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bobliocatt

Potential destinations for a vibrant urban core

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Several times during the past couple of months, I've mentioned that I believe the city of Jacksonville should take a hold of its past, its culture, and its forgotten treasures and promote and market them together, especially in downtown, to create a unique vibrant core. Today, I heard that the Naval Destroyer, the USS Spruance, is going to be decommissioned when it returns back to Mayport, from Overseas. This got me thinking again about things sitting in our own backyard, that could help lead the way to a revitalized core. Here's a couple and my reasoning for mentioning them.

1. USS Spruance

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This ship, currently stationed at Mayport, was the first of 31 destroyers developed for undersea warfare. Its now on line to be decommissioned. Jacksonville is a city, whose economy was built on shipbuilding and numerous Naval institutions. However, if you went downtown today, you wouldn't even now it. One way to not only celebrate the city's history, but also add another cultural attraction, in the downtown core, would be to take a ship like this and renovate it into a large museum showcasing the importance of maritime and this regions contributions over the years to the industry over the years. The perfect site would be along the Southbank's riverwalk, near the Maritime Museum.

2. Silent Film Industry

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At the turn of the century, Jacksonville was known as the "Silent Film Capitol" of the US. At one time, over 30 film studios were located here and over 300 silent movies were produced here, before the 1930's. Unfortantely, residents ran them off and most of them relocated to Southern California, which eventually lead to the creation of Hollywood. I think an attraction or something showcasing this in downtown would also be a great stimulator of foot traffic in the downtown core, outside of office hours.

3. Hogans Creek

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Imo, this fogotten polluted waterway and its chain of parks are downtown's best existing asset, and one that has gone for granted too long. I noticed the city is going to pay $50,000 to construct a temporary asphalt riverwalk, for the Super Bowl. I wonder how much money would it take to restore the existing, but overgrown, asphalt jogging and bike paths following Hogans Creek, for several blocks, between Springfield and Downtown.

Restoring the parks and waterway, would be the ultimate catalyst in the revitalization of the northern and eastern parts of downtown. The best thing it will do, outside of providing a big city public amenity through the heart of town, is finally connect Springfield and downtown into one large vibrant inner city district.

Can you actually imagine a bustling large urban park, with a college campus, possibly three museums, restaurants, a sports district, an entertainment district, a riverfront, a historic residential neighborhood, a commerical downtown, and new infill multi-family residential uses all fronting it? The level of potential activities to take place there would put any thing else in this town to shame.

I don't know the costs, but I'm confident, if the Hogan's Creek area were cleaned up, the city wouldn't have to offer incentives for infill housing and commercial developed in the areas adjacent to the park.

Well, those are three ideas I have for helping return the inner city to its former glory. Feel free to comment, if you're for these or think these ideas are pipe dreams. Or add ideas you may have that will help transform the area into a vibrant neighborhood. I look forward to the discussion.

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What an awesome list! I once toured a naval ship in Mobile, I believe. That would be an awesome attraction downtown. And I never knew how much potential Hogan's Creek had. I'm not too familiar with that part of town.

Also, I think that Confederate Park (Homeless Hill) should be cleaned up. It would definitely help better connect downtown with Springfield.

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Great ideas, Lakelander. Maybe you could write these up and send the newspaper and mayor.

1. USS Spruance

I've toured the one in Tampa and that's just a cargo ship. It was a lot of fun though. By itself it won't turn around the city, but it'll be a great way to show off a little of Jacksonville's history. These ships always make good additions to the skyline as well.

2. Silent Film Industry

How about sponsoring an annual silent festival. I could see a small institute staying open year-round developing around the festival with a library of old films and a small studio to teach people and students about film making.

3. Hogans Creek

The problem with Urban Parks is that once you have them, you have to provide security, lighting, upkeep, maintenance. If you don't they turn into havens for homeless and drug deals. That being said, I think urban parks are underestimated in modern cities. Cities seem to see it as a money drain instead of an investment. I also don't think you can overestimate tha value of sprawling parks like this as a transporation alternative. I'd like to see it cleaned up and returned back to a more natural state with reeds, lily pads, etc bordering the creek. Maybe through a couple of water falls in there.

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Great ideas, Lakelander.  Maybe you could write these up and send the newspaper and mayor.

1. USS Spruance

I've toured the one in Tampa and that's just a cargo ship.  It was a lot of fun though.  By itself it won't turn around the city, but it'll be a great way to show off a little of Jacksonville's history.  These ships always make good additions to the skyline as well.

