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:

Downtown Owners Reception

Jacksonville Junior Chamber Photo: Spottswood Collection

July 26 (Thursday)

5PM – Reception

5:30PM –  Remarks

6PM – Photo on front steps of JAX Chamber

I’m a partner in a business Downtown. I know a lot of business owners Downtown. I’ve been working on and off Downtown for more than a decade. In 2002 I went door to door to put local art in 100 windows Downtown. This was the first art meets city project that I did with Downtown Vision, which later produced the still thriving First Wednesday Art Walk. When installing 100 Windows of Art I got to meet a good many building and business owners. This year I’ve been going door to door again. Many of those same faces are still around compromising not just the 90 plus ground floor retailers, but also many law firms, eye doctors, dentists, barbers, book sellers, consultants, accountants, and nearly any kind of small business you can think of. Because of its supreme walkability and other assets, Downtown is the most diverse business environment in the city.

And opening a shop Downtown can be difficult. We have different challenges from parking (not finding it, paying for it!) to transportation, to garbage pick up, to cable access, to package delivery, etc. etc.. Many of us work hard and head home. I wanted to create an opportunity for all Downtown business owners to get together. The occurances where Downtown business owners get together are too few and too far between. With so many new entreprenuers opening their doors Downtown I feel this is a great time to get together and network.

In the remarks portion of the program I also want to explain my job as Director of Downtown Engagement and JAX Chamber’s role in revitalizing Downtown. The Chamber has been a huge win for my Downtown business (we joined before I became DDE) and I want to relate that to our group of owners as well. This isn’t a sales pitch, however, we’ll have Chamber representatives on hand if you desire to join or just need more information. We’ll get feedback about being a Downtown business and Chamber member from one of my partners in the Burrito Gallery as well.

Speaking of Burrito Gallery, we’ll have light snacks provided by BG to go along with ICE COLD INTUITION CANS! Provided by our sponsor Champion Brands! Like the event, the beers are free!  

 

Tony

Our Sleepy Downtown

 

There are some great new photos at the City’s Jazz Fest Facebook. You should like their page. I know you really love it. Just another boring weekend Downtown. Yawn.

Jazz Fest, Fourth of July, the Symphony, the Jaguars, the Suns, food truck rallies, skate day, the fair, World of Nations, The Great Pirate Party,  Eat Up Downtown are excellent yearly events and Art Walk is a huge draw monthly and the Florida Theatre has a couple events each week, but this isn’t even scratching the surface.

What are your favorite events or past times Downtown?

 

Downtown is WHITE HOT!

 

New businesses are flooding in. Residential is at capacity. And the art scene is ON FIRE! We’re number 15 in the top 25 large cities for Arts and much of the art we feature can be found in the center of our city.

Get on your mobile device and go to DTJAX.org and check out DVI’s really handy mobile site. Everything Downtown in just a touch away, and you can just scroll down for today’s events and activities. Many art and cultural events happen Downtown every day!

Tonight, for example, you could catch emerging performing arts group, the 5 & Dime Company opening of Next Fall.

New American plays aren’t the only edgy art we feature Downtown tonight. MOCA is featuring a lecture of artist Tristin Lowe about his newly installed Project Atrium (shown above).

It doesn’t have to be Art Walk to soak up art and culture Downtown. Do some digging and find out for yourself why we rate so high for creativity and the arts here in our beautiful river city.

Have a great weekend! Don’t miss the Arts Market and Mutiny on the Bounty!

Tony

Who wants to go to Downtown Jacksonville?

Photo: Orlando Sentinel

I don’t know, the leader of the free world? Roughly half of Jacksonville is excited to see our President roll up to our beautiful Downtown today, but this isn’t a political blog, its about Downtown. And Downtown is hot!  

Despite road and Skyway closures it should be business as usual as we welcome President Obama. Will he stop in at one of our 90 plus restaurants Downtown and speak to one of their local owners as he likes to do on the road? If you think he might, put one guess in the comments. I’m going with International Cafe on Hogan Street.

Speaking of leaders, I had the pleasure of speaking to Leadership Jacksonville’s Collegiate Leadership group yesterday. I was fully prepared to talk about the resurgence of interest in Downtown and boy were they an interested audience! Each year for many years I have been talking to this group and each year, more and more I see these young acheivers considering staying or coming back to Jacksonville to launch their careers. I was struck by their excitement about our Downtown, and frankly, relative lack of knowledge about it. We’ve got to get our story out!

They gave reports at the end of the program and many were surprised that the crime rate Downtown was 64% lower than that of Duval County as a whole. They were also stoked that so many young entrepreneurs and tech savvy companies are opening up shop Downtown. Working and advocating for Downtown is a battle of perception. There are a lot of people who let outside-of-Downtown opinion or lazy media make up their mind about our city center. These kids have decided to experience it for themselves. It was the first time I’ve ever been in a room where the entire room was optimistic about Downtown! I can get used to that!

So the second time might be tomorrow. Tomorrow I am addressing the Downtown Council, JAX Chamber‘s oldest and most revered council. I am dropping all kinds of news and breakthroughs happening in our urban core. It is open to non-members, but membership is reasonable and highly encouraged, and I think you’ll see why tomorrow morning. Set your alarm clock, its an early one.

If anyone guesses a Presidential retail stop correctly in the comments, I’ll buy your breakfast at tomorrow’s Downtown Council meeting. Only one guess per person please!

See you on the street!

Tony

P.S.- If you’ve read this far you might want to read about a get together we are having next Thursday (scroll down for story) for Downtown Business owners. Please pass this on to your friends who own businesses in Beautiful Downtown Jacksonville.