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What's your opinion of Jacksonville, FL?

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I just got back from visiting the city and I was wondering what was everyone's opinions of the "New Bold City of the South"?

Here's a couple of shots of the CBD.

looking north at the skyline
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Masonic Temple Building (one of my favorite looking buildings in town)
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Hemming Plaza with new County Courthouse in the Background
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Florida Theater
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Jacksonville Skyway transit system
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Old and New Skyscrapers (the older buildings are planned to be converted into lofts)
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looking East along Adams Street
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Historic Architectural Detailing
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Humana Building
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Here are some images of various urban neighborhoods

Historic Springfield (still the ghetto but this is the place to invest right now)
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Abandoned industrial buildings in Springfield
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San Marco District just south of downtown
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waterfront homes in San Marco
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Riverside District
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New housing in the Five Points District
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Urban Publix store in Five Points
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H

Cyburbian
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2,850
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How that old Eagles song go…

“aint ever been there, folks tell me its nice…”


Seriously, I have heard only good things, but that is mostly from Gators who only go once a year to the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. Been meaning to go forever, think I will actually try and do it this fall.

Ps. Nice photos.
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
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Huston said:

Seriously, I have heard only good things, but that is mostly from Gators who only go once a year to the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. Been meaning to go forever, think I will actually try and do it this fall.

Ps. Nice photos.
Ditto. I have not been to Jax in a few years, but they were doing well with their riverfront, and some of the older neighborhoods are great.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
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10,080
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Photos are not much to go on, really, but they are all I have to tell me about the city. I would have to say that the older neighborhoods are nice, but I was disappointed by what you showed of the downtown. It appeared to be empty (no people on the sidewalks) and had that typical cold, lifeless feeling of most newer cities. Maybe it is the uninteresting glass boxes or the lack of urban grittiness, but it does not move me, despite some nice buildings.
 

pete-rock

Cyburbian
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1,550
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24
Never been there, it looks OK...

But the pictures kinda confirm what I'd already suspected about Jax -- it's the Southern version of Indianapolis.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
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2,549
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I was in Jacksonville Dec/Jan of 1999 an I thought it sucked. The Jacksonville landing was ok. The beach sucked, the bars were lame. I was not impressed at all. It seems like it has a lot of potential, but it doesn't seem to have much of an identity. My dad was stationed there in the Navy many years ago and he said it sucked then too.
 

ecofem

Cyburbian
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206
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I am a recent transplant from Central Florida (Orlando) to Jacksonville. When I informed folks in O-town where I was moving to, they recoiled in horror. All I can say is... Jacksonville is not that bad.

My only prior experience with Jax was driving from Orlando to the Five Points area about 12 years ago (unique shopping area). At that time, the City wasn't all that exciting and was slightly scary.

Now, however, several initiatives have been going on which, in my opinion, are making the City a better place to live... maybe. Among these "things" are....the restoration of older neighborhoods (Springfield, Riverside, San Marco and my neighborhood - Avondale), the mayor's park initiative - the Preservation Project , new residential development in the downtown, and general "spruce up for the Super Bowl" efforts.

However, Jax does have negatives - generally non-creative planning, sprawl-land reaching out to the beaches and surrounding counties and conservative leanings - which affect planning in the metro area. Not to mention, the people mover (a photo of which was posted)... nobody rides it., because it goes nowhere. These negatives are obviously not isolated to the City of Jacksonville.

That's a summary of what I've observed in Jax over the past year. Perhaps somebody who has lived here longer would have more of an informed opinion.
 

plannerkat

Cyburbian
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204
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9
ecofem, it appears that you, lowlyplanner and I are neighbors. Welcome to the 'hood! I'm a Jax native who moved away for 7 years and returned, because as Dorothy said, there's no place like home. Here's my 2 cents...

We're working on more creative planning approaches, though we are definitely constrained by conservativism on many fronts, most notably, the behemoth church downtown with the lighthouse/parking garage. Sprawl is a huge issue that we are slowly addressing for fear of becoming Atlanta, but we may be too far gone already. On the plus side, the creative community is becoming more visible, and we have a pretty young leadership in town that seems to be more forward thinking than we've had in years past. Our older neighborhoods are a definite asset and we are working on some fairly innovative revitalization initiatives. And as much as the Super Bowl annoys me, it is forcing us to clean up before the party.

Things that would vastly improve the city: better transit, paying more than lip service to historic preservation, lessening the political clout of the baptists (did I mention that the behemoth church is next door to City Hall?), and increased support of the arts community.
 
