All Eyes on Downtown

 

Did you see this article about Florida Coastal School of Law checking out Downtown as a place to create student housing? That would be a huge score. Smart post grad college kids would really help an already vibrant and busy scene. There are rumblings of more than one college scoping out Downtown as well (there always is). I think schools would get a lot out of Downtown’s car free lifestyle and walkability.

One would imagine that any school with a large group of students would have to build new or revitalize a historic building (yeah!) because frankly the apartment product is so robust there is a waiting list at most buildings. That is a very good thing.

You know what else is good? Free Skyway. Skyway ridership is up so much that the JTA has decided to keep it free for another 13 months. The Skyway is convenient to about 90 restaurants and about 3000 residents. If you plot out your trip there are a ton of places you can go as well.

You can also take the Skyway to Community First Saturdays (rare weekend operation!). More on that later, I have to run to this.

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News!

In case you’ve been under a rock lately! Don’t forget to check out Community First Saturdays, the blog! More to come on this event. Stay tuned via our Facebook and Twitter!

JAX Chamber, Community First partner for downtown events
Florida Times-Union
The JAX Chamber will host monthly gatherings on the Northbank riverwalk the first Saturday of each month, starting in October. The events, sponosored for at
 
Community First Saturdays to open up downtown Jacksonville to the
First Coast News
aim behind Community First Saturdays, a free event on the first Saturday of every month sponsored by Community First Credit Union and the JAX Chamber.

Downtown! GO GET IT!

Image from Dr. Wayne Wood’s Excellent Footage of Summertime in the City 2010

This Saturday marks one of the most anticipated events returning to Downtown Jacksonville. Summertime in the City is a BBoy Competition and Hip Hop Afterparty that will make you want to bust out your parachute pants and start spinning on your gramma’s linoleum. Break dancing crews from all over the southeast have converged on Summertime in the City for years. Its one of the most fun events in Jacksonville there is. The BBoy event is always family friendly with DJs always looking out for little BBoys and BGirls, and the afterparty (this year at Phoenix Taproom) is all about live Hip Hop for the adults. Don’t miss this event. Thanks to the Jacksonville Landing for hosting this year’s (free) BBoy Competition portion of the event!

Do you like the feel of bass in your face in the crowd? Then mark your calendars for two weeks from Saturday for this event Downtown as we move from Summertime in the City to Bass in the City. More than 30 bands and DJs playing at several of Downtown’s best pubs and live music venues. 30!

But perhaps you can’t wait a couple days and/or weeks. Ok, ok, well then TONIGHT at the Jacksonville Landing you can check out the Electric River! Click this link and check in on the DJs that will be rocking the Northbank tonight until 2AM! This show is FREE! Here is a taste of one the DJs. BYOGlowsticks! Free Show!

Setting a Downtown Agenda.

Things are about to get all Downtowny around here. This week will be a huge week (hopefully) for Downtown as we are expecting (anxious and hopeful) the Downtown Investment Authority to pass. And since it was a Mayoral initiative and idea, Mayor Brown will probably sign it right away. And since people have been anticipating this for a while we should hit the ground running very soon with the selection of board members and crucially, a director. We have needed a deal maker Downtown for some time. Our housing is at capacity and we need more. We need to recruit the world to our excellent grid, our lovely St. Johns River, our historic buildings, our free Skyway, and our unmatched Riverwalk.

The cost barriers to entry are low and the energy is high. We are ripe for a Richard Florida visit!

So as we see weeks and weeks of more positive Downtown headlines don’t forget to actually come see us!

The photo above is an excellent resource for checking out our Downtown. It shows DowntownJacksonville.org or DTJAX.org for mobile. This super fast site is perfect for what you need when you need it (now).

You can just scroll down and see todays events even! No app download needed, just visit via your browser. A big pretty version is available for you old schoolers with computers and iPads as well.

You know what else you will find? Lots of things to do.

Check out these ITINERARIES from Downtown Vision. Included are awesome tips for kids and families including one that is totally FREE!

On Competition and Food Trucks

Monday, history was made Downtown. That may be a stretch, but it was monumental for some – like the dozens of cube dwellers that lined up for fresh artisan tacos. Monday, Corner Taco, a local food truck set up shop on a city lot in the middle of a busy week day. While strict regulations exist with regards to mobile food vendors, food trucks are thriving Downtown.. As part owner of a restaurant Downtown, I welcome and encourage the success of food trucks.  This is why:

1. They are trendy. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, come to truck rallies and events in the summer heat and rain. Food trucks attract more people to our urban core. When they are here, they see all the other cool things happening Downtown.

