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vicupstate

Convention Center, CVB & Tourism

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vicupstate    220

If the future of Jax is a lot like San Diego, BRING IT ON!

Please note that someone from the "glamorous" West Coast, and the 7th largest US city thinks Jax has a lot going for it. Kind of like the Fidelity folks, formerly of Santa Barbara."

The CVB’s new leader

Reyes hopes to build on Super Bowl

Reyes: from San Diego to Jacksonville

by J. Brooks Terry

Staff Writer

John Reyes is in an interesting position. Jacksonville’s new tourism point man is not only from another city, he’s been on the job for little more than a week.

But despite his being an out-of-towner, the new president of the Jacksonville & the Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau says the opportunities ahead for the city are not only plentiful, but also closely within reach.

“I’m very impressed with this city,” Reyes said. “I’m just beginning in my exploration of it, but I look around and see that it has so much to offer, that it has such amazing potential.”The CVB board is equally impressed with Reyes.

“We’re very excited to have him on board with us,” board chair Margo Dundon said. “It has been said that he is exactly what we need and I couldn’t agree more.”

Fresh faced and upbeat, Reyes, 47, arrives with more than 21 years in the hospitality industry under his belt.

He last worked for the San Diego CVB, leaving after 17 years there as vice president of sales.

“I heard about the job in Jacksonville from an executive search firm,” Reyes said. “After a lot of thought, I thought that it was a good match with respect to what I had been looking for and what my skill sets are.”

Reyes contacted the CVB board and was soon flown in for an interview. Almost instantly he said liked what he saw.

“I was ready to take the job, but it wasn’t entirely up to me,” he said.

Reyes’ wife and 13-year-old daughter had an equal say in the matter.

“Again, the board was very sensitive to my situation and agreed to fly them out so that they could see the city for themselves,” he said. “On the flight home we had a family meeting and took a vote.”

For Reyes, it was a no-brainer. He was ready to pack his bags but he didn’t want to pressure his family when it came to moving across the country.

“Luckily we all agreed that Jacksonville was right for us,” he said, “and I can’t imagine there being a better time to be in my position.”

Reyes said the city’s Super Bowl status may prove to be the selling point it needs to move it into a much more tourist-friendly and lucrative direction.

“We have to make sure we capitalize on the game as much as possible. For about the next year we’ll be able to use the Super Bowl to effectively market ourselves,” he said. “The secret is out and people are starting to understand that Jacksonville can be a destination city.”

During the week preceding the Super Bowl, Reyes made a special trip to Jacksonville, temporarily assuming his CVB duties while here. He was not paid.

“That’s to the credit of this city and the CVB board,” he said. “The energy and excitement surrounding the game made me understand that I had to make a commitment to be here and to learn as much as I possibly could about Jacksonville. Every day I learn something new.”

Still knee-deep in his quest to know more about the city, Reyes said he’s prepared for the challenges he may face.

Among them, he’s aware that the ongoing debate of whether or not to build a new convention center is waiting for him.

San Diego, Reyes said, faced similar convention center woes more than 20 years ago.

It was very similar to what Jacksonville is going through now,” he said. “A convention center was eventually built, but it wasn’t like it was a slam dunk. People had their concerns, but over time it has proven itself to a tool for a lot of economic growth.“But again, when you look at all of the attention Jacksonville is getting right now, a new convention center would be a very strong asset. There will be a lot of discussion and debate and, at a certain point, a strong business plan to support that need will come forward.”

Reyes said he’s prepared to cross that sensitive bridge when he comes to it. But even without a new convention center, he says he made the right to decision to relocate to Jacksonville.

“I came here for four reasons,” he said. “Jacksonville has an incredible story to tell, it’s on the launching pad, this CVB has an excellent reputation and, in 10 years, I want to be able to look back and say that I was a part of the team that was able to accomplish a lot of good here.”

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Viper    0

Sounds like he'll do well on the job. Optimism for your community can go a long way and after helping SD become what it is, I'm excited to have the guy at the beaches.

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bobliocatt    0

Well he's got a big job ahead of him, because the Mayor's office wants no part of a convention center. Its going to take his whole term to fix the courthouse fiasco. Currently we can't even get smaller projects like The Landing and Barnett off the ground, much less the issue of expanding or building a new convention center.

