DIA working to attract more restaurants to Downtown Jax to encourage growth

Shaping the future of Downtown

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — “Vibrant.” “Urban.” “Fun.”

Those are the words the City of Jacksonville wants you to be able to use to describe Downtown Jacksonville... in the near future.

Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole spoke to Lori Boyer, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, about its plans to focus on attracting more restaurants.

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Boyer told Cole the idea is to build up a restaurant scene, which would then encourage more people to not only want to visit — but stay.

"Jacksonville is still quaint,” Renee said.

But city leaders are ready for a change.

They want the downtown area to be booming!

But for that to happen, Renee told Cole that downtown needs to build more apartments. “Affordable housing perhaps… not like low-income, but affordable housing."

Ana Kamiar told Cole she’d like to see more green spaces…

“For people to just kind of hang out and be outside without feeling that they're on other people's property. Feeling like Downtown is actually theirs.”

…maybe even a skate park.

“One of the considerations I heard from a friend is to try to create a skate park so that the community — including the kids that live all around — will have this beautiful area to take their wheels and kind of create that kind of community, full of life in that area,” Kamiar said.

"There could definitely be more food spaces."

That's exactly how the Downtown Investment Authority wants to attract more people...through their taste buds.

"This is a very targeted food and beverage initiative and it is in targeted geographic areas,” Boyer told Cole.

Boyer says they’re planning to give restaurants incentives to set-up-shop... in the central core of downtown.

“The idea is focusing on the central core of Downtown. Not Brooklyn and Southbank and sports and entertainment — but what many of us think of as the core of Downtown,” Boyer told Action News Jax.

They're looking to potentially pay up to half of the costs of tenant improvements in vacant storefronts.

"The money is coming from tax revenue that is generated in the Downtown area — by increases in value. So when the value increases, and it generates more tax revenue, we get to plow that tax revenue back in to make it grow more,” Boyer said.

The CEO says the goal is to make Downtown safe and walkable, with a lot of activity.

Ideally, the DIA would like to open new businesses around the same time.

We can kind of time this with the Friendship Fountain completion, and the completion of the projection on CSX building behind the performance arts center, and the Fuller Warren multi-use path and the first phase of the Emerald Trail,” Boyer said.

Boyer told Cole she would also like to improve public infrastructure Downtown.

“We're making some roadway improvements, we're planting trees, we're trying to place public art in these specific areas. We're looking at it as a more comprehensive way to create some really vibrant zones.”

So when will this plan go into play?

Boyer said it will take about would two months before the DIA board works through what they would offer and how many businesses are interested.

Then, there’d be about a 12-month period for build-up.