When city planners talk about “place making,” they mean transforming a space to promote public health, happiness and well-being.
Modern Cities co-founder Ennis Davis said three place making projects in Mayor Curry’s proposed budget have the potential to drastically transform three of the city’s neighborhoods.
This $6 million project would put busy Soutel Drive in Northwest Jacksonville on a “road diet,” shrinking its four high-speed lanes down to two and adding bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly features between New Kings Road and Lem Turner Road.
“So what happens is instead of that roadway being a danger spot, it becomes more of a connection within the neighborhood that makes it easier for residents to actually cross the street and to access businesses along that corridor,” Davis said.
This project would drastically transform a space along McCoy Creek, flowing westward from the St. Johns Riverfront near downtown through neighborhoods including Brooklyn and Mixon Town. Curry’s calling for $1.35 million this year, with an additional $3.4 million invested by 2021, to create a greenway along the creek.
“The concept here is to dust off what was developed in 1930, which is a greenway from the downtown waterfront… into this linear public space to where you can kayak within the creek or you can jog or ride a bike adjacent to the creek,” Davis said.
Original tunnels from the project still exist under the Times-Union building, Davis said, and expected redevelopment of that property following the recent sale of the newspaper could help pave the way for the greenway.
Mayport Shrimp Docks
Davis’ favorite place making project in the budget is spending $900,000 on city-owned commercial shrimp docks in Mayport.
“Think about the history of Mayport. It’s a shrimping village home to fisheries, restaurants—a working-class waterfront that over time has declined as facilities have been abandoned, decayed and demolished,” he said.
He said trouble for the area can be traced to about a decade ago, when waterfront property was snatched up and leveled in anticipation of a new cruise ship terminal that never materialized.
With new shrimp docks, he said, “You could create a cluster of activity that could reinvigorate what was once a working waterfront,” leading to additional seafood restaurants, markets and recreational activities along the water.
Davis said he thinks all three projects have a good shot at making it through the budget process for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
“These are projects that don’t cost a lot of money, but they do provide a lot of economic…value for the neighborhoods and communities that surround them,” he said.
Ennis Davis is co-founder of Modern Cities.