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Viper    0

I really figured Peyton with his business background with Gate would be a huge boost to the development of the city and to an extent it has but these issues that keep coming up are frustrating.

Does Weinstein plan to run next round?

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Peyton is completely incompetent, in my opinion. Everything he has touched has been ruined. He didnt foul up the Super Bowl, but then he wasnt in charge of that. It just seems that the city has been adrift without any direction since he was inaugurated. And, I am a Republican who voted for him.

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scongro    0

Unfortunately, I was not a resident at the last election (I am now). However, if I had a vote, it would have been for Weinstein. I felt like he was the best mix of Government and Business in the election.

I have posted many times my dislike of Peyton. I think his vision extends to his next dental appointment at best. Other than early literacy (which is something you really can't screw up), he has brought nothing to the city as Mayor. I know that sounds strong, but the truth hurts.

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JaxNole    0

Just to be fair, how likely would it be to accomplish something as ambitious as a $2.25 billion capital and infrastructure project that Delaney created? As it stands, Peyton is having to be fiscally conservative in not letting the courthouse costs spiral uncontrollably beyond $300 million.

As a businessman, he chose to invest the city's money in higher-risk, higher-yield investment vehicles which has increased the balance of the rainy day account. He's streamlined government to achieve greater efficiency and the muni bond ratings are still rated highly, despite a supposed warning that the city is overbuilding.

Peyton has had to deal with continuing racial tension, budget shortfalls from the Better Jacksonville Plan (e.g., increased costs for rights of way, building materials, short-sighted construction projections). In essence, he's been relegated to playing clean up.

We've been lucky to have Mayor Austin initiate stages of progress with his River City Renaissance. I think in five years, once the majority of the BJP has been completed (let's hope that includes the courthouse), then the next wave of improvements will occur. Perhaps an even higher rate of gentrification will occur in ZIP codes 3220X.

We all witness and marvel at the daily progress of Jacksonburgvilletown, though it's probably not completed as quickly as we'd like. Not too long ago, we had a dilapidated Coliseum, Wolfson Park practically held together by duct tape and failing thoroughfares rife with potholes that called for frequent alignments on my car.

Those are just my 2.14 cents (2 cents plus 7% sales tax).

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Viper    0

Don't get me wrong, I like many things he has done. I just feel there is more than can and should be happening.

When the courthouse hit just over $250 million, he should have taken it right then. The delays have been costly because nwo that same design, which could have been locked at a much lower price, is increasing exponentially.

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BosTech    0

Jacksonvile does need convention center as big as it can afford,that is what brings people and businesses to city to VISIT and potentially to move or create more work...Look at Morroco Shrine on SJBluff ,they are BUSY all the time with shows..Imagine place where people from other states are coming to visit,from meony they spend to oportunities they can bring to Jax.

(or we can rent out courthouse over weekend for conventions) :silly::D

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vicupstate    220

Well he's got a big job ahead of him, because the Mayor's office wants no part of a convention center.  Its going to take his whole term to fix the courthouse fiasco.  Currently we can't even get smaller projects like The Landing and Barnett off the ground, much less the issue of expanding or building a new convention center.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

My guess is Peyton is waiting until after the next election to support a convention center. He MAY not then, but he certainly isn't before then. I think the next 12 mos are critical for Peyton. If momentum is picking up (no reason it shouldn't), he will do well.

Hopefully the two projects revealed yesterday (Union Street Lofts & Rside office bldg) will get things going again. A critical rubber-meets-road test is ahead on whether city will provide incentives to the lofts project. If Peyton sticks to his guns, the incentives will be minimal. If the project proceeds anyway, he will be the hero, if it doesn't, he will be the goat, at least in some eyes.

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merlin    0

...

I have posted many times my dislike of Peyton.  I think his vision extends to his next dental appointment at best. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

even that is questionable because some dentists have you make appointments six months out.

