Mayor Alvin Brown’s announcement this week to invest up to $9 million into downtown Jacksonville through the new Downtown Investment Authority finally puts money where mere talk has been.
Its’ surprising that in a town that continues to vote “fiscal conservatives” into office, that this kind of government before business approach continues to hold sway. On every public survey taken, including the most recent Jax2025 gathering, downtown development ranks in the top 5 items favored among both business leaders and the public at large. The continuing problem is that business leadership has been unable to convince their counterparts outside of Jacksonville that downtown Jacksonville is the place to place their bets.
Instead investors such as those of the St. Johns Town Center and the River City Market Place give the public, many of them supporters of downtown development, few reasons for coming downtown after 5 p.m. or on weekends. The exception to this rule continues to be government sponsored events such as the Jazz Festival or the annual Florida – Georgia game take over at the Jacksonville Landing.
Exactly what this new government investment into revitalizing downtown will do is another “to be determined” narrative. But lets pose a couple of things that must be done in order to revitalize downtown: First, a total relaxation of zoning restrictions must take place. Second, a “power, realtor-broker” needs to be put in place with the ability to talk to and make deals that will bring entertainment attractions and Shopping Center competitive stores to downtown Jacksonville.
Enough government dollars have been spent. Enough hand wringing has taken place. If fiscal conservatives truly believe in the marketplace as the engine that drives the economy, then lets see them step up to the plate and prove it.
As for Mayor Brown, he can at least check this off on his list of campaign promises fulfilled. He tried. The success of downtown development rests with the relaxation of regulations and the gambling prowess of investors.