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94
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I believe JAX is an underrated city. Unlike most of Florida's larger cities, its greatest assets are its distinct urban historic neighborhoods and its downtown. Although downtown is not really vibrant, the street level building mass and potential is there. It is very dense and pedestrian friendly compared to the CBDs in Tampa and Orlando. I feel in love with the Springfield neighborhood. Its very similar to some of Savannah's inner city neighborhoods and its still affordable to the average working resident. It also looks like that foul smelling paper mill has shut down. Now people can't refer to it as the armpit of Florida anymore. BTW, does anyone know if the skyway system will be extended into neighborhoods like San Marco, Five Points, or Avondale?
 

masafer

Cyburbian
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32
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2
Jax native here, and I agree that the city often gets a bum rap. It's a very southern city, and not generally what people think of when they imagine Florida. It's a better place to live than it is to visit. There's not a lot of touristy things to do, but it does have some great ameninties, and some wonderful natural locations. The beaches aren't the typical Florida tourist beaches, and if you go there expecting huge parties, you'll probably be disappointed. They're still working communities, and the beaches are nice, but without a whole lot of night life (except maybe around the seawalk in Jax Beach).

It is a very sprawling city though, and I think a lot of that is due to the fact that the city limits are simply huge. It's the largest city in the continental US (880 sq. mi. I think?), and there are still huge tracts of undeveloped land within the city limits. In the past, this has led to the city not particularly caring if downtown uses move out, since they'll still get the property taxes from what in other areas would be different municipalities. They are trying to revitalize downtown now, and I think are doing a pretty good job. New housing, some shopping opportunities, and an effort to bring in museums and restaurants to change it from the 9-5 downtown it currently is.

The skyway, though cool, has been a bit of a disaster. Waaaay too expensive, and the parking pressure simply doesn't exist downtown to encourage people to use it. Some of the older neighborhoods have great housing stock left. Springfield is in the very beginning stages of revitalization, but is stil VERY affordable. Riverside never fell as far, but is definately coming back. I probably won't be back any time soon, but I always tell people that I eventually see myself moving home.
 

green lizard

Member
Messages
133
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6
Being one of the Florida crowd I have to post....

One interesting fact is that Jacksonville (I
am told) has one of the most ambitious public
works programs in the country.

They have really been busy redoing infrastructure.
 

H

Cyburbian
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2,850
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24
Is Jax still considered the largest (square mile) city in the US?
 

plannerkat

Cyburbian
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204
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9
Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental 48. The Better Jacksonville Plan is the ambitious public works project green lizard is referring to. A few years back, voters approved a 1/2 cent sales tax increase that will ultimately provide $2.2 Billion for projects such as new public facilities (arena, library, ballpark, courthouse), intersection improvements, and the resurfacing of all roads in the city that have not been resurfaced in the past 15 years. There are other projects as well, but those are the biggies. Though not without its controversies, including the razing of several historic buildings to make way for the library and courthouse (a big mistake IMO), the project has been a success overall. And of course, we're in clean-up for the Super Bowl mode as well, though I've always felt that we should undertake projects for our own good, not just because guests are coming.
 

ecofem

Cyburbian
Messages
206
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9
plannerkat said:
... And of course, we're in clean-up for the Super Bowl mode as well, though I've always felt that we should undertake projects for our own good, not just because guests are coming.
I agree, but if some of the Jax folks need the Super Bowl as a kick in the pants to get something done, then I say go with it. Hopefully, the momentum will not be lost once the Super Bowl is over.
 
Messages
94
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4
originally posted by plannerkat
There are other projects as well, but those are the biggies. Though not without its controversies, including the razing of several historic buildings to make way for the library and courthouse (a big mistake IMO), the project has been a success overall.
How did the city come to the decision to raze buildings in that area, since there are nothing but surface parking lots between downtown and I-95 to the west. To me it seems like the courthouse, library, and maybe an urban park would have been great infill projects for an area that really needs them.
 

New2daGame

Member
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18
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1
I'm a native of St. Petersburg, and I've visited Jacksonville often over the past five years, mostly for football games.

I haven't read much about planning and development in that city, but I can speak as an average visitor. Of all the "big" cities and metro areas of Florida (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale/Palm Beaches, Tampa/St.Pete/Clearwater and Orlando), Jacksonville feels the least like a city to me. It is very different from the rest of Florida. It's almost like it's in a world by itself. It's the least attractive or inviting of all the large metro areas of the state, IMO. It looks like improvements are being made, though, and I read an article about how the waterfront and dowtown are being enhanced for the Super Bowl. Maybe whatever feedback from the Super Bowl, positive and negative, will inspire some more substantial improvements.
 