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I am not saying Peyton is a bad guy - I dont know him. I am saying that he has dropped the ball on several things. I am a lawyer, and the current courthouse could not be more inadequate. He should have pulled the trigger (to mix metaphors) early on in the process (as stated above by someone) and gone ahead and built the CH (with dome) before the costs spiralled and the critics became more lively. To be honest, that is the principal mistake he has made, in my opinion, and it affects lawyers more than most. Of course, he did have a hard act to follow and had to look at costs. I think great leaders though should just say sometimes, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

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afh    0

Peyton's problem is the numerous delays. He came into office and wanted to look at the whole thing again. By that point all of the associated problems started to come to light. Jacksonville definitely needs a new convention, but with the courthouse having issues there is no way Peyton is going to propose in public the need for a new center. There have been hints that behind the scenes he is engaged about a new convention. The public just doesn't want to hear about the potential of spending more money on something that they feel isn't going to help them, especially when this courthouse issue has turned into a freakin' fiasco.

You know you need a new convention center when Knoxville, Nashville, Raleigh and Charlotte are pulling more conventioneers than a city that has the attributes that Jax has. Hell, I was reading a article in the Charlotte Business Journal about two years ago and a reporter spoke to a conventioneer about what she thought about Charlotte and it's convention center. The conventioneer promptly asked where the beach was and how to get there. If that doesn't tell you what these conventioneers are about I don't know what does. They want sun, fun, food and drink, a good, plush place to sleep and the ability to tan by a large body of water (like the beaches). Some of the men that come in town for conventions even want to be able to pick up on good looking females. I can tell that Jax has that covered in abundance.

You build a state of the art, 300,000 to 400,000 (meeting area) and you have a center that can take conventions away from the cities I listed above. There are plenty of conventions to go around and there is no reason why Jax shouldn't get in on this game. There is too much potential in Jax not to tap into it. Build the damn thing somewhere on the river and attach a large hotel to it. There are about two to three hotel chains that are not in downtown that would build downtown if there was a convention center. These are the same quality hotels rooms that the Superbowl looks for. A new convention center would do more good than it would bad. More tourists, more business travelers, more hotels around the center, more revenue into the city's coffers (and the city needs more revenue), the city's name would be distributed even more and more restaurants in the area around the new center.

But I suspect that you won't see this as a major issue until the next mayor is elected. Or the courthouse issue is cleared up and they actually start to build the courthouse.

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Viper    0

I cosign the above post. I've seen little bitty Wichita Fall in TX put up a convention center that rivals what we have now and that's simple sad that we are now competing with towns of under 150k in the whole metro area.

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The City clearly needs to expand the existing convention facility. This will save on cost, help preserve a fine building, and help to fill in a largely empty western half of downtown. There is plenty of room there to expand and for new hotel development. Also, you have the skyway which provides some transportation for conventioneers. It is ridiculous that we have such a small facility and this must be fixed.

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Viper    0

And extend the skyway to places that might actually get used.

Stadium, Arena, landing...then make neighorbood stations.

Riverside, Avondale, San Marco (further South).

Have a leg going from the Stadium aross the river with the new Matthews bridge going into Arlington and Regency. Perhaps all the way to the beach. Take one down Roosevelt to Jax NAS and cross to the OP mall.

Go North to the airport.

I swear we need this like a flower needs sun and rain.

Think of it this way. We build it now for a few hundred million and ridership is decent on some legs but lacking in others and it doesn't make any money for a decade or two. If we wait until it's overly needed, it will cost billions. Rights of way may not be available anymore and more.

Time to act now.

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vicupstate    220

I am not saying Peyton is a bad guy - I dont know him.  I am saying that he has dropped the ball on several things.  I am a lawyer, and the current courthouse could not be more inadequate.  He should have pulled the trigger (to mix metaphors) early on in the process (as stated above by someone) and gone ahead and built the CH (with dome) before the costs spiralled and the critics became more lively.  To be honest, that is the principal mistake he has made, in my opinion, and it affects lawyers more than most.  Of course, he did have a hard act to follow and had to look at costs.  I think great leaders though should just say sometimes, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The BJP should have set aside some money for Courthouse land acquisition, which it did not. Also, the skyrocketing cost of steel and concrete couldn't have been foreseen in 2000. The courthouse plug should have been pulled sooner, but I don't place the majority of the blame on Peyton. I think the design should shift to a high-rise, or at least taller mid-rise and conserve some of the land. That should lower costs and selling the land could re-coop some money already spent. That would also free up land for new development in the downtown core.

