JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — There are big plans to redesign the Latham Plaza and Seawalk Pavillion, but some neighbors in Jax Beach are showing their disapproval. During tonight’s city council meeting, a handful of residents expressed their concerns over redevelopment proposals.
There is a petition opposing the redevelopment. And the petition organizer along with a few others sounded off at tonight’s city council meeting.
“I’m fearful that this new proposed design will not only hurt our local small businesses, [but] it will [also] severely affect the quality of life of our Jacksonville Beach community,” petition organizer Mark Braddock said.
Braddock is the event organizer of the 904 Pop-Up event that happens almost every month at the Latham Plaza. He started an online petition titled “Stop Changes to Latham Plaza & Seawalk Pavilion.” Right now, it has more than 1100 signatures. Braddock says this puts Jax Beach in danger of losing its green space.
“If those changes are implemented, it will result in a 50% reduction in the 904 Pop-Up footprint,” Braddock said.
His pop-up event has more than 200 vendors using the space.
“It would be different and it’s not going to be quite the same as driving vehicles out onto the plaza,” City of Jax Beach Mayor Chris Hoffman said.
Mayor Hoffman says her goal is to enhance the space, and to use it for more than just special events.
“What else can we do to make it a great place for events, but also a great amenity for the surrounding businesses for the workplaces around there and for residents and visitors?” Mayor Hoffman asked.
The Latham Plaza redesign plans include a water fountain, an entertainment spot, and an area for kids to play. The amenities proposed include public Wi-Fi, better drainage and a sound system throughout the park.
At tonight’s city council meeting, several Jax Beach residents complained their voices aren’t being heard. One neighbor said that while redevelopment needs to happen, there should be a compromise with event organizers.
“It should not happen at the expense of community events and activities,” the public comment said. “There needs to be an integration of that into the design.”
Another commenter says council members need to listen to what the community wants.
“Do you not hear the community telling you we are not happy with the proposed changes?” asked another resident during public comment. “Do you not hear my children are not safe?”
The City of Jax Beach has called two workshops on the Latham Plaza – one on June 15th at 5:30 p.m., and another on June 27th at 5:30 p.m.
“We are all very open to thinking outside of the box,” Hoffman said.
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A date and timeline for construction is up in the air – this project is still in the preliminary phases of development.