Fladedah

Member
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2
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0
Let's Get Drunk and Build

Jacksonville suffers from
1) lack of an urban center
2) too much commitment to sports and not enough to culture
3) no real identity, so no real draw for toursists
4) delusion that we're not already in serious sprawl
5) not enough greenspace; no noteworthy public gardens for education
6) architectural blandness
7) budgetary silliness (aka boondoggles). Resuscitating the Landing is a fine example (see # 3)
8) wrongheadedness about growth and roads. grids work; eight-lane throughfares do not.
9) dominance of developers (see # 4, 5, 6 & 7)
10) dominance of Baptist Church (don't get me started)

Jacksonville can boast
1) beautiful coastal areas
2) lots of places to get drunk
3) interesting molds and mildrews
 

Fladedah

Member
Messages
2
Points
0
Not to mention, the people mover (a photo of which was posted)... nobody rides it., because it goes nowhere. These negatives are obviously not isolated to the City of Jacksonville.

That's a summary of what I've observed in Jax over the past year. Perhaps somebody who has lived here longer would have more of an informed opinion.
Even if it did go somewhere and even if it were free, Jacksonvillians don't use public transit. There's some sort of southern aversion to sitting in a seat that's been occupied by a stranger ... or something very close to that.

Ask a city planner - I'm just a resident with opinions.
 

Trail Nazi

Cyburbian
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2,779
Points
24
It is my home town. It is better than it used to be, if that counts for an opinion. Actually, I grew up in a town right outside of J-ville. The public school system there still stinks. But it is does have some cool neighborhoods.
 

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
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25,769
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61
Never been there,
has not been high on my list of places to visit.
 

ablarc

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
713
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20
Fladedah said:
Jacksonville suffers from
1) lack of an urban center
2) too much commitment to sports and not enough to culture
3) no real identity, so no real draw for toursists
4) delusion that we're not already in serious sprawl
5) not enough greenspace; no noteworthy public gardens for education
6) architectural blandness
7) budgetary silliness (aka boondoggles). Resuscitating the Landing is a fine example (see # 3)
8) wrongheadedness about growth and roads. grids work; eight-lane throughfares do not.
9) dominance of developers (see # 4, 5, 6 & 7)
10) dominance of Baptist Church

Sounds like just about every Southern city
 

oulevin

Cyburbian
Messages
178
Points
7
I was about to say, sounds like Oklahoma City; Bible Belt, poor public transit, sprawling, not enough greenspace. I think its program of public improvements was probably modeled after OKC's groundbreaking MAPS program. Still, I think OKC has some character, tourist spots, and interesting architecture. The description of Jax as Southern rings familiar to the impression I have of Tallahassee. To answer the question, I didn't know much about Jacksonville besides the Jaguars and Ericsson Stadium. What's the economy like (health and sectors)?
 
Messages
94
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4
Well since I orginally made this thread, I've relocated to Jacksonville because of a good job opportunity. After staying here 4 months, I will say this place is greatly underrated. Compared to the rest of Florida, it seems to have denser older hoods with several architectural styles. The key is, you have to get off the interstates to explore its hidden urban secrets. Here's a couple of pics of Jax, that I've taken since I've been here.

























 

Trail Nazi

Cyburbian
Messages
2,779
Points
24
Congrats on your new job. I hope you will like it there. Jax isn't that bad despite what some people have posted in this thread. Personally, I would be happy to live there again, but then I may run into all the people I wanted to avoid. However, you may hear that you are not part of Florida, but rather Lower Georgia. Jax has some great neighborhoods such as San Marco, Riverside, and Springfield. Although, they are known to give demolition permits at 4:30 on Fridays for historic buildings. They have been doing some exciting things there. But their biggest flaw is that they are putting too much development on already constrained roadways.
 
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^Thanks, so far I like it here, although I know I will eventually move on somewhere else, in the future, when the time is right. To me the city doesn't look or feel, like the rest of Florida, south of it. It kind of has the feel and environment of an older Midwestern manufacturing town. But the rapid growth in its suburbs definately remind you that you're in a sunbelt city.

Anyway this seems to be a pretty good time to be living in the city. Its very exciting seeing several new urban developments, restaurants & nightlife venues race to finish in preparation for next year's Super Bowl. Downtown will look a lot different by this time next year. I'm so sold on the potential of inner city Jax, that I'm even considering building a small town home project with about 3 or 4 units, instead of buying a house. The plan would be for me to live in one, construct just the floors and load bearing walls in the others and selling them as live/work spaces.
 
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