Downtown Dwellers taking active role on Riverwalks

The Downtown Dwellers sipped wine and mingled, saw their new website, heard about what’s going on downtown and asked lots of questions at the first membership meeting of the year at the Museum of Science and History.

A year ago, the group representing Riverwalk residents disbanded, only to reconstitute itself and try again. It is now a nonprofit in the state of Florida and is working on tax-exempt status with the IRS. It has a website – thedowntowndwellers.weebly.com, a newsletter and has organized the Friends of the Park to promote the use and care of the Riverwalk on both sides of the river.

So, there was lots to talk about at the Oct. 26 meeting.

“Most people think of the Riverwalk as a path to somewhere else,” said president Sandra Fradd. “For us it’s home.”

Katherine Hardwick, vice president of marketing for Downtown Vision, Inc., talked about upcoming events in downtown, including Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25.

Eric Miller, DVI’s new director of district services, talked about the city’s effort to make the Riverwalks “clean and safe” with the use of ambassadors who help keep the area clean and report any safety issues.

Downtown Vision is adding a social services outreach director who will help the homeless and vagrants in the area access local resources, Miller said.

Landscape architect Jill Enz of the City Parks and Recreation Department encouraged the residents to use the Riverwalks to build a sense of community and deter crime.

“The Riverwalks are unusual parks, they’re linear and overlook our greatest asset,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to have a Friend of the Park group. Parks aren’t static. Things change. Trees grow. Pavers pop up. When you see something, let us know. It’s your backyard.”

Susan Strauss, who developed the group’s new website, showed how residents can use a form on the website to record how often they use the Riverwalk. Downtown Dwellers wants to track usage so the city will have data that can justify further investment in the area.

District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who represents San Marco, updated the group on efforts to improve access to the river for pedestrians and boaters and to restore Friendship Fountain. (Read more about this in the Waterways Commission story on page 9.)

Boyer also gave updates:

  • The Riverplace Boulevard Road Diet: Construction, which was supposed to start after the first of the year, has been delayed by waterline issues. Work should begin in the spring.
  • Demolition of the old City Hall and Courthouse: The city has approved $8 million for the work, which can begin as soon as it is bid.
  • Berkman Plaza 2: Boyer said she hasn’t heard anything official but the scuttlebutt at City Hall is the city is in talks with a prospective buyer who wants to use the existing building for hotel and residential.

The next meeting of the Downtown Dwellers is Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.


By Lilla Ross
Resident Community News

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