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Jacksonville, Florida: Leveraging Transit for Economic Development



ULI Advisory Service panel was asked to provide strategic advice and recommendations for the City of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) on the following four key objectives and goals: economic development opportunities, regulatory goals and policy, land use and market-based development, and implementation. These objectives and goals are intended to help envision the revitalization of downtown Jacksonville and the surrounding neighborhoods with the U2C at the center of development, and then to translate these recommendations into public sector investments and identify tools and next steps for their implementation. These were developed after interviews with stakeholders, a site tour, and a briefing by JTA.
June 17–22, 2018
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
Leveraging Transit for Economic Development
June 17–22, 2018
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
About the Urban Land Institute
THE URBAN LAND INSTITUTE is a global, member-
driven organization comprising more than 42,000 real
estate and urban development professionals dedicated to
advancing the Institute’s mission of providing leadership in
the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining
thriving communities worldwide.
ULI’s interdisciplinary membership represents all aspects
of the industry, including developers, property owners,
investors, architects, urban planners, public officials, real
estate brokers, appraisers, attorneys, engineers, finan-
ciers, and academics. Established in 1936, the Institute
has a presence in the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific
regions, with members in 80 countries.
ULI’s extraordinary impact on land use decision making is
based on its members’ sharing expertise on a variety of
factors affecting the built environment, including urbaniza-
tion, demographic and population changes, new economic
drivers, technology advancements, and environmental
Peer-to-peer learning is achieved through the knowledge
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land use and real estate. In 2017 alone, more than 1,900
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Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
About ULI Advisory Services
bring the finest expertise in the real estate field to bear
on complex land use planning and development projects,
programs, and policies.
Since 1947, this program has assembled well over 700
ULI-member teams to help sponsors find creative, practical
solutions for issues such as downtown redevelopment, land
management strategies, evaluation of development potential,
growth management, community revitalization, brownfield
redevelopment, military base reuse, provision of low-cost
and affordable housing, and asset management strategies,
among other matters. A wide variety of public, private,
and nonprofit organizations have contracted for ULI’s
advisory services.
Each panel team is composed of highly qualified profession-
als who volunteer their time to ULI. They are chosen for their
knowledge of the panel topic and are screened to ensure
their objectivity. ULI’s interdisciplinary panel teams provide a
holistic look at development problems. A respected ULI mem-
ber who has previous panel experience chairs each panel.
The agenda for a five-day panel assignment is intensive. It
includes an in-depth briefing day composed of a tour of the
site and meetings with sponsor representatives, a day of
hour-long interviews of typically 50 to 100 key community
representatives, and two days of formulating recommenda-
tions. Long nights of discussion precede the panel’s conclu-
sions. On the final day on site, the panel makes an oral
presentation of its findings and conclusions to the sponsor.
A written report is prepared and published.
Because the sponsoring entities are responsible for signifi-
cant preparation before the panel’s visit, including sending
extensive briefing materials to each member and arranging
for the panel to meet with key local community members
and stakeholders in the project under consideration, partici-
pants in ULI’s five-day panel assignments are able to make
accurate assessments of a sponsor’s issues and to provide
recommendations in a compressed amount of time.
A major strength of the program is ULI’s unique ability
to draw on the knowledge and expertise of its members,
including land developers and owners, public officials,
academics, representatives of financial institutions, and oth-
ers. In fulfillment of the mission of the Urban Land Institute,
this Advisory Services panel report is intended to provide
objective advice that will promote the responsible use of land
to enhance the environment.
ULI Program Staff
Paul Bernard
Executive Vice President, Advisory Services
Thomas W. Eitler
Senior Vice President, Advisory Services
Beth Silverman
Vice President, Advisory Services
Paul Angelone
Director, Advisory Services
Cali Slepin
Associate, Advisory Services
James A. Mulligan
Senior Editor
Laura Glassman, Publications Professionals LLC
Manuscript Editor
Betsy Van Buskirk
Creative Directo r
Brandon Weil
Art Director
Anne Morgan
Lead Graphic Designer
Kurt Wisthuff, Arc Group Ltd
Graphic Designer
Craig Chapman
Senior Director, Publishing Operations
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
the panel would like to thank the sponsors, Jacksonville
Transportation Authority (JTA), and Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.
and Chairman Isaiah Rumlin, for inviting the panel to
Jacksonville to examine the Skyway and the Ultimate
Urban Circulator. A special thank you goes to Alexander
Traversa and Brad Thoburn for their support and putting
together the panel’s briefing materials.
