Jacksonville Unveils Plans For 'Lift Ev'ry Voice And Sing’ Park In LaVilla

Oct 1, 2020

The city of Jacksonville has released design plans for the Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing Park in the historic LaVilla neighborhood near Downtown.

The park will be located at 120 Lee St., where Jacksonville natives James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson were born. The Johnson brothers wrote and composed the song "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," frequently referred to as the Black or Negro National Anthem, at their LaVilla home at the turn of the 20th century.

"The legacy of the Johnson brothers and of 'Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing' is an important part of our city's history, and one that we are deeply committed to honoring," said Mayor Lenny Curry. "We are excited to move forward with design plans for Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing Park as the next step in bringing to life an inclusive community space and a more vibrant LaVilla for generations to come."

The park was designed by Walter Hood, a landscape architect and 2019 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant," with input from members of the community.

"We must celebrate difference by being different. The park exclaims itself on Lee Street that you are in a different precinct," Hood said.

Preliminary design and engineering plans for the park are expected to be finished by the summer of 2021, final design and contractor selection is scheduled for fall of 2021 and construction is expected to wrap up by fall of 2022.

Preliminary costs are estimated at $2-3 million, with funds coming from the city and private philanthropy.

The park is one component of a larger LaVilla Heritage Trail that was proposed as part of a 2019 Downtown Investment Authority and Jacksonville Transportation Authority study to redevelop the neighborhood.

"This park will serve as a reminder of how critical LaVilla was for the economic and cultural expansion of Jacksonville," said District 7 Councilman Reggie Gaffney, whose district includes the LaVilla neighborhood. "I am excited to see the momentum around Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing Park as we continue working to revitalize LaVilla. This project is possible because of the hard work and collaboration of many individuals and organizations who believe that to make Jacksonville better tomorrow, we must always remember what happened yesterday. By blending the past, present and future we celebrate our city’s unique African American heritage."

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund will be hosting a virtual community town hall on Tuesday, Oct. 13, to share details on the design plans for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park. To RSVP to this free event, which is open to the public, click here.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.