water is the fuel that will animate its future. A focal point in that reimagining of Downtown is a lively crew of water taxis that will transport visitors and residents alike to various points along the river as a way of ensuring they experience the magic of the mighty St. Johns. Much of that is already in place with the service operated by St. Johns River Taxi LLC. Since the company took over management of the taxi flotilla in 2014, the … [Read more...] about Jacksonville’s water taxis expand, but shouldn’t they expand more and maybe be free?
Creating a vision is easy and often fun. Turning that vision into reality can be damn hard. A case in point is the Emerald Necklace, the long talked about and dreamed of string of parks, waterways and greenways that would loop Downtown and tie the surrounding neighborhoods to each other, to the core city and to the St. Johns River. Downtown advocates and aficionados are very familiar with the concept, which is seen as a key element to truly revitalizing Downtown. It was a key part of the Downtown master plan that the City Council approved in 2000 titled: “Celebrating the River: A Plan for Downtown Jacksonville.” And it highlighted a master plan update in 2010 titled: “Reuniting the City with its River.” Many, however, including long-time residents, know little about the Emerald Necklace or are even aware of the existence of three key elements vital to it — McCoys Creek, Hogans Creek and the S-Line Trail. The plan has been talked about for decades. Talk is … [Read more...] about Uncovering Jacksonville’s Emerald Necklace
There’s not much worse for a downtown trying to revitalize its image than being cast as someplace where transients loiter, waiting to accost visitors or simply sprawling on the sidewalks. For years, that’s been the picture of Jacksonville’s Downtown: Shabbily dressed people drinking beer out of paper bags. Panhandlers roaming the blocks of Downtown, asking people for money and drugs. People sleeping on broken-down cardboard boxes under Downtown bridges. Some are homeless. Some are mentally ill. Others are simply out of work. They all depend upon Downtown as a place to socialize and access services. Make no mistake, the vast majority are not dangerous, but they can frighten. More than one person admits it’s a little scary braving the streets of Downtown in search of restaurants and entertainment. For some people, it’s also a reason to just stay away. Why even go Downtown, one woman reasoned, “There’s nothing there except drunks and bums.” … [Read more...] about While Jacksonville’s Downtown homeless problem has been around for years, solutions have not come easily
The introduction of the apartments at 220 Riverside caused a wonderful revival of the Brooklyn neighborhood. The momentum from that development — and Unity Plaza — ignited a retail flurry anchored by a Fresh Market and a handful of restaurants and shops. At the center of the Unity Plaza/Riverside 220 project has been Alex Coley, principal and co-founder of NAI Hallmark Partners, the developers of the project. Coley, who has lived in Jacksonville since 1979, was interviewed by Times-Union Editorial Page Editor Mike Clark. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being a ghost town and 10 being a tourist attraction, what grade would you give to Downtown? I love Jacksonville, it’s been very good to me, I want to be kind and loving to Jacksonville, so I’m giving it a 5. What are the best assets of Downtown? It’s trite to say the river. I’ve been so fortunate to visit each of the Rouse festival marketplaces back when our marketplace (the Landing) was under … [Read more...] about Alex Coley Q&A: Unlocking Jacksonville core’s unrealized potential
We owe this to future generations as well as our own. Jacksonville is many things to many people. From our amazing beaches and eclectic neighborhoods to the Fortune 500 companies and the mom and pop shops that line our streets, Jacksonville continues to be a city on the verge of greatness. Many have said the very vitality of a city can be measured by the energy of its downtown. If that’s the case, it’s time to stop dreaming and start doing. Now is the time to be part of something remarkable. Now is the time to look to ourselves instead of future generations. Now is the time to make this happen. If Jacksonville, circa 1968, was tagged the Bold New City of the South, today we should all aim to be Boldest City in America. A city no one can overlook. A city no one will ever take for granted. And a city that’s the envy of every place — big or small — in this entire country. With resurgence tied directly to the rebirth, revitalization, reimagination and renewed … [Read more...] about Mark Nusbaum: Jacksonville’s future depends on the heart of our downtown