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City And Businesses Partner For Hemming Plaza Revitalization Effort

Downtown Vision, Inc.

A public-private partnership has been formed to to revitalize Hemming Plaza in downtown Jacksonville.Wednesday at the plaza, Mayor Alvin Brown announced that the first 18 months of the initiative will receive a budget of $1 million to revamp the park. A large focus will be placed on increasing public safety in the area and creating a place for larger public events to be held.

The Jacksonville Parks Department will contribute $200,000 to the fund while the Downtown Investment Authority will put in $800,000.

The coalition behind the project, Friends of Hemming Park, hopes to use the area as a landmark that will bring people and businesses downtown.

“This is the heart of our downtown. This is what our downtown can ultimately be as a consequence of redoing, redeveloping, reusing and reinventing Hemming Park,” City Council President Bill Gulliford said.

By focusing attention on Hemming Plaza, the group hopes to take on the larger issue of the downtown area’s dwindling businesses and development.

Oliver Barakat, chairman of the DIA, says that the revitalization of Hemming Plaza to stimulate the economic and developmental growth of the downtown area, particularly the abandoned buildings which could hold prosperous businesses.

“It is my hope, a year from now that owners and agents try to fill up those buildings, they look to Hemming Plaza as a landmark and an asset and brag about Hemming Plaza being close to their properties, because that’s not what’s happening today and what’s being articulated in the real-estate community,” Barakat said.

While public officials and private investors behind the project seem hopeful for the upcoming year, Friends of Hemming Park estimates that the project to revitalize Hemming Plaza will take five years to complete.

You can follow Carter Roush on Twitter @carterroush.