I toured Patriot's Point, in Charleston, SC a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. It doesn't make much sense for Jacksonville, a city with a rich Maritime history, not to have something like this. BTW, I did a little digging and it appears that the Jacksonville Maritime Museum Society is currently trying to raise funds to build an 11,000 sf waterfront museum. Evidently, they are storing several artifacts in other places, due to the fact that the existing museum space is to small. The city and the museum could really benefit from having something like the USS Spruance as a part of the permanent exhibit or the museum itself.

3. Hogans Creek

The problem with Urban Parks is that once you have them, you have to provide security, lighting, upkeep, maintenance.  If you don't they turn into havens for homeless and drug deals.  That being said, I think urban parks are underestimated in modern cities.  Cities seem to see it as a money drain instead of an investment.  I also don't think you can overestimate tha value of sprawling parks like this as a transporation alternative.  I'd like to see it cleaned up and returned back to a more natural state with reeds, lily pads, etc bordering the creek.  Maybe through a couple of water falls in there.

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What exists today, is the remains of a large urban park, built between 1902 and 1929, that once stretched from 10th St. in Springfield, to the St. Johns River, just east of downtown. After years of neglect, its now a homeless haven. But beyond all the grit is a jewel just waiting to be polished. Now that Springfield and downtown are becoming hot spots for reinvestment, its only natural to restore this mile long urban park, back to its former glory and reap the benefits of doing such a thing. Other than the canal, I don't think it would be to expensive to restore the rest of the park. Certainly its cheaper than the two riverwalks and their expansions.

BTW, it would be tough to turn it back into its natural state. Before 1901, it was surrounded by marsh and it flooded the surrounding areas, like Springfield, on regular occassions.

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I have often thought that it would be fun to host urban kayaking down Hogan's Creek from Klutho Park to the river then up to the Landing (while the tide is cresting, naturally) were it not for all the medical waste that was dumped into Hogan's Creek in the past (up to the late 1970s, St Luke's sprite Methodist sprite Shands was allowed by the city to dump medical waste there). The largest bit of pollution in the creek now is shopping carts. I counted 23 from near the Karpeles to the park on Boulevard. The Army Corps of Engineers has been drawing up plans for the creek's restoration for the past few years but I haven't seen anything final.

When I lived in Tampa, there was a rollerblade rental place that held guided bar-hopping on Friday and Saturday nights; things got pretty interesting as the night progressed. Actually, Tampa has done a lot of good work with Channelside-Ybor (including a new trolley line) and we could learn a lot from their experience. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to visit downtown Tampa since I moved (about seven years).

Hmm...perhaps we could get the bar buffer around churches reduced to no less than 75' of the Sunday morning sanctuary (BWAHAHAHA -- sorry, I couldn't help myself). This is a very real problem in Downtown, though. We have some beautiful, historic churches (including the old FBC) and then we have FBC that occupies 11 square blocks and the current legislation keeps any alcohol-serving way too far away. Alcohol-serving nightlcubs and restraunts aren't the end-all/be-all but they do get money-spending people down to the area and bring down lots and lots of cold, hard cash themselves.

In addition to a ship and silent film museum (Oliver Hardy's historic home is right around the block from mine), I would like to see:

1. A real trolley line in Downtown running from Central Station (across Bay St. from the Bellsouth Building) down Bay St. to the Stadium area, up A. Phillip Randolph to 1st, 1st to Main, Main to 8th, and back down Main to Bay; leaving room for expansion into LaVilla.

2. A big, anchor entertainment complex/restraunt like Dave and Busters or Gamezone somewhere in the heart of downtown

3. A Muvico Theatre/restraunt with a kid-watch like the one near the airport in Boca -- just something big as an initial draw that allows other businesses to flourish around it.

But all of this is going to take investment and tax incentives; unfortunately, that kind of money is flowing hand-over fist into Southside. No offense to Southside residents; the development there has its momentum and simply doesn't require any more investment or breaks from the city.

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I kinda feel sorry for the Maritme Museum. It's like the size of a mall kiosk, and many people drive right by, without noticing it. I think that a large ship like that would complement a larger Maritime Museum, but I can't envision it on the Southbank. Perhaps near the industrial waterfront/Metro Park area.

Also, a movie theater would be awesome! Muvico is the best, especially when it comes to urban theaters. It's the big things (theaters, museums, parks, department stores) that help draw suburbanites to downtown.

For instance, many people never went to downtown West Palm Beach until Cityplace was built. Now, people from all over the county come to downtown to shop at Macy's, B&N, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, and othe stores like that. They also go to the movies, comey club and restaurants there. I know I talk about WPB and Cityplace way too much, but it really is awesome! I had always envisioned the Landing becoming like Cityplace, but in it's own unique way.

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ent complex/restraunt like Dave and Busters or Gamezone somewhere in the heart of downtown

3. A Muvico Theatre

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I've heard they are looking right now as is an Imax developer but are intereseted post-Peninsula...

