Good news retrospective

Good news retrospective

2013 promises to grow upon best laid plans

Overall, below the surface, 2012 appeared to be a slow, lackluster economic grind that revealed that we’re still on the brink – but you couldn’t tell by the pace of business growth, zoning challenges, and infrastructure improvements in our neighborhoods. But dig below the surface (in some cases, literally) and you’ll find plenty of events, celebrations and activities in 2012 that continue to provide our neighborhoods with a positive momentum into 2013. Infrastructure rebuilding and repairs – from crosswalks to sidewalks, speed bumps to bridges – all suggest neighborhood improvements. Better connecting sidewalks (such as Landon Avenue) being planned on public right-of-ways throughout San Marco will result in safety and enjoyment for the whole community. Plans released for the San Marco Square redesign will improve vehicular flow through the square and the new roundabout at Naldo Avenue also contributes, by slowing down needless speed. The rotting wooden Southbank Riverwalk is slated for overhaul with a concrete walkway, with construction and demolition beginning in June. Of greater magnitude is the Overland Bridge project, which has a contract amount of $157.8 million and will take more than three years to complete. And work will begin this year for resurfacing of San Jose Boulevard, along with a new sidewalk installation from Sunbeam Road to the Goodby’s Creek Bridge.

Speaking of new businesses, the San Marco and San Jose areas welcomed several new shops and restaurants in 2012, including Toscana Little Italy, Kimberly Clarke Salon, All Spiced Up, Carroll’s Meat Shoppe, Full Custom Tattoo, Maple Street Biscuit Company, The Parlour and The Grape & Grain Exchange, plus established businesses like the law firm Murphy & Anderson  and My Best Friend’s Closet moved into new quarters, and then there’s the infamous talk of a Publix-anchored mixed-used development, East San Marco, as well as First Citizens Bank & Trust’s plans to build in San Marco. Also in 2013, Panera Bread is set to re-emerge at the barren, former San Marco train depot and Aardwolf Brewing has begun work at a site across the street on Hendricks Avenue.

Historic San Marco has become so popular that discussions have emerged on how to handle the growth. Much of the work being done focuses on the best use of the soon-to-be, reconstructed Balis Park, creating a walkability and ease of commerce for upcoming street events, such as the annual San Marco Art Festival – with citywide appeal. The cost of closing streets will no longer hamper the merchants, alleviating a longtime difficulty. The best part of San Marco’s growth is the ample parking designed behind the south side of the shops, making no mystery for local shoppers seeking an additional spot to park.

Community efforts continue for preservation of the natural resources in our many parks and the St. Johns River and its waterways, while individuals and organizations promote outdoor lifestyles. A controversial offshore artificial reef planned for Riverfront Park will be constructed at another site, bringing sighs of relief to residents concerned about shortage of public parking and lack of public restrooms. Community leaders Lori Boyer (District 5 Councilwoman); Anna Dooley, Greenscape’s executive director; Jimmy Orth of St. Johns Riverkeeper, and Doug Skiles, San Marco Preservation Society’s former president were part of a gathering that planted 13 new shade trees at the San Marco Branch Library, utilizing the effects of a bioswale to curtail runoff and direct-river drainage and pollutants- with beautiful grasses currently in full bloom.

When it comes to being good stewards of our planet, many organizations contributed last year with fundraising efforts, like the first major fundraiser (sponsored by Anita Vining of Prudential Network Realty and hosted by Anita Morrill of Empty Nest Events) to maintain the new Balis Park. The Autumn in the Park Farm to Table Dinner raised funds for the project as will brick, bench and tree sales, sponsorships and artistic renderings by local artist Chris Flagg in 2013. The Rotary Club of San Marco hosted its third Dirty Martinis for Clean Water event to benefit an international clean water project.

Greens are good, and the more fresh produce we enjoy, the healthier we’ll be, thanks to enterprises like the Hendricks Avenue Farmer’s Market and many community gardens, like the Gardens at Jackson Square in San Marco partnering with the Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless, the employee garden at Nemours Children’s Clinic, as well as the garden kitchen at Trad’s Garden Center and raised-bed rooftop garden at bb’s restaurant.

Healthy, happy children often approach education more positively and we’re seeing many positive improvements in area schools. The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts was named a 2012 National Grammy Signature School (the second time in three years), opened the Ann Baker Gallery in May and its Chamber Orchestra was the first from Florida to be invited to perform at Chicago’s Midwest Clinic last month. Hendricks Elementary School celebrated 70 years, along with the rare milestone of 42 years of 100 percent PTA membership participation, while parents at Pine Forest School of the Arts established a nonprofit foundation to bridge funding gaps. Three local schools – Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Bishop Kenny High School and University Christian School are in the process of replacing textbooks with iPads.

From the young to the old, quality healthcare ranks right up there with education and an improving economy. The community is blessed to have several prestigious medical centers and hospitals that continue to bring in new and exciting technologies in the medical field and receive awards and accreditations:

• Wolfson Children’s Hospital ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation for diabetes and endocrinology, urology, neurology and neurosurgery, cardiology and heart surgery, cancer, and pulmonology by U.S. News Media Group. Wolfson also added a second vehicle to its Kids Kare Mobile Intensive Care Unit.

• The joint Mayo Clinic/Nemours Children’s Clinic/Wolfson Children’s Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program was the first in Florida (and one of only 15 nationally) to earn national accreditation in cellular therapy for its autologous and allogenic blood and marrow transplants.

• Baptist Medical Center of San Marco was the first North American health system to install real-time imaging for neurosurgeons as they perform adult and pediatric brain procedures. And in November they opened a new $200 million, 11-story adult/pediatric tower with intra-operative iMRI and iCT technology, two adult neurosurgery suites, an adult neurology/neurosurgery intensive care unit, a pediatric inpatient behavioral health unit, cardiovascular operating suite, neurosurgery operating suite and both pediatric and adult hematology/oncology units.

• Near St. Nicholas/Spring Park, Memorial Hospital expanded its minimally-invasive technology to include robotic heart and lung surgery.

• St. Vincent’s Medical Center added two new CT scanners, improved its emergency department, expanded its primary care network, doubled beds in the Skilled Nursing Unit, expanded the mobile unit with help from the Rotary Club; launched a home health network, an Occupation Health program and unveiled a website for Kids Together Against Cancer; has northeast Florida’s only state-of-the art single-room Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at its Southside location, plans to open a 10-bed hospice inpatient unit in Riverside and is the first in the region to offer trans-catheter aortic valve replacement


Major construction projects will give the Jacksonville area an economic boost in 2013 as plans move forward for the new $21 million YMCA facility in Riverside, and the mixed-use 220 Riverside development begins to come to life. With such projects come potential boosts in real estate sales on both sides of the river. Homes sold more quickly in 2012, on the market almost 20% fewer days than in the previous year.

Keep your eye on The Resident News in 2013 as we continue to share the good news and silver linings of change in the San Marco, St. Nicholas and San Jose communities we serve!

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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