Jessie Ball duPont Fund Unveils Riverfront Plan

Jessie Ball duPont Fund Unveils Riverfront Plan
Rendering of public activity in Brooklyn area.

After months of meetings and public input, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has presented its proposal to revitalize Jacksonville’s riverfront.

The Fund was tasked to bring together stakeholders to find out what Jacksonville residents wanted done to ensure there was enough public access to the river that would provide the greatest benefit with public spaces that are inclusive for all people on both the Northbank and the Southbank. It’s hoped a revitalized riverfront will lead to more economic development.

The Activating Jacksonville’s Riverfront Plan was presented to the public on October 19.

New York City-based cultural forecasting company DVDL is leading the development. Principal David van der Leer said the riverfront can be a key unit in the quality of life for all residents of Jacksonville, not just those who live or work downtown,

He said the five key elements for activating the riverfront include public park space, exercise and sports, arts and culture, commercial and retail, and community services.

“The question is how could you set up for those weird interactions? People bumping into each other unexpectedly, learning from each other,” van der Leer said. “Things will need to be programmed side-by-side. What if you put Pet Adoption Day next to Chess on the River? So many interesting things could happen.”

Stakeholders could develop hundreds of programs according to van der Leer that would bring people of all interests to the river.

Rendering on potential public activity on Southbank.
Rendering on potential public activity on Southbank.

He said that would require bringing logistical order to the programs. Van der Leer said one way to approach that would be to establish two-year themes to tie certain programs together ranging from bridges to roots.

“Roots could be so interesting,” van der Leer said. “You could be talking about ecological roots to social roots.”

Another way to organize the activities would be to establish programs for specific days during the week. Mondays could focus on health and wellness and Tuesdays could be game night, for example.

The plan calls for a focus on incentivizing partnerships and community ownership.

Project Leader Claire Weisz said infrastructure improvements will be needed to make any reactivation of the riverfront a success.

It would range from seating, shade areas, signs, banners, and information stations directing people to where to go, to hubs where smaller activities can take place. Weisz said they could range from children’s activities to concerts.

JLP+D is a New York-based planning and development business partner for the plan. Director Yuxiang Luo said the governance of the project needs to be a public-private partnership to be successful.

The proposal is winning praise. Downtown Vision CEO Jake Gordon said it has the potential to change the perception of the waterfront. “I think a lot of people believe the riverfront is nice but still is undervalued regarding all the great things it can be,” he said.

The organizers say there is still a great deal of work to do if the plan has any shot of becoming a reality.

Jessie Ball duPont Fund President Mari Kuraishi said it will take a community effort to see this plan become a reality.

“The great plans we’ve come up with are going to take commitment, political, funding, and the right governance to make it happen,” she said.

By Kevin J. Meerschaert
Resident Community News

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)