TGID!

Thank goodness for Downtown!

I am so ready for this weekend in our vibrant Downtown. But first their is work to do!

I was on First Coast Connect this morning, Melissa Ross’ emeritus morning show about all things Jacksonville. I know, I’ve got a face for radio. Check out the podcast here.

One of the things we talked about before and during Melissa’s show was that there seems to be a palpable momentum Downtown. I really think that is true. But we’ve got a lot on the line right now, in my opinion, and many things out there need to come good for continued success. One big thing we need is a focused Downtown agency within the city to help get deals done and projects off the ground.

JAX Chamber supports that in the form of Mayor Brown’s proposed Downtown Investment Authority.

Because:

“Developing Downtown and making economic development efficient and effective are critical to our region’s success.” – Tom Van Berkel, JAX Chamber chair and chairman and CEO of The Main Street America Group

Have a great weekend all! #biggestweekendever #ilovejax

Tony

Memorial Day

I have to admit that I sometimes stray into the celebration of the “weekend” portion of Memorial Day Weekend. But I can’t and won’t ever forget why we have such a weekend and why we have the freedom to celebrate and enjoy ourselves every weekend. I do love freedom and I happily and wholeheartedly say thank you to all veterans here and beyond.

Our city is without question a military town. As such we have built a fine and fitting tribute to our fallen heroes. If you have never visited our Veterans Memorial Wall Downtown, I highly recommend it. Here are some ways to pay tribute on Memorial Day here in North Florida.

Tony

Welcome to Downtown (Munich)

 

While the world watches Jacksonville’s Downtown this weekend, don’t miss your opportunity to see some of the world’s most vibrant downtowns this fall! I know there will be plenty of Europeans at Jazz Fest and the Soccer game this weekend, lets return the favor by sending as many North Floridians to celebrate in their vibrant and historic city centers!

You can check out Oktoberfest in Munich and enjoy the rich history of Austria all while networking with other Jacksonville friends, familiar and new!

Tomorrow night there will be a free orientation at the JAX Chamber in the heart of our Downtown.

Click here for more information and to RSVP for the orientation!

There is nothing to do Downtown!

Photo: Robert Futrell

How many times have you heard that? Hopefully, not much. There may be a perception out there that Downtown is devoid of activity. I know, it boggles my mind as well. Last night you could have seen Janes Addiction (wonder if they were able to get a table for dinner) at the Florida Theatre and/or participated in no less than 17 events. And thats just a typical Wednesday (as opposed to an Art Walk Wednesday when there are at least 50 different cultural things to do Downtown).

Wondering what is going on tonight or an upcoming day or night? Check out Downtown Vision’s calendar of events for up to the minute event information. You can also try the Cultural Council‘s Experience JAX.

Literally every single day, something is happening. You can avoid all this fun if you wish, but you can’t say there is nothing to do! I encourage all Duvalians (and surrounding neighbors) to find an event or a reason to come to our vibrant Downtown.

If you are in town next weekend, please join the hundreds of thousands of jazz fans and soccer hooligans (family style hooligans not Liverpool fans) Downtown as we celebrate one of the country’s largest and most respected Jazz Festivals and the United States Mens National Soccer Team as they take on Scotland at EverBank field. I’m dubbing this the Biggest Weekend Ever. And since our Jacksonville Jazz Festival is free and our Skyway is too, there is no shortage of things to do Downtown and no limit to the number of people you can meet in the street!

Is our Memorial Day Weekend a typical weekend Downtown? Not at all. But it does highlight, in a very meaningful way, how amazing our Downtown can be and puts a big bold exclamation point on the Quality of Life in our River City by the Sea!

Remember though, you don’t need to see thousands of friends to have a good time Downtown. It is wonderful to go for a stroll down the Riverwalk or have a cocktail at a local watering hole. Or grab a bite to eat at one of our great restaurants. Or catch a Symphony performance. Or, well, you get the picture!

Tony

TGI Monday

In my previous post I mentioned that Downtown was Laid Back. Little did I know that my walk to the Riverside Arts Market on Saturday would provide me with photographic proof (above).

I’ve lived in the urban core of Jacksonville, Florida since 1997. Most of those years in the award winning Riverside-Avondale, but more recently in America’s Number One Comeback, Springfield and now Downtown. One of the best things about living in the core of Jacksonville is the pace. You can bike most places safely thanks to our Riverwalk, our arts and cultural events are mostly inclusive and accessible. New missions and orgs pop up all the time. In fact, if you haven’t checked out CoRK yet, give them a follow. You’ll be glad you did.

In the last several years I’ve notice huge increases in the number of bikes, boards, and boats on our river’s edge. Have you been out there lately? One of my jobs is to make sure everyone knows about all the great things Downtown, and there is no better place to start, in my opinion, than our St. Johns River.

So as we work on new campaigns and initiatives (and there is a lot cooking!), I’ve got one thing stuck in my mind. Get them to the river! Let folks enjoy one of the best urban waterways in America with traditional perpendiculars to excellent neighborhoods. But don’t wait for events, there are opportunities day and night to do your own thing on the river.

