Attendance down for third JAX2025 event

But downtown & neighborhoods a lively topic

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

Perhaps it was the balmy weeknight that resulted in less than 1,000 people who were there to develop the indicators for measuring the success of the vision in 12 years. Or maybe interest is waning in the months-long process of determining the future of Jacksonville.
But although attendance appeared to be smaller than previous sessions, there were first-time participants at the third JAX2025 Vision event who wanted to make sure their voices were heard.

Participants of all ages from all parts of Jacksonville were asked to select two categories to discuss – and brainstorm answers to – the question: How will we know if we’re getting there?
Lists of existing community indicators were provided to help the tables of eight determine what needs to be measured in order to know where we are in relation to the vision and if we’re moving in the right direction.
Conversation was thoughtful among a group who chose to focus on the Downtown and Neighborhoods Vision. Dawn Emerick, president and CEO of the Health Planning Council, noted key words in the vision statement to help determine success measurements: livable, walkable, safe, business powerhouse, entrepreneurial spirit, first-class arts, culture, sports and unique shopping.

“Our walkability score is important for the health of the community,” she said. “We also need to increase the number of bike racks to encourage retention of the millennials [those born after 1980]. Biking is a huge attraction for that age group.”
Emerick and her son Dylan, an eighth grade student at LaVilla, live Downtown and feel safe jogging along the Northbank, shopping at Winn-Dixie and bicycling to school. “We need to promote Downtown as a safe place to get around,” said Dylan. “Don’t be afraid of homeless people; they are just minding their own business.”
Paul Astleford, president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville, suggested that safety is a perception issue, especially for visitors to the city. “Word of mouth is our biggest marketing tool. I’ve found that residents aren’t afraid to walk through Hemming Park, but visitors are.”

City neighborhoods were held up as examples of successful turnarounds. Avondale resident and Riverside businessman Richard Skinner (of Richard Skinner & Associates) explained what he thought has made Riverside a success. “Diversity, density and a pleasing scale are key in this neighborhood. Putting in a Publix and building residential living at 1665 Riverside has attracted 20 to 25 restaurants, which has played a key role in the success of the neighborhood.”

Skinner, an architect, felt that Downtown could be revitalized “if we narrow the focus on the river and Hemming Plaza, things will happen.”
San Marco Place residents David and Pat Balanky moved to the condo six years ago after living in Mandarin for many years. They enjoy the proximity to Downtown and feel safe walking in their Southbank neighborhood, but hope that access to the Southbank Riverwalk will be improved soon.

At the end of the 45-minute brainstorm session, the Downtown and Neighborhoods Vision group agreed that success indicators would include measuring the number of Downtown residents, improvement in Downtown retail space, hotel occupancy and activities on the river.
The next JAX2025 meeting will be Saturday, Apr. 27, 9-11a.m. at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. Parking is free and you can register online at to have your voice heard in the future of Jacksonville.

JCCI brings millennials into the conversation

By Abigail Wright
Resident Community News

Networking as a young adult can be crucial for “making it” in the business world. Long lasting professional relationships require a certain amount of rapport that can sometimes be difficult to establish.  Attending events sponsored by up and coming groups, like JCCI Forward, helps facilitate bonds that may otherwise be labored if one is not ambitious enough.
Quite effectively, there were over 100 people eager to shake hands and weave through 927 Events for the JCCI-sponsored pizza party. The kick-off following the Mar. 19 JAX2025 meeting supported the “In Town vs. Downtown” forum by JCCI. The organization with the most young professionals representing their affiliation won tickets to the “Prom” themed party on June 8.

Aiming for the honor were several groups; United Way Atlantic Circle, TransformJAx, The Republican Revolt Group, FDOT, Jax Parks, Dragstravaganza, One Spark and JCCI Forward to name a few. The tickets were won by Rotaract of Florida’s First Coast with 8% of the total attendees. Their vision is to enhance the community through the common bonds of professional development, service and friendship. In second place was United Way Atlantic Circle. Intuition Ale Works donated plenty of libations from the brewery and the party was catered by the in-house chefs from 927 Events.

Ennis Davis, a civic activist, spoke about the power of the people in the surrounding downtown boroughs and how getting involved can make such a difference in the vibrancy of the community. One Spark outreach and engagement director Aschelle Morgan was also on hand to speak on behalf of the foundation in order to inspire existing volunteers to recruit more friends to the crowd funding festival in mid-April.

Michelle Simkulet, volunteer coordinator for JAX2025, explains that the “In Town vs. Downtown” forum will help give a better understanding of the obstacles and challenges that face those citizens trying to improve the core and surrounding neighborhoods. She added, “There is so much interest in downtown and in our neighborhoods but sometimes we forget that downtown is actually multiple neighborhoods connected.”

The conversation topics begin with What is “In Town”?: Framing the Issue; Bridging the Past: Neighborhoods New and Old; Getting Around: Mobility and Connectivity; Out and About: Our Parks and The River; Strike Up the Band: Arts, Culture and Entertainment. They will be held on Wednesdays from March 27 through April 24 inside WJCT’s community room. JCCI events are open to the public of all ages.

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