Masks in place, Park & King Area Association regroups

For months, Coronavirus measures meant that the Park & King Area Association took a hiatus from its mission of serving, preserving, and uplifting the Park and King streets area. All that began to change June 11 when the group gathered at Cool Moose Café on Park Street – masks and social distancing in place – during a meeting also attended by District 14 Councilwoman Randy DeFoor. 

Next month, they may take up the topic of what they should do as an association to make the area more welcoming for the thousands expected to visit Jacksonville in August during the Republican National Convention. In June, they made some headway in dressing up the area. 

Former City Councilman Jim Love, who serves as association president, said in June the group was able to accomplish some new goals including plans to remove a 15-year-old palm tree at the corner of Park and King streets that is in danger of toppling. He is also planning an area cleanup June 22 that included landscaping, trimming overgrown azalea bushes, and otherwise polishing the area. Before the June 11 meeting, Love forwarded the association’s mission by cleaning up graffiti on a couple of signs in the wake of local and national protests over the death of George Floyd and perceptions of police brutality. 

The palm tree damage had been spotted by Jennifer Boston, known affectionately as the area’s “hot dog lady,” who sells frankfurters during lunchtime and of whom Love calls the eyes and ears of the association. DeFoor committed the city to assist in removing the tree and also rightly predicted Jacksonville’s role as host to the upcoming Republican National Convention (RNC), although that was not officially announced until after the meeting adjourned.

“Randy talked about the Republican National Convention possibly coming to Jacksonville, and at that time, it was still up in the air,” Love recounted. “She said she thought it was going to be here, which was a shock to me, but four or five hours later, she was right, it was going to be here. Whether you like the Republicans or not, we are a host, and we need to be a good host. The people who are coming to the convention are going to be coming to the Shoppes of Avondale and to Park and King to shop and to eat. It’s going to help the bottom line of the folks that have really been hit hard, the restaurants and the hotels.”

The RNC will spend its first day, Monday, Aug. 24, in Charlotte, N.C., where delegates will officially nominate President Donald Trump for re-election before the convention moves on to Jacksonville for its final three days allowing Trump to make his acceptance speech at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Mayor Lenny Curry said in video conference June 12 that the convention was a tremendous opportunity for businesses to get back on their feet and to showcase the city.

With that event on the horizon, including visits by thousands of convention-goers, the association’s work will be even more impactful, though Love said the group would discuss the topic at its next meeting.

“We decided to do the cleanup before we knew they were coming. It was serendipity. We will certainly let everyone know that they are coming in August and that the restaurants and bars should be prepared for more people. We are not doing any more special preparation at the moment, but we might. I was thinking about putting up some banners on our poles saying ‘Welcome to Park and King’ but I have to bring that up and will have to vote on it. We have about $1,400.”

The group will begin meeting again regularly, with its next gath-
ering to be held July 9 at 2:30 p.m. at Cool Moose, 2708 Park Street.

By Jennifer Edwards
Resident Community News

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