When I first started at RAM, I would sometimes say, “If you don’t like all the farm fresh local produce, and you don’t like our variety of 100 or more local artists, and fresh artisanal foods prepared in front of your eyes aren’t your thing, then maybe the live music or world-reknown magicians and buskers can make it worth your while. But if none of that does it for you, simply sit down by the river and watch it flow North. If none of that is satisfying to you, check your pulse.”

Tony

The Center of the Action

Downtown is the center of any city. In Jacksonville this especially true. Just ask the bees in this photo. I had my lines for the media all worked out. “I’m so pleased to announce five thousand new residents Downtown. These residents also create jobs in urban agriculture and will produce local food to be served all over Jacksonville.”

On a serious note though, Downtown Jacksonville is the epicenter of art and culture, business, worship, and government. Its, ahem, abuzz with activity. Just today, we were lucky enough to have President Bill Clinton address a standing room only crowd at the Times Union Center for the Performing Arts. His talk, coordinated by Mayor Brown, really hit home for me as he noted several times that a vibrant Downtown is vital to the overall quality of life and economy of a community and that collaboration and the spirit of cooperation will move us forward. To me it sounded like my job description. I want everyone to know that if you have a question, or an idea, or even a concern about our Downtown, my door is always open. We will continue to work together in common and innovative ways to make our Downtown as great as it can be.

And we don’t necessarily need huge world famous dignitaries to make it enjoyable. In fact, just last night, I took a stroll with my six year old son down Forsyth St for a slice of pizza. We were invited to sit with Erik Hart, the director of the historic Florida Theatre, in his office (a bench outside the theatre). Erik and I talked about his event that night and nights past and we talked about the River City Renaissance that helped renovate the theatre to the jewel it is today. Moments like these remind me that Downtown is a neighborhood as well. If you are Downtown often, you know what I mean. You see the same folks quite a bit. You share stories and fist bumps as you hustle off to City Hall or the Library or a good meal. You get asked for directions. ALL THE TIME. It is very laid back. Its not perfect, but its good. I hope you’ll share some time down here and get to know us. One of the greatest things about Jacksonville is meeting cool people. We look forward to meeting you.

Have a great weekend.

Tony

Hot Week Downtown

Counting Crows played Tuesday at the Florida Theatre

What a week we’ve just had. It is always busy in Downtown Jacksonville on Art Walk week, but this one seemed especially jammed. Word on Adams Street was that the Counting Crows went to have a quick dinner on Tuesday at Indochine before their concert at the legendary Florida Theatre. The hostess, not knowing who the group was or their approaching start time, let them know it would be at least an hour wait! Elder staff immediately jumped in and the Crows enjoyed one of Downtown Jacksonville’s worst kept dining secrets. We assume at the chef’s table, in the kitchen. Maybe they read about Indochine in Southern Living. Art Walk continued to amaze with throngs of people from all over Jacksonville flocking to Downtown to soak up nearly 50 venues of visual and performing arts. The weekend also brought out our cultural diversity with our city’s mega international event World of Nations. So much world culture, music, art and especially food! World of Nations never dissapoints! And speaking of food, just across the street was our very own Backyard BBQ Championships. Bring your appetite when you come Downtown folks.

But it doesn’t have to be a mega special event to get a good meal Downtown. In fact, Downtown Jacksonville may be the home of the Best Sandwich in America! Find out June 6 on the Travel Channel if Olio Market takes home that prize!

Olio (behind the trolley) in the historic Churchwell Building

Saturday was also Cinco de Mayo where Downtown’s Latin Triangle (Burro Bar, Dos Gatos, and Burrito Gallery) served up the classic Mexican fare of the tri colors and probably a margarita or two. Rumor has it that Zombie Walk Downtown roared in to Burro Bar with more than 300 casualties! And there was even a Zombie Wedding at the Phoenix Tap Room on Forsyth Street.

Just an average weekend Downtown. Hope you made it out and can make it back!

Tony

Introducing My JAX Downtown

Tony Allegretti

It is day two on the job as Director of Downtown Engagement for JAX Chamber. I’m so very excited to get the ball rolling. I am also humbled by the opportunity to work directly on one of my biggest passions, Downtown Jacksonville. As you probably know, our Downtown is one of the finest in the country.

Culturally we rank very high in terms of things to do and accessibility to our vibrant arts scene with our Musuem of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and History, Cummer Museum, monthly Art Walks, and Riverside Arts Market (one of the largest outdoor weekly cultural events in the South), just to name a few.

We feature an excellent business climate with opportunities for companies of all sizes. Florida is an attractive state for business relocation. Northeast Florida is one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States, which makes it the perfect place for businesses that want to steadily advance.

But don’t forget about our weekends! Jacksonville has more park and recreation land than Boston has Boston land! Our American Heritage River, the mighty St. Johns via our Northbank and Southbank Riverwalks add miles of beautiful public urban waterway access unmatched this side of the Mississippi.

As a Downtown resident and long-time stakeholder, I’m always attempting to spread the word about our most excellent core. I appreciate this opportunity to expose our emerging Downtown to a wider audience each day. Please don’t hesistate to leave a comment or contact me directly about our Downtown.

See you on the river!

Tony