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Hemming Plaza Gets Fresh Look In Advance Of One Spark Festival

Emily Long

Several Jacksonville organizations are collaborating to clean and beautify the city's downtown in preparation of the One Spark festival, including Hemming Plaza.

Wells Fargo gave Downtown Vision, Inc. a $35,000 grant through their NeighborhoodLIFT program, which aims to support the foundation of sustainable homeownership and neighborhood stability, to revitalize Hemming Plaza. The plaza will a central location for One Spark.

“We knew we needed to do something for the short-term,” said Valerie Feinberg, director of strategic partnerships at DVI.

“We really felt it important as a community to have the plaza look as nice as it can, especially if we’re going to have some national coverage.”

DVI was able to leverage an additional $60,000 and recruit more than 100 volunteers.

“It really boosts the economic viability of a downtown and there’s a strong correlation between the way places look and feel, and the health and safety of a place and its economical impact,” Feinberg said.

Volunteers dug up preexisting plants and soil, and re-irrigated the beds where necessary, plazing than 5,000 new plants and 800 bags of crisp mulch and fresh soil.

Credit Emily Long / WJCT
Flower beds in Hemming Plaza have undergone renovations in advance of the 2014 One Spark festival.

Planning and construction for the plaza took eight months. DVI teamed with other organizations and companies who helped with the physical renewal, including Greenscape of Jacksonville, the Late Bloomers Garden Club, the Paul Bryan Group, Interline Brands and the city itself.

“It was a great example of community partnership and collaboration,” Feinberg said. “Without their help it would not have been possible. Even the mayor was cheering us on.”

The collaborators are also thinking about the future. After the next five years they are planning to revamp and redesign the plaza for the long-term. Possible plans include building a stage in place of one of the flower beds that could be used for events such as Art Walk and One Spark.

Feinberg said that effort would be another large collaboration with several community partners and is at this point still a planning phase.

You can follow Emily Long on Twitter @EMchanted_.

WJCT News Intern Emily Long is a Communications Major, Marketing Minor at Jacksonville University. She is also News Editor of Jacksonville University's campus newspaper, The Navigator.