In addition, thank you to the many other JTA staff mem-
bers who made the week a success, including Sal Alaimo,
Aleizha Batson, Matt Chang, John Claybrooks, Michael
Corbitt, Marcus Dixon, Kevin Greene, Kenny Jefferson,
Lorrin Leonard, Jen Hankey Maki, Winova Mayer, Leigh
McGinty, Jeremy Norsworthy, Leigh Ann Rassler, Kevin
Salzer, Kathleen Smith, Terri Smith, and Gerald Wade.
The panel also thanks ULI North Florida for its help in
answering questions and providing insight to the panel,
including Tarik Bateh, JLL; Carolyn Clark, ULI North
Florida; Jake Gordon, Downtown Vision; Peter King,
Bellatrix Ventures; Patrick Krechowski, Gray Robinson;
Joe Loretta, Genesis Group; and Rob Palmer, RS&H.
Finally, the panel would like to thank the more than
100 residents, business and community leaders, and
representatives from across Jacksonville who shared their
perspectives, experiences, and insights with the panel
over the week.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
ULI Panel and Project Staff ...................................................................................................................................6
Background and the Panel’s Assessment ..............................................................................................................7
Establishing the Vision .........................................................................................................................................9
Key Observations ...............................................................................................................................................11
Leveraging the Ultimate Urban Connector Network ..............................................................................................18
Land Development Strategies and Organizational Structure ..................................................................................26
Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................................31
About the Panel .................................................................................................................................................32
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
ULI Panel and Project Staff
Panel Chair
Ladd Keith
Assistant Professor, Planning and Sustainable Built
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Panel Members
Marcel Acosta
Executive Director
National Capital Planning Commission
Washington, D.C.
Amitabh Barthakur
HR&A Advisors
Los Angeles, California
Neal Payton
Torti Gallas + Partners
Los Angeles, California
Jamie Simchik
Simchik Planning & Development
Boston, Massachusetts
Julie Underdahl
President/Chief Executive Officer
Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District
Denver, Colorado
Cassie Wright
Cassie Wright Consulting
Denver, Colorado
ULI Project Staff
Paul Angelone
Director, Advisory Services
Alex Schoeder
Manager, Project Marketing
Michaela Kadonoff
Associate, Meetings and Events
Clay Holk
Intern, Advisory Services
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
Background and the Panel’s Assignment
CONSOLIDATION in 1968, the city of Jacksonville in
northeast Florida is the largest city by area in the contigu-
ous United States, comprising 875 square miles. With an
estimated 2017 population of 892,062, Jacksonville is the
largest city in the state of Florida and the 12th largest in
the United States. Jacksonville’s Metropolitan Statistical
Area, which includes surrounding counties in northeast
Florida and southeast Georgia, has an estimated 2017
population of 1,504,980, making it the 40th largest by
population in the United States and the fourth largest in
Florida, behind the Miami, Tampa, and Orlando metropoli-
tan areas.
Water has played a crucial role in the formation of
Jacksonville’s identity. Although Duval County’s 22 miles
of beaches along three communities (Atlantic Beach,
Jacksonville Beach, and Neptune Beach) are technically
outside Jacksonville’s city limits, these towns largely serve
as bedroom communities or popular tourism draws near
The city is bisected by the St. Johns River and is home to
major naval facilities and the Port of Jacksonville, which is
the 13th-largest U.S. port by container volume and second
largest in Florida. Jacksonville’s location as a hub for rail
networks, interstate highways, and an international airport
make it a popular location for logistics firms, including rail
transportation company CSX Corporation and freight and
delivery company Landstar, both of which are headquar-
tered there. Other Fortune 500 companies based in the
city are title insurance provider Fidelity National Financial
and Fidelity National Information Services.
The city of Jacksonville is dedicated to revitalizing its
downtown. Downtown Jacksonville serves as a community
hub for nearly one and a half million people and is the
location of many destinations, events, and cultural centers
for the residents of Jacksonville and the surrounding
region. In an effort to support downtown revitalization, the
Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is planning a
new mode of transportation to improve accessibility and
support economic development in and around downtown.
