JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s a new plan to clean up Hemming Plaza and draw more people to the public park.
Downtown business owner Ida Metzger says one source of stress for local store owners is Hemming Plaza. Suitcases are a common sight and downtown workers pass by dozens of transients during lunch time. It's gained the reputation as a homeless hangout over the years and Metzger says a change is long overdue. “It needs to be taken care of and somebody needs to take hold of it."
The Downtown Investment Authority is considering putting a nonprofit in charge of the park. Some board members are concerned about too many new regulations coming to the park. But others, like City Council president Bill Bishop, feel differently.
“The model that they're talking about has proven to be successful in a number of cities around the country."
Bishop told Action News only the city can create new rules but says a private group would put a higher priority on enforcement.
“Private entities have more of a motivation to enforce the rules, where as in the case of the city we tend to not enforce the rules as much,” said Bishop.
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Denise Lee asked the DIA to support the creation of a nonprofit foundation to operate and plan events for Hemming Plaza.
Lee told the group that a company interested in relocating to downtown backed away from the move because of safety concerns surrounding Hemming Plaza.
If a private group were to take over the park, Bishop says it wouldn’t save any taxpayer money because the city of Jacksonville would still be responsible for maintenance.
The organization could also be in charge of issuing permits for events at the park.
DIA leaders say more research needs to be done before putting the idea into action.