Our future depends on the heart of our downtown
We owe this to future generations as well as our own.
Jacksonville is many things to many people. From our amazing beaches and eclectic neighborhoods to the Fortune 500 companies and the mom and pop shops that line our streets, Jacksonville continues to be a city on the verge of greatness.
Many have said the very vitality of a city can be measured by the energy of its downtown. If that’s the case, it’s time to stop dreaming and start doing. Now is the time to be part of something remarkable. Now is the time to look to ourselves instead of future generations. Now, is the time to make this happen.
If Jacksonville, circa 1968, was tagged the Bold City of the New South, today we should all aim to be Boldest City in America. A city no one can overlook. A city no one will ever take for granted. And a city that’s the envy of every place — big or small — in this entire country.
With resurgence tied directly to the rebirth, revitalization, reimagination and renewed spirit in their downtown cores, cities such as Denver, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Greenville have flourished while breathing an infectious spirit into their communities. Spirit that attracts new business. Spirit that attracts new people. And, just as important, the very spirit that makes people swell with pride in the places they live.
There is not another city in this country as perfectly poised to be the next “big thing” as Jacksonville is. But to do so, it can no longer be hampered by its struggling downtown. It can no longer let time pass. It can no longer be a city of unrealized potential.
In 2014, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said, “a homeless guy in Detroit has more mojo than a millionaire in Jacksonville.” While some bristled at the thought, consider Khan’s context in that same speech when he said, “There’s great potential here and I’m always befuddled. … Why aren’t we doing better? ... It’s just not that we have great people here. I mean, they are young people. And that is absolutely the DNA, I mean the vital juice, that everybody craves.”
Today, Khan’s view remains a critical lens on both the opportunities we have, as well as the challenges we must overcome to take that important next step. That gigantic leap.
While the optics through which we are seen, and even how we view ourselves, are critical in making this Bold City as unique and vibrant as we all imagine, the single biggest missing piece to the puzzle of this amazing place we call home, is our city’s downtown.
Make no mistake, this is not an indictment of what’s transpired in the past. This is not a finger-pointing or a rehashing of the “if we’d only dones.” No, this is about moving forward. Rolling up our collective sleeves. Pulling the oars in the same direction. All of us. Together.
You’re holding a prototype of J Magazine, its pages filled with a simple mission: To look forward while chronicling the transformation of Jacksonville’s downtown. With the dreamers and the doers. With the policy makers and the developers. With the new voices and the old. With the obstacles and the solutions.
With vision and hard work, Jacksonville’s downtown will be a place we can all be proud of. A place where we’ll be honored to say we helped to create this remarkable transformation. A place that is the envy of every city in our country.
In coming issues, you’ll find articles on everything from the river bisecting our core to the future of Jacksonville’s mass transit. From Peter Rummell’s unique living concept to Shad Khan’s desire to breathe life into the shipyards. From the influx of housing bringing millennials to live, work and play in our downtown to the intersection of art and culture in a thriving urban area.
The country’s Boldest City can only be a reality if we stop squinting to imagine a vibrant downtown.
Let our legacy be that we didn’t kick the can down the road. Let our legacy be that we helped make Jacksonville’s downtown BOLD for generations to come.
MARK NUSBAUM is president and publisher of The Florida Times-Union and T-U Media. He and his wife live in Jacksonville’s Avondale neighborhood.