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Rebranding Jacksonville As A Hub For 'Cultural Creatives'

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What is Jacksonville’s brand? Some say we may be getting closer to an answer.The city's business leaders say the lack of  a strong brand is holding the city back from attracting young, educated and talented people to build careers here.

As Jacksonville’s second annual One Spark festival prepares to take off this week, key players in the local business, civic and cultural spheres are coming together once again on the branding question. This time they think momentum is finally going in the right direction.

Jacksonville developer Alex Coley, principal at Hallmark Partners and Ashley Kritzer, reporter with the Jacksonville Business Journal, joined Melissa Ross to discuss the latest efforts to re-brand Jacksonville.

Coley is one of the minds behind 220 Riverside and Unity Plaza, a new development in Jacksonville's Brooklyn neighborhood that will feature a 2.5 acre park, 249 apartments, 18,000 square-feet or retail space and a 2,000 seat amphitheater.

He described a conversation with a friend from Austin, Texas, who said that Jacksonville has all the same venues and amenities that Austin has, but they are scattered throughout the city.

"We believe that bringing this group together in one location provides an opportunity to express ourselves in a way we haven't before, " he said, referring to "Cultural Creatives" — a term coined by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson to describe people who are interested in creative endeavors, like the arts, who also have a strong sense of social activism.

"We think One Spark defiantly does that, coalesces the group for one festival a year," he said. "We'll be there 365 days a year fostering that at Unity Plaza."

From a business standpoint, Ashley Kritzer said that economic development has become a "war for talent" among cities.

"You're not just chasing companies with tax breaks and incentives, you're really trying to build a place that young talent wants to live," she said.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.