2.  Thousands of people work (me) and live (also me) Downtown, and want more options.

3. Downtown encompasses a large area and there are lots of opportunities to serve residents, employees and visitors in many different locations.

4. The City, including the administration and parking officials are really working to help navigate regulations and create opportunities. That is why Monday, in my opinion, was so significant. It was the direct result of the City Parking Department finding a way to make that opportunity happen.

5. Advocacy matters. Mike Field and Caron Streibich are the pied pipers of trucks. They actively promote food trucks. When those trucks are Downtown, they are actively promoting Downtown.  

6. The natural advantage of being able to pick your location. Food trucks aren’t a sure thing, and they can be as expensive as a restaurant to set up (especially with Downtown rents as low as they have ever been! zing), but one has to admire anyone who gets to pick their 3 biggest things in real estate every day (location, location, location).

So what does this have to do with competition? Well for one, I am part owner of a retailer who sells tacos one and half blocks from this taco truck. I support legal small businesses to operate Downtown. I support more options Downtown. I support more things to do Downtown. My partners set up a massive food truck rally in our parking lot for example. We did very well that day. And that is the point.

When a local restaurant group approached that same partnership to rent our upstairs for the best thai restaurant in town, we thought about it and knew in the long run that, what is good for Downtown is good for us. Now when there are waits upstairs we get overflow customers, and we haven’t missed a beat.

When competition and challenges come in the first thing you may think of is a strategy to keep them out. It’s not like that Downtown. We’re different. We welcome new business and don’t (in my opinion) try to hurt someone’s chances to operate. It’s not always easy, mostly the challenges don’t stop coming. But you have to up your gameto meet those challenges and you’ve got to always remember, a rising tide floats all boats.

As a funny anecdote to this rising tide, here is a little extra story. Our little burrito shop is one of the only local operators at EverBank Field. We read in the paper, like everyone else, that fans can now take food into the Jaguars games. Well great, was my first impression. But then I thought, if more families can go to games because the overall experience is less expensive and more enjoyable, then we’ll see more fans and generations of fans. If we see more fans, more people will see our brand and possibly try our food. In the long run – which is what all businesses should be -, you’ve got to look past short-term issues and challenges. When we work toward a bigger, better, more inclusive environment, we will become more profitable.

That is my take anyway.

Tony 

Art Walk is tonight. ACT BUSY! – UPDATED

Did you know that this is the 105th Art Walk?  Hey that is 501 backwards. Hmmm. Anyway, way back before there were even Stormtroopers at Art Walk organizers used to wonder,  will come out?

As the event has grown, it has become a great way to make sure retailers have rent at the beginning of the month. Its not really a question of if they will come, but more so how many will come. The answer is always the same. Lots. Your support of the Art Walk has made a huge economic impact and with that powerful impact, Art Walk has given back numerous things to do and ways for the community to get involved.

A quick glance at tonight’s Art Walk shows 40+ venues. Each of these venues is open during the month at some time so it is a great way to see many facets and assets of our vibrant Downtown. I also count way more than 100 local artists on the flyer (PDF), but many of the venues have multiple artists as well. If you could see hundreds of artists at a free event in the heart of the city would you go? I sure hope so!

And don’t worry about rain. If for some reason we get lucky enough to have rain, put on a positive face and remember rain is nature’s crowd control. It makes for a cozy and unhurried Art Walk. Its easier to make new friends on a rainy Art Walk. It is also easier to park, order drinks and dinner, and if the crowds aren’t massive maybe that artist friend you just made will give you a rainy day discount. Or maybe not! But either way, please come Downtown tonight. Bring your kids, or bring your mom, or bring your buddies, or bring your buddies’ moms. Art Walk certainly has something for everyone. It is a great time feel the Downtown vibe. Don’t miss it.

See you on the streets!

Tony

UPDATE:

Art Walk, once again had rain right at 5 PM. I’m sure many people are on the fence whether or not to come out to Art Walk, then, right when they clock out, it starts pouring. If say half of the people decided not to come Downtown last night because of a little rain, then I’m sort of glad. Because it was PACKED out anyway. My favorite stops last night were (in no particular order)

Jen Jone’s Gallery in the Wells Fargo Center (amazing collection of local talent)

Underbelly – Finally got to see L. Gustavo Cooper’s Festival Favorite The Velvet Road

MOCA – Project Atrium with Stormtroopers checking it out was epic

Hemming- Excellent collection of locals including Jason Wright

Snyder Memorial – Somebody let a funk band in church!

Crash the Satellites at the legendary Florida Theatre was awesome too!

There were also 35 more venues! If you aren’t doing Art Walk each month, I can say without hesitation, you are completely missing out. Here are some snaps: