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Viper

Writing to the TU. Get your voices heard.

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Since I am stationed in Virginia, my ability to express my opinion to our city leaders is rather limited. I plan to utilize the local paper, and thereby its website, to inform the public and city leaders of my opinions and concerns.

I, as well as many others, would like for us all to do the same. Especially those who cannot attend town hall meetings and the like.

My first submission to the TU is regarding the Hayden Burns situation. It's not meant to be a detailed breakdown but rather appeal to our sense of downtown prosperity.

Dear Jacksonville residents and the officials who run this fine city,

I'd like you to envision downtown Jacksonville for just a moment circa 1940-1950. If you were of resident at the time or have seen pictures during the era then you will recall many businesses sitting side by side locked together in concrete block arms dutifully serving the hundreds of patrons seen strolling along the wide sidewalks that appear to be designed just for the purpose of allowing families to pace together or multitudes of businessmen and women using the two legs they were born with going to and fro.

Fast forward 50 or 60 years and that vision remains nothing more than that. The days of downtown being the center of attention are no more. That vibrancy it once had is a myth to most residents. A fabrication that seems difficult to believe for those born in this world of suburbs. But, if you stop and listen, you can almost hear the heartbeat of downtown trying with the might of Zeus himself to resurrect but alas, poor downtown, I knew him.

This flutter of a new beginning for the core of the River City is not a work of fiction. It is not a fabrication we read to our children at bedtime to help them sleep. It is but one thing.....us. We are returning to the life well from hence this city sprung. As if lost by time and the infatuation with the automobile, we are rediscovering downtown.

But..... resuscitation requires more than just the people. They must be housed. They must be employed. They must be provided for. And, they must be entertained.

Who can provide these essential elements? Once again, us but we are at the mercy of our elected officials to decide what is best for the city.

I turn your attentions to the present, more specifically the soon-to-be former main library. As a part of this rebirth of downtown, a new library is being constructed. This leaves us with a rather large vacancy and a few rather inspired groups have offered to make do with the building and property. So who should be given the opportunity to take ownership? Let us forgo the financial details and concentrate on the impact and value to downtown they shall present. In fact, our city officials have been kind enough to narrow our choices to 3 instead of 5.

We shall start with is being speculated by the local masses as the forerunner, a chocolate factory. Who doesn't like chocolate? Not only will they manufacture and sell the sweets at the location but they will offer a tour of facility as well. Some of you may be envisioning scenes from a certain Willy Wonka movie. Sadly, it will be far from it and you'd be better off paying $8.50 per ticket and another $5.50 for popcorn and watching Johnny Depp thrill the young ones one the big screen. Now wouldn't it be nice to have a movie theater in downtown where you can do just that? One of our visionaries has proposed just such a thing. However, they have not limited their idea to movie going, a restaurant will coincide with it. Fancy that, dinner and movie on the same check. Such ingenious combinations don't stop there. It's being designed to house people as well, 70 units in all. The developer is also interested in adding in a market right there into the building and/or some retail. Even more amazing is the restaurant doubles for a nightclub. Imagine it, you wake up in the morning and rush off to work a few block away or you can take the Skyway located not far away. After work, you pick up a few things at the grocer then you and the misses or mister take in dinner and a movie and finish it off with a little dancing all within the same building you awoke in that morning.

Now I admit, I love my chocolate but I could probably buy a large quantity of chocolate from the grocer within the building of the other developer and granted I might take in the tour once but it would have to be exceptionally unique and interesting for me to make another round. I do wonder how many would go for repeat occasions. Would they give discounts or maybe yearly passes?

Ah yes, there is a third caller striving to make something of the old Hayden Burns. Can they possibly offer something better than chocolate or dinner and a movie? How does a restaurant, nightclub, market or bakery, loft offices and residential sound? It sounds, as the expression goes, "better than chocolate." They too seem prepared to bring to downtown what downtown needs.

Those images of an era long since past can be had again. It takes people. With people come everything else. There is no chicken or the egg theory, it's plane and simple. What's even better is if everything else comes with the people. Will chocolate give rise to the new downtown? Would it be better suited to occupy the location of a former popular fudge attraction in the Landing? It all boils down to what is the best use of that location? Which will incite life into that location?