The Ultimate Urban Circulator ( U2C) has the potential of
creating a more connected downtown, while addressing
the issues affecting Jacksonville’s aging infrastructure.
For nearly 30 years, JTA’s Automated Skyway Express
(Skyway) has transported Jacksonville’s commuters
throughout the urban core. However, emerging technology
and the evolving needs of Jacksonville’s downtown devel-
opment present a unique opportunity to reevaluate existing
infrastructure and provide greater connectivity, mobility,
and sustained economic growth. JTA has determined that
these objectives can be achieved by using investment in
the existing elevated Skyway, expanding the area it serves,
and adopting autonomous transit technology. U2C can
cost-effectively reach beyond the current system to serve
existing and planned downtown development.
Jacksonville is located in
northeast Florida.
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
A ULI Advisory Service panel was asked to provide strate-
gic advice and recommendations on the following four key
objectives and goals:
Economic development opportunities: To design a
transit system that is viewed as an economic advantage
that provides greater accessibility, is sustainable, and
supports economic development;
Regulatory goals and policy: To determine a cham-
pion and strategies to guide regulatory controls and
policies in a direction that supports transit-oriented
development, smart city initiatives, and economic
Land use and market-based development: To
use transit-oriented development strategies to reduce
auto dependence and congestion as well as improve
accessibility through alternate modes in the downtown
area; and
Implementation: To develop strategies for the develop-
ment and redevelopment of two transit stations, which
are representative of other stations throughout downtown,
that can act as models for future station development,
and to determine strategies to encourage support
for the project, as well as next steps in implementing
the project.
These objectives and goals are intended to help envi-
sion the revitalization of downtown Jacksonville and the
surrounding neighborhoods with the U2C at the center of
development, and then to translate these recommenda-
tions into public sector investments and identify tools and
next steps for their implementation. These were developed
after interviews with stakeholders, a site tour, and a
briefing by JTA.
The U 2C network proposed by JTA. An automated vehicle on the U 2C test track on East Bay Street.
Existing route
Potential extensions
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
San Diego in the 1970s.
San Diego today.
Establishing the Vision
SAN DIEGO IN THE 1970s was similar to Jacksonville
today. The city was a large, sprawling community with
beaches, strong suburban-based Fortune 500 compa-
nies, universities, and military facilities. However, focus
on downtown by the city and real estate developers was
limited. The trajectory of San Diego’s resurgent downtown
began to change in the 1980s with political leadership and
an understanding that a strong downtown meant a strong
region. This led to the revitalization of the Gaslamp Quarter
and nearby Horton Plaza with a focus on walkability, com-
mercial activity, and providing a safe atmosphere. More
than 30 years later, San Diego’s downtown is now often
considered one of the most livable and dynamic communi-
ties in the United States.
Many of the same attributes that created a strong economic
boom in San Diego are present in Jacksonville, but estab-
lishing a clear vision and tools to implement that vision are
needed. To guide the panel’s recommendations, the panel
established the following set of guiding principles:
Create a city of neighborhoods: Downtown Jackson-
ville currently has many assets, neighborhoods, and
destination points. These assets should be built upon
and better highlighted. An opportunity exists to create
inclusive economic development and growth that will
better connect with downtown and provide currently
untapped ridership. Development should focus on
residential to provide housing options for the many and
diverse employment opportunities that are currently
located downtown. Like the diversity of employers, resi-
dential should meet the many needs of the workforce,
students, seniors, millennials, and corporate users.
Enhance mobility: The U2C should be about creating
more mobility options and build on the existing network
of the regional and local bus system, vehicular transport,
sidewalks, water taxis, and active transportation options
such as bicycles. The proposed system is innovative,
exciting, and a real branding opportunity. However,
automated vehicles (AVs) are still unproven technology
and some caution is necessary in relying only on the
U2C network to drive economic growth. The system
needs to respond to changing dynamics to serve the
customers—the riders—first. This forward-looking
technology can be successful if JTA uses its position of
controlling land, streetscapes, and funding sources.
Start small: Successful downtowns are built with small
building blocks—not just with big projects. Taking
advantage of and nurturing small projects will build
trust and a culture of success. Recent examples include
the Lofts at LaVilla and Intuition Ale Works brewery.
These smaller-scale projects bring character, economic
sustainability, and neighborhood vitality.
