Downtown Dwellers announces projects, officers for New Year

Downtown Dwellers announces projects, officers for New Year
Celebrating former Downtown Dwellers President Sandra Fradd were President Eric Miller, Jeff Schembra, Vice President Chris Ricketson, Fradd, Dimitri Demopolous and Tom Dumas.

Downtown Dwellers Founder and President Sandra Fradd handed over the reins of her organization to incoming President Eric Miller during the Downtown Dwellers Annual Meeting Oct. 11 at MOSH, the Museum of Science and History on the Southbank.

During the meeting, the Dwellers announced the year’s incoming board, which included Miller, Dimitri Demopoulous, Jeff Schembra, Patricia Bradshaw, and Alex Travis, all new members, and Vice President Chris Ricketson and Howard Taylor, both of whom are entering their second year of a three-year term.

The Dwellers celebrated the culmination of their first significant project – raising funds and coordinating the painting of a mural on the “Little Gray House,” the only public rest room on the Southbank. The public facility lies in the shadow of The Strand and behind the Lone Sailor Statue.

On the heels of this project, the Dwellers intend to ramp up their game by seeking to raise $25,000 to have murals painted on two giant pillars that hold up the Acosta Bridge near Corkscrew Park, the City’s downtown outdoor public gymnasium.  David Nackashi, the painter who the Dwellers commissioned to brighten up the “Little Gray House,” has been commissioned to take on the Acosta Bridge project, said Miller.

Nackashi said he intends to use a “William Bartram” theme for the new mural. Bartram, a naturalist who explored the St. Johns River in the 18th Century, kept journals of his adventures and reported back to England, he said. Nackashi plans to paint animals, plants and scenes inspired from Bartram’s adventures on the St. Johns River including quotes from his writings.

“I’m excited about it. You will be able to see it as part of the skyline,” he said, noting Bartram speaks often of the alligators and Indians that he encountered. “He said, ‘there are alligators that are the biggest things I’ve ever seen. Their jaws are so strong.’ He had to kill one at one time because it attacked him. He was so terrified. He also talked about floating by and seeing Indians staring at him with kids shooting frogs with arrows. He was just floating by and said that if he just minded his business, they would mind theirs. I will bring in his quotes so that the mural will be a little bit more than just flowers.”

Another new initiative the Dwellers plan to do in the new year is hold bi-monthly organized city clean-ups of both the North and Southbank Riverwalks as well as other adjacent areas that need tidying up, said Dwellers Vice President Chris Ricketson. “For every person who shows up for our Downtown Dwellers Community Clean-up, the city will receive from FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation), $25 per man hour. During the groups first clean-up which took place Nov. 11, 20 residents showed up, he said. For more information about the clean-ups, their dates and locations, contact the group at the [email protected]

The Downtown Dwellers were also instrumental in urging the city to locate and hang the plaque on the newly refurbished Lone Sailor Fountain as well as build stronger bonds with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and First Coast Security, a private security firm that assists on the Riverwalk.

During the meeting, the group also listened to a talk on “MOSH 2.0,” presented by Lorin Thies, development and capital campaign manager for the museum. Her PowerPoint presentation described the extensive renovations the 80-year-old museum plans to make to the Southbank facility it has inhabited since 1969.

Since its inception, the Dwellers have grown to 100 members, but the group seeks to increase its numbers by reaching out to those who live in the six residential towers currently inhabited within Downtown. It also hopes to partner with Southbank and Northbank businesses. “We have the potential of being a group of 3,000 people. One hundred people is nothing,” said Fradd, noting that increased membership gives the group a greater voice with the city and allows the residents to know each other better. “By being a member of the Downtown Dwellers, we get to be involved in something bigger than ourselves that makes a difference in the community.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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