Maybe Peyton could do an Even Better Jacksonville Plan and use bonds/bed taxes to build the courthouse and expand the convention center all at once.  :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think (and hope) that if Peyton is re-elected he will proposed a BJP follow-up. The Even Better Jacksonville Plan is a great name for it too. It should include a new or expanded convention center. I think everyone here knows, I prefer the current courthouse site for the convention center as part of a mixed-use project. The EBJP should also include $50mm plus to take the huge park-land inventory and turn it into one of the country's greatest park systems. At least $10mm of that $50mm should go to renovate and expand (down to the Shipyards) Klutho/Confederate Park. Also, let's buy land in Brooklyn now, before it gets astronomical for future park space. Another Hemming Plaza-type park in the downtown core or LaVilla would be nice too.

By Bonding the bed-tax, approximately $100mm could be raised for a convention center. That would be at least 50% or more of what is needed, if an existing city-owed site is used.

As for the courthouse, I think they need to build it within the existing $268mm budget if at all possible.

What are some other items that would be appropriate for the Even Better Jacksonville Plan?

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Vic, I was originally in favor of a highrise courthouse near the current courthouse, but a few blocks north, but changed my mind in favor of the Cannon design. The reason I favored Cannon was I believe courthouses should be civic monuments which have a dignity to them and inspire all those who enter to appreciate the seriousness of their visit. I also like the idea of having a domed building in Jacksonville which could be seen from the highway. I thought it would harken back to an earlier time when the nicest building in town was the courthouse in the center of town in a town square. I think that is what the designers were going for. Anyway, that is apparently all gone now, but that is my two cents.

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As to our Even Better Jacksonville Plan, I think we are on to something. I believe what you outlined would be great: expanded convention center, new Hemming-Park-style park downtown (not some postage stamp, but a whole city block at least), improving the existing parks downtown (especially the Confederate Park area), and acquire Brooklyn for a master planned urbanist community. Every mayor recently has been known for a signature project. Delaney: Better Jax; Austin: River City Renaissance; Godbold: Landing and start of NFL; etc. Peyton really needs a bold initiative like this unless he wants to guarantee a mediocre place in history.

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JaxNole    0

You are definitely on point, especially in regard to the courthouse and the BJP. I like the name The Even Better Jacksonville Plan (EBJP) and I'd like to propose my version: BJP 2.0. I'm a computer science/business major, so excuse the geek factor. :)

If this is a wish list, I'd like to see more of a pedestrian bridge downtown. I don't think it would be feasible for any work on the Main Street bridge, nor would it be to simply create a 'Riverwalk Bridge', but I think it would be nice. I think right now a good percentage of people who would vote on another project would be hesitant to take on more capital projects when we have yet to resolve the issues with the courthouse. It might be nice that the proposed site has been cleared, but it's serving no purpose right now.

The BJP was narrowly passed (I voted for it) as voters echoed the sentiment Delaney was able to incorporate aspects most everyone could benefit from. How many people aren't grateful for paving of roads that haven't been paved in 15 years? Probably not too many.

Although I dislike cliches, Peyton has a full plate in front of him and it only keeps growing...much like the plates you receive at an all you can eat Chinese restaurant. I think it would be political suicide for Peyton to announce more spending for civic projects when his predecessor's success has been marred by inefficiencies, ineffective cost projections and seemingly slow progress.

I'm not downplaying the success of the overall BJP. We clearly have hundreds of millions spent and it is visible each day. Roads are or have been widened to accomodate traffic flow, new civic buildings have been completed (almost all as proposed under the BJP), an equestrian center and even sewer remediation have been accomplished. It's too bad the money set aside for interchange improvements has been inadequate. Certain interchanges, such as Baymeadows and Southside and improvements along the Blanding corridor have skyrocketed, as yet again land acquisition and materials costs only continue to increase. The rate at which they increased could not have reasonably been assessed.

With the vision of Bay Street becoming an entertainment district, I would love to see incentives provided to bar, club, sports-themed venues and restaurants to relocate to the Town Center. I was at Eclate last night and marveled at how metropolitan it was. Having lived in Boston, it felt like someone from up north decided Jacksonville needed something trendy, yet classy, and Eclate was born.

Unfortunately for Peyton, I feel his legacy will not be as great as Delaney's. I think he's more of a problem solver who's innovative in his ways for making up for the shortcomings of the great, but not thoroughly thought out BJP. It's all too easy to blame the Mayor who has to deal with the aftermath of a wonderful vision that may have been a bit myopic in terms of realized cost.

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