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
Empower champions: Many ongoing efforts to improve
downtown and many individual champions exist. The
development of inclusive engagement and a clear path
from top down to grassroots up should be established
to ensure the actions of the many come together so
that everyone succeeds in their missions. Having a
robust network of empowered champions will help plan
for a longer-term vision and implementation through
economic cycles and changes in market demands.
Take transformational action: The idea of redevelop-
ment and revitalization of the downtown has engendered
a lot of excitement. Use this energy, funding, and exper-
tise to create a downtown Jacksonville that rivals other
successful communities, such as San Diego, Nashville,
or Indianapolis, and builds pride in the region while
recognizing and respecting the city’s deep history and
diversity. The reenvisioned Skyway and U2C can be this
transformational action.
The 2017 State of Downtown
Report from Downtown Vision
Inc. shows that billions of
dollars of investment are
occurring in downtown
Jacksonville, along with new
housing, entertainment, and
work. Downtown is a vital and
important place within the
region, and it matters for future
investment and attention.
Infill development should be
encouraged in downtown
because there are many
opportunities within the existing
street grid and parking lots.
This image shows an example
of a new residential building in
Detroit replacing a former parking
lot near the city’s People Mover
and new streetcar.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
Key Observations
THE 2015 U.S. CENSUS ESTIMATES that Duval County
has about 490,000 jobs, the largest share of which is
represented by the health care and social assistance
sector with 14 percent of the total. Downtown Vision Inc.
estimates that downtown Jacksonville has almost 59,000,
or 12 percent, of total countywide jobs. The prominent
sectors represented in the downtown area include profes-
sional services (21.1 percent), finance and insurance (9.7
percent), and public administration (9.0 percent).
This finding is not a surprise, given the location of at least
three Fortune 500 companies, banks, and insurance
companies in the downtown area, as well as a wider eco-
system of professional service establishments supported
by the multiple civic functions, including the city hall and
courts. Downtown contains about 25 percent of citywide
office inventory, but this has not grown because of compe-
tition from newer developments in suburban locations.
Although health care and social assistance represents
almost 8 percent of total downtown jobs, it includes only
the Baptist Medical Center but not other major health care
facilities such as UF Health Jacksonville to the north and
the St. Vincent’s Medical Center to the southeast, which lie
just outside the boundaries of the defined downtown area.
Considering these other facilities as part of downtown’s
economic base may imply that downtown has a similar or
perhaps even a greater share of health care jobs than the
region as a whole.
The Battle for Survival
In contrast to downtown’s employment concentration, the
area’s 4,200 residents represent less than 1 percent of the
regional population. Duval County is also a tourist destina-
tion. Estimates provided by Visit Jacksonville’s annual visi-
tor survey report that 6.2 million overnight guests visited
Duval County in 2016. Other visitor preference surveys
conducted by Visit Jacksonville report that Jacksonville is
an affordable destination for family fun and beaches.
Although the city has a number of attractions located
downtown, including a Convention Center and a number
of high-quality sports franchises such as the Jacksonville
Jaguars, these attractions have not spurred significant
overnight visitation. With 2,300 rooms, downtown has only
a small share of the close to 18,000 hotel rooms located
in the county, which has affected the city’s ability to attract
major conventions. The Stadium District’s Sports Complex
with its multiple venues does attract a large number of
regional visitors, but this visitation is event based and not
sustained on a daily basis.
This imbalance between a small resident population
and sporadic event and convention visitors, contrasted
with a large number of daytime employees who are only
downtown from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, poses a
The defined downtown of
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
significant challenge to retail and dining establishments
in downtown, which cannot thrive without a reliable and
consistent flow of patrons during weekdays and weekends
as well as at different times of the day.
As a result, according to CoStar, downtown’s share of re-
tail and dining establishments is less than 2 percent of the
citywide inventory, and average retail rents have declined
by more than 30 percent since 2010. This situation is
further exacerbated by Jacksonville’s continued outward
growth, with newer developments in the suburbs over the
past few decades; new suburban shopping centers of all
types have followed the rooftops.
Strong Fundamentals but
Underleveraged Assets
Although a large part of downtown is laid out on a
walkable grid, and the central core of the Civic Center
emanating out of Hemming Plaza is dense and includes
a variety of historic buildings with architectural character,
most of the office stock in the area surrounding this core
is dated, going back to the 1970s and 1980s, and built for
the automobile.
