Clay County launches ‘Gateway to Clay’ initiative

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — First impressions are everything and the new “Gateway to Clay” initiative has big plans for the future of Clay County.

Clay County officials say they’re going to be working with the public, local businesses and first responders to improve Wells Road.

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“I think a fresh touch wouldn’t be too bad,” neighbor Sheldon Potter said.

Clay County Commissioner Jim Renninger said the area is deteriorating and he wants it to be inviting — the first step is to look at what needs work.

“I’d say in 12 months we ought to have a plan and we have a vibrant grant department they’re going to be looking how we can fit block grants into this mix and have legislators in Tallahassee willing to support us,” he said.

Sheriff Michelle Cook said crime is down and they want to keep it that way, while Commissioner Renninger said he has seen the area both improve and decline, and now is the time to take action.

“We’re going to look for help from our federal government, state government and our local government,” Renninger said. “For money purposes and expertise, we got TPO that should be helping us, we have First Coast Manufacturers to help us and things like that.”

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Officials also hope a change in scenery helps surrounding businesses like Laugh World children’s boutique, which is inside the Orange Park Mall.

“As you open up a business you hear a lot of things about crime in the area and Wells Road being kind of a bad area,” owner Curtis Brown said. “I’ve seen businesses come and go but I decided to take a chance on myself and the Orange Park Mall, I’ve seen the growth and development on what’s going on and it’s going to be really great for the future.”

Some would also say Wells Road is congested, Commissioner Renninger said. FDOT has plans for modifications, and they will review them along with public input.