JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — The Seawalk Pavillion and Latham Plaza have some big plans in the works for development, but event organizers are concerned the changes could hurt the festivals Jacksonville Beach is known for.
The area hosts festivals like Springing the Blues, Seawalk Music Festival, and Deck the Chairs.
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“For larger festivals, you need open space — that’s the only way they can exist. They need a place for the Ferris wheel. They need a place for food trucks. They need space for the vendors,” Jon McGowan, a local attorney and organizer behind the Arts Market, said.
McGowan reviewed some of the proposals and fears they aren’t conducive to festivals.
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The Latham Plaza parking lot has plans to be developed into retail and restaurant space and a parking garage that are already approved. The city plans put out a request for proposals in May.
Right next door, proposals for Latham Plaza would add a water fountain, entertainment spot, and area for kids to play.
One proposal for the pavilion would add tiers, or levels, for people to sit on, similar to an amphitheater. Those plans are still in the early stages and need council approval.
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“We’re going to suddenly see that your major festivals are not going to be able to operate the way they did,” McGowan said.
Action News Jax spoke with Mayor Chris Hoffman, who said the idea is not to force festivals out.
“It’s not intended to take away any big festivals. Springing the Blues is synonymous with Jax Beach — we have some great new ones on the scene,” she said. “It’s to encourage some different types of events and creative uses.”
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Hoffman added that she would like to see better use of the parks while events and festivals are not taking place as well.
“It’s going to engage and activate it all the days; the weeks that we don’t have special events of big festivals,” she said. “I mean it’s a beautiful park already — but to see that better utilized year-round when we don’t have festivals.”
The next city council meeting is April 3 and some event organizers plan on speaking during public comment about the concerns.
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