As in any automobile-centric city, downtown is dominated
by an abundant supply of parking of all forms, including
very large and mostly underused surface lots and
structures, which create severe barriers to a walkable
environment. The lack of shade and various intrusive
infrastructure features, including a number of ramps and
grade separations, also do not help walkability. During
extreme rainfall events, the amount of hard surfaces
such as parking lots and roadways decreases the ability
of downtown Jacksonville to avoid flooding.
Despite some of these challenges, which are not unlike the
ones faced by most cities across the country at one time
or another over the last 50 years, downtown Jacksonville
also has many unique strengths. Perhaps the greatest of
these is its location, straddling both sides of the beauti-
ful St. Johns River. This location is further enhanced by
some of the critical investments made by the city over
time, including the creation of the Riverwalk and continued
improvements within the urban core related to streets.
However, the river and associated storm surges also pose
Hemming Plaza in downtown Jacksonville.
A parking lot near the intersection of West Bay Street and Hogan Street.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
a threat to downtown, as seen in 2017 with the flooding
from Hurricane Irma, which caused an estimated $85 mil-
lion of damage to the city. The riverfront presents a unique
opportunity to position this part of the city as a one-of-a-
kind urban center with access to amenities, open space,
entertainment, jobs, health care, education, and a variety
of housing options.
Downtown is also home to a number of cultural and
institutional anchors, including Florida State College of
Jacksonville’s downtown campus north of the downtown
core, the newly constructed Jacksonville Public Library, a
number of religious institutions including the First Baptist
Church, and the Museum of Science and History on the
south bank, among others.
Addressing Climate Vulnerability
As downtown Jacksonville becomes more pedestrian
focused, the lack of shade along corridors and at activity
centers poses a challenge to the viability of increasing
pedestrian activity.
Increased shade (e.g., street trees, covered walkways,
or arcades) is particularly important because the 2014
National Climate Assessment indicates temperatures in
the region have increased since the 1970s by an average
of 2°F, with further increases of 4°F to 8°F anticipated
by 2100. A significant increase of the number of hot days
(95°F and above) by as many as 60 to 75 days is expected
by 2070.
The river and associated storm surges also pose a threat
to downtown. Events like Hurricane Irma are expected to
be more frequent in the future, and according to the 2014
National Climate Assessment, sea levels have risen by
eight inches globally since 1900 and are anticipated to rise
another one to four feet by 2100, further adding to the
storm-surge risk.
Another aspect increasing the risk for future flooding
includes the scheduled U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
dredging project for the river, which is anticipated to
increase flood levels in a 100-year storm by three to six
inches in the downtown area, according to the Marine
Science Research Institute at Jacksonville University.
Map of projected high-tide flooding based on the intermediate scenario as part of NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer. Coastal flooding
events and duration will increase as relative sea-level change occurs, and actions to mitigate these changes should be incorporated
into the planning process.
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
A City of Neighborhoods
Downtown’s geographic extent is quite large, including
nearly four square miles of land area on both sides of the
river, and its northern riverfront is nearly three miles long.
One of the key characteristics of downtown, however, is
that it is not a single homogenous district. As shown in the
map above, downtown comprises many distinct neighbor-
hoods that differ in character, mix of uses, demographics,
and densities. In addition, downtown is surrounded by a
number of primarily residential neighborhoods, each with
its particular character.
This diversity of neighborhoods can offer a variety of
options to live, work, play, and learn: it can become one of
the greatest strengths in the downtown renaissance. The
area surrounding Hemming Park, the heart of downtown,
is a largely single-use employment center, but the
neighborhoods of LaVilla, Brooklyn, Five Points, Riverside,
and Avondale and to the east are transitioning into
mixed-use places with residential, retail, and recreation
options (denser, more intensive development east of I-95).
The sports complex to the west is a regional destination,
Southbank is a more well-established market with
high-rise condominiums and related amenities, and
immediately to its south, San Marco, which lies outside the
downtown boundaries, is a stable and desirable neighbor-
hood with historic housing stock. Neighborhoods to the
north such as Springfield are also in transition, but some
of the northern areas are economically distressed, lack
basic amenities, and are pockets of poverty. Nonetheless,
significant residential and commercial investment is
occurring, and this should be built on.