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All three ideas are excellent Lakelander, as well as the pics. Comments..

1) Back in the early-mid '90's the U.S.S. Saratoga was being decommisioned and the city was offerred the chance to make it a musuem. A grassroots fundraising campaign was held but the ship ended up going to another city.

This type of musuem has been successful in Charleston and Wilmington NC. Of course, it doesn't hurt that both cities (but particularly Charleston) were tourist destinations already.

The best place for it would be at the eastern end of Metro Park. That way there would be snergy with the events held at Metro park, and the ship would not block the view of major buildings on the river (the Peninsula, Strand, Adam's Mark, etc.). Also, the ship deck would have a good view of the Hart bridge. Conversely, users of the Hart bridge would get a good top view of the ship.

2) I also like the Silent Film idea. It's something that many people aren't aware of. It's something to ponder, what would Jax be like today if it had become Hollywood? The restoration of the Norman Studios in Arlington would be a great start. I think that will happen, but it may take a few years. Also, the Klutho building in Springfield could be a used as an exhibit site.

3) Klutho Park. I agree 1000% that something needs to be done with this park. It could be a showplace. As for security concerns, those would be handled if everyday citizens used the park on a regular basis. The drug dealers and homeless stay in that area largely because they have it all to themselves. If homes, restaurants and shops lined the park, they would likely move elsewhere.

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The USS Saratoga campaign (basically a copy of Patriots point) raised something like 80-90% of it's total fundraising goal, which was around 2 or 3 million dollars. If you are truly interested in this USS Spruance idea you should try to contact all the people involved with the old Saratoga stuff (I'm sure their contact info is plastered all over the old TU archives). They would be a good place to start.

As far as Norman Studios is concerned, there is some lady that has been OBSESSED with that for several years. In fact, I think she finally got a sizable government grant to restore the place. If you managed to contact her, I'm sure she would be thrilled to have people involved.

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was the ship museum your idea lakelander or did you get from somewhere? if it was how should we offer it to the city, because just talking about it wont make it happen. i think it would be cool to see it go in, but instead of right on the southbank by maritime maybe near riverside or in front of the multicolored building around 5 stories between the acosta and 95, anyone know what building im talking about? the name? it has a triagnular roof that has windows in it and i think may be blue.

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I wouldn't say its my original idea. Several decommissioned naval ships have been turned into floating museums across the country. The closest I can think of, are ships in Mobile, Charleston, and Wilmington. Not many cities, in the southern region of the US, have a rich maritime history, like Jax has. Its unfortunate that all we have is a mall kiosk for a maritime museum and not anything like this.

BTW, after reading Captain Obvious' post, I did a little digging around on the net and discovered a guy trying to save the S.S. Arthur M. Huddell from being scrapped in Norfolk, VA. This guy (Peter Stoudt), whi lives in Virginia, is trying to start a movement to save the ship and have it moved and turned into a floating maritime museum, in Jacksonville. He chose Jacksonville, beacuse this is the last Liberty ship built at the Jacksonville Shipyards during WWII. According to him the USS Saratoga movement failed because the ship (an aircraft carrier) was too big. I wrote his email address down ([email protected]) and I plan to contact him in the near future, to learn more about his plans.

BTW, that building you're talking about is St. Joe Company's new headquarters. Due to the low height of the Acosta bridge, it may be too impossible to move a large ship to that location. Like some others have said, if something like this were to happen, the best location would probably be Metropolitan Park or in one of the old shipyard docks with the new Shipyards mixed use development.

Here's a pic of the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, now a museum in San Franisco. There are only three remaining Liberty Ships left. They are the O'Brien, the John W. Brown, a museum in Baltimore, and the SS Arthur Huddell, which is the last remaining Liberty ship built in downtown Jacksonville

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didnt think of the acosta height being a factor. but that does cause a problem for those locations. and i know it has been done around the US i was just asking about this particular ship for jacksonville. it sounds like peter is determined to get the huddell to jax. i hope that works out even though the spruance is more attractive and would probably attract more visitors. thanks for the info on the mystery building, youre always a big help.

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LOL, the Liberty ships were also known as "ugly ducklings". To me, it really doesn't matter whether its the Saratoga, Spruance, or Huddell. Its just the idea that Jax should do all it can to take advantage of its waterfront and maritime history and when you consider the different kinds of urban attractions (ex. aquariums, imax theathers, etc.) this is one that definately makes a lot of sense, since it directly relates to the past, present, and future of Jacksonville and the St. Johns River. Plus its also an interactive experience, which is always better than walking in a museum building and looking at newspaper clippings and art reproductions on the wall. :)

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