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Jacksonville, FL (May 2, 2019) (unedited) — Over the past month or so, I have had the opportunity, one-on-one to discuss in length the issue of our downtown vision with members of the Downtown Investment Authority and others. These conversations have stemmed from years of observation whereby projects have come before the city and failed, and other ideas have surfaced within public view and been filed somewhere to collect dust without a formidable conclusion.

This is where I concede, we as a city have not decisively determined what it is that we want versus waiting on others to tell us what we need. This again, I submit is a recipe for inaction and more likely to result in projects failing to come before us because as a city we have not decided for ourselves what a successful development of our entire property and how it fits into our downtown looks like.

Many big ideas have been presented like an aquarium, a convention center, mixed use visions of restaurants, office space, parks and more that all have somewhat been presented but no definitive decision made. This again, I present does not allow a picture to be painted that communicates to others, come build it.

As many of you know, District 11 has been a suburban growth area for many years. In addition to constantly planning new development, we have been working on how to redevelop older areas like Baymeadows with ideas of what it is we want, not what others again feel we need. In 2012, after some community input a Community Vision Plan was created and adopted by City Council.

It is this planning tool that we are using today to move development forward. As a representative of the area, I constantly have discussions and work with stakeholders to create that vision where we look for puzzle pieces to be filled which meet the needs of the community. This is what I contend will have the highest degree of success as it is those stakeholders who will be ultimately making it successful.

Also, recently I have been involved with what is by far the most decisive picture of a plan for development involving the JTB-I295 Southeast Quadrant with the Skinner family’s 1,063-acre legacy that I have ever seen. This formed-base code plan was initiated by a big investment of the Skinners with collaboration of a Nashville, TN firm, Town Planning & Urban Design, who constructed what I would offer, is a template for what I am trying to convey. This plan, once completed and approved by Council, will tell land buyers what it is that they must do, not what they feel needs to be done.

It was recently announced that one of my future colleagues on City Council feels that a community charrette needs to be implemented for the now available city property of The Landing. I agree with that idea, except that the charrette and discussion should include the entire North Bank and more, not just one piece. If you are not looking at the big picture, then how do you expect to complete the puzzle without including all the pieces?

I submit that to fully have a successful downtown that we should ourselves develop that vision and not wait for others to plan it for us.