Today, none of these neighborhoods has strong physical or
economic connections with one another that would allow
activities and amenities in one area to be easily accessed
by residents, employees, or visitors in another. Their ability
to access the river or other open spaces and trails as
shared amenities is inconsistent.
A New Beginning
Like many downtowns across the country, downtown
Jacksonville is experiencing new growth and private
investment, but the pace of this investment has been
modest and somewhat unevenly spread across the various
Since the recession (between 2010 and 2017), downtown
Jacksonville has added a little over 600 residential units,
a significant share of which were delivered as affordable
units. In comparison, other Florida cities such as Tampa
and St. Petersburg have added close to 3,300 and 2,000
units, respectively, to their downtown areas. This differ-
ence is partly owing to a market perception that downtown
Jacksonville cannot support market rents to justify land
and development costs.
The core of downtown
Jacksonville and additional
neighborhoods within the
defined downtown.
Newly constructed residential buildings near Riverside Avenue and
Stonewall Street.
Five Point s
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
Contrary to this perception, average residential rents
downtown were $1.54 per square foot at the end of 2017,
more than 60 percent higher than the citywide average of
$0.95 per square foot. Moreover, downtown residential
rents grew by 37 percent from 2010 to 2017, compared
with 27 percent growth citywide during the same period.
Although these rents are still not adequate to support new
multistory wood frame construction without some subsidy,
the panel’s interviews revealed that newer projects are
achieving rents of $2.00 per square foot, some of the
highest in this market. As a result, most of the newer
market-rate product is targeted to the highest end of the
rental market to justify construction costs.
Increasing pent-up demand for more urban-style resi-
dential development, particularly rental product aimed
at young professionals working in or near downtown
and empty nesters, is the driving market force for new
development. Most of this new development momentum is
concentrated in the western part of downtown, with new
market-rate residential and retail developments completed
in the Brooklyn and Riverside districts.
The LaVilla district has seen new high-quality affordable
and workforce housing projects, supported by the city’s
Housing Finance Authority and low-income housing tax
credits, which is adding to the resident population of
downtown neighborhoods. Closer to the core, the Elbow
district is evolving into a location of nighttime activity and
more diverse businesses.
In addition, a number of large catalytic projects have been
proposed, including the Shipyards development near the
sports complex; the District project, a mixed-use multi-
generational neighborhood in the Southbank area; and a
new convention center to be located on the waterfront. All
of these projects will require some form of public/private
partnership and are in the early stages of the planning and
development process.
Downtown Jacksonville’s stock of historic buildings has
also generated a fair bit of new development interest. Cur-
rently, adaptive use projects are converting historic offices
Parking garages and lots in downtown Jacksonville, broken down by specific downtown neighborhoods.
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
into residential and hospitality uses, creating an authentic
product in the market.
Downtown has a significant inventory of vacant land, and
a large portion of this is controlled by public agencies
including the city, JTA, the school board, and others. This
land presents a tremendous opportunity to focus and
incentivize new development. The challenge is in mak-
ing these development opportunities attractive enough
for developers (and their customers) by providing an
enhanced public realm—walkable, bikeable, and transit-
accessible connections to key nodes and destinations that
residents, employees, and visitors want to access. Overlaid
with high-quality urban design and a concerted effort to
activate and program the public realm, downtown could
become one of the most desirable places to be.
A Strong Network of Capable
A number of efforts are already underway to implement
many of the strategies mentioned. Much of the new
development has been facilitated by the Downtown
Investment Authority (DIA), which has been designated
as the Community Redevelopment Authority for the larger
downtown area with access to tax increment financing
(TIF) funding from three TIF districts comprising the north
and south banks of the river.
In the past, TIF investments have not produced the
desired level of development and resulting tax increment,
particularly on the north bank. TIF will be an important
resource to enable the implementation of downtown
projects, but it has to be deployed strategically.
Downtown Vision Inc., which is the downtown business
improvement district (BID), provides “clean and safe”
services, programming and activation, and marketing and
branding services, but the BID’s geographic jurisdiction is
currently limited to only a portion of downtown around the
Civic Center and core.
A number of large, medium, and small private players are
also active in the market and clearly see the opportunity.
They include Iguana Investments and the developer of the
District, as well as a number of smaller infill developers
and adaptive use developers who are actively working
in the market. Vestcor Companies, one of the primary
developers of affordable housing, which plans to deliver
more than 600 units of affordable and workforce units,
will continue to be a key partner.