I think I've rambled on enough. I shall leave you with a simple analogy.

When trying to restart a heart, chocolate can only be bad for you, you need life and lots of it.

With all due respects,

Jimmy Webb

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Wow Viper! After reading that who wouldn't see your vision. That was very well versed and not to filling. I love how you opened with the reference to downtown Jax in the 50's being vibrant and bustling as it once was.

I think you have inspired me, I have to write something to voice my opinion. :thumbsup:

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My two cents: I really like your idea to write letters, and I applaud your effort to get involved. I hope everyone here writes letters to the city leaders about issues that they care about.

However, I would personally suggest that the Burns library RFP is not yet the issue to complain about. My reasoning is that an RFP selection is, by nature, a matter of preference. Like it or not, most people (JEDC as well as general public) clearly don't see a huge meaningful difference between the 3 finalists. As long as the winner actually follows through with his project in a timely manner, I think most citizens will consider the results possitive. So it's hard to make any kind of logical leap about government corruption or ineptitude.

Your letter was very well thought out and moderate. But other people might not focus their words as well. I can imagine other people writing lots of absolutist statements about how anyone who doesn't support this proposal or that proposal is opposed to urbanism or opposed to Downtown's rebirth. Those kinds of statements will turn people against your cause.

Just some other suggestions for issues that might provide a rallying point ...

- The staggering failure to clean up Hogan's Creek and McCoy's creek. Lack of vision for not turning them into show piece urban parks.

- The city allowing the DOT to push them around and turn Riverside Blvd into a 6 lane "highway."

- The lackluster performance of the DRC - failure to schedule timely meetings, not being strict enough on the Fidelity designs, blatantly failing to properly review the Vestcor design 3 years ago and trying to cover up for it now.

- The city sitting on vacant downtown land, wasting potential tax revenue by holding out for absurdly high prices. As we know by the Burns RFP, there are people out there who will develop property. However, the city is sitting on dozens of vacant land/surface parking lots downtown. Why doesn't the city issue RFPs for all these other sites?

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Hogans Creek would be my next rallying call personally...

It is in such a perfect place... Perfect size... Anyway.

I also like how you mentioned about the vacant lots. I would add though that at least one or two of them be converted into Public Parking Garages (with ground level retail.office)

I know we hate them, but people use those parking lots. We have to provide a viable option for those that do use the Parking lots. We cant jsut say "make 'em walk a little". This is Jackosnville, That is a very hard statment.

Personal suggestion...

An RFP for a parking garage across from Florida Theater/Main Library for a 4 or more story Garage. I dont think the City owns that land but you get the jist.

Anyway... Good call to both Viper and Captain

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Great Editorial. I plan to write one as well. mainly because of a statement that Captain, just made.

Like it or not, most people (JEDC as well as general public) clearly don't see a huge meaningful difference between the 3 finalists.

Imo, letters that explain why selecting a mixed-use project for this site and how it can complements existing and attracts additional market rate projects in downtown, will help a lot. No doubt, some may be locked into their ways, but letters offering different viewpoints may make a couple think twice.

Other topics worth writing about include:

- The 4am Downtown Drinking issue

- Considering building the courthouse vertical, instead of horizontal

- Expanding/renovating the Prime Osborn

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Another thing with letters to the editor is to make them short and concise, b/c, with space constraints, the shorter letters are more likely to be published. I would send more letters to the editor re downtown development (I have written some before that were published, including one opposing the widening of Riverside Ave.), but I hate to possibly offend potential clients or judges. As to the Burns RFP though, I think that empirically speaking the Atkins proposal is superior as evidenced by the fact that it won the contest and was judged to be best among the proposals. This is a good point for a potential letter to the editor.

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^Dang, that is weird. Maybe you two are like....urban cousins or something.

I always read the editorials and keep an eye out for potential UrbanPlanet writers. Nice letter, Jimmy.

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^YES! I hope that gets published, because I'm sick of only hearing good things about the chocolate factory. When you list all of the components of the 3 proposals, it really puts in in perspective.

And, after reading that, I've given a little more consideration to the Main Branch proposal. Even though I'd like to personally press the detonation button, their proposal sounds cool.

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Its cool it made the paper, but now the point I attempted to make is a lot weaker, since they removed most of the comparision statements needed to drive the point home.

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