Beautify Jax: City plans to clean up downtown, funnel homeless to shelters with fencing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A recent report showed more than 26% of office space in Downtown Jacksonville is vacant and with that comes eye sores.


Properties often transform into trash lots and hangouts, but as Action News Jax’s Dawn Lopez discovered, the city is working to clean up the problem, starting with keeping vandals out.

Jacksonville is known for a few of its beautiful natural attractions. The city’s sprawling beaches, the serene river and lush green state parks are just a few of the natural wonders, but there is a not-so-sunny side to the River City.

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Former Councilman Al Ferraro is now the city manager of blight initiatives. He took Action News Jax for a ride-along to see firsthand what’s being done to help clean up downtown.

What was once a busy Burger King on downtown East Street has become a camp for both the homeless and a harbor for vandals alike. It’s not a fancy castle, but when you have nowhere to go, it’s a fortress of sorts.

The building has sat empty for nearly 2 years. The building’s owner lives in Miami and the management is in Canada, but this is Jacksonville’s eyesore.

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In addition, the historic armory building on North Market Street is in disarray. Historians say First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once spoke there, and Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and the Allman Brothers all performed there.

However, while it has been waiting for city renovations, it has acquired broken windows, signs of little fires and makeshift shelters.

“All the stuff we’re picking up is homeless stuff. It’s all homeless trash,” Ferraro explained to Lopez. “You see [the homeless] laying down all over.”

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As a solution, Ferraro pointed something out to Lopez that you could miss driving by if you’re not paying attention: fencing and lots of it that’s going up around buildings downtown.

“We’re trying to funnel people into services,” Ferraro explained.

Leaders are hoping that by keeping loitering down, it will cut down on trash, mischief and graffiti.

“No one is fighting me on this stuff. They’re working with me with the understanding of making our city safer, better and cleaner,” Ferraro said.

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