Last but not least, JTA has been instrumental in continu-
ing to make investments to enhance the attractiveness of
downtown to its current and future patrons. These include
its investments in the regional transportation network
through bus rapid transit and enhanced bus routes improv-
ing regional access to and from downtown, as well as the
development of the new Jacksonville Regional Transpor-
tation Center (JRTC), which could become one of the
most important transportation hubs in the region with the
potential future realignment of the Amtrak lines to create a
full-fledged transportation hub.
Finally, JTA’s plans to extend the Skyway network with the
U2C, using a system of AVs at the ground level, can play a
critical role in connecting the many downtown neighbor-
hoods and amenities. As shown in the figure, prioritizing
connections in a manner that establishes connections
Groundwork Jacksonville created
a master plan to develop the
Emerald Necklace project. This
is a conceptual map of the plan
along Hogan’s Creek.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
between downtown neighborhoods that have the strongest
desire lines will be important.
The Way Forward
With continued regional growth driven by some of
Jacksonville’s core industries, low cost of living, and
access to great quality-of-life amenities, Jacksonville—
and particularly downtown Jacksonville—can be a magnet
for a young and dynamic workforce. They can help grow
the existing economic base and with the right incentives
Likely passenger trips within the U 2C study area as determined by JTA. In addition, there is a strong desire on the part of users to travel across the St. Johns River.
can open doors to other economic opportunities driven by
creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
With diverse housing options targeted to all income
groups, downtown can add the much needed resident
population, one neighborhood at a time, and begin to
create the vibrant mixed-use waterfront destination that
it aspires to be.
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
Leveraging the Ultimate Urban
Connector Network
proposed U2C. A free, 2.5-mile, eight-station elevated
monorail, the Skyway bridges the St. Johns River and
connects the north and south banks of downtown
Jacksonville. The vehicles are past due for their mid-life
overhaul and facing obsolescence.
JTA has proposed removing the central guideway, resur-
facing and creating ramped or mechanical connections to
street level at the existing termini of the elevated structure.
In place of the automated monorail, AVs will extend
beyond the existing system to reach farther into downtown
neighborhoods. The elevated to street-level connections
must be thoughtfully designed and be sensitive to the
existing community so they enhance, not detract from,
these neighborhoods.
Best Practices
To fully leverage the U2C, the following transportation and
infrastructure strategies should be followed.
Put Safety First
Although the panel applauds JTA’s forward thinking by
incorporating AVs into its new downtown circulator service,
the service must be designed and operated with public
and passenger safety in mind. The Skyway segment oper-
ates on an elevated roadway in a controlled environment,
but the at-grade portion needs to be carefully designed to
minimize hazards because it is sharing street space with
cars, trucks, bikes, and pedestrians.
The panel strongly urges the city and JTA to provide dedi-
cated AV transit lanes, especially for the initial at-grade
segments, so the AVs do not have to operate in mixed traf-
fic conditions. These dedicated AV lanes will also provide
a competitive service advantage against other modes of
travel, which makes the new transit service more attractive
and convenient for customers.
Rethink the Right-of-Way
Many cities have experienced a wave of new transportation
options, such as Uber/Lyft ride share, bike share, and
e-scooters, that compete for valuable public sidewalk,
curbside, and road space. Given Jacksonville’s existing
strong network of downtown streets, this is a good
opportunity to proactively identify priority streets by
The panel’s proposed revised
U2C network as well as key
streets (orange), station area
five-minute and ten-minute
walksheds, locations for infill
development (black), and
proposed open space (green).
The pink line along East Bay
Street represents the panel’s
desire to have investment better
align with the phasing of the
Shipyards development.
Five Points
Rosa Parks
San Marco East
Sports Complex
The Shipyards
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
transportation modes (e.g., key truck routes, transit
corridors, bike-focused streets) and reallocate limited
public right-of-way to effectively serve all modes in the
future and reduce potential conflicts.
Consider Road Diets
The city streets could be made more walkable to expand
the retail and residential appeal. For instance, the 2014
Brooklyn-area road diet plan could be considered as a way
to more effectively relate the street to the needs of the
surrounding community.
Use Innovative Financing
The U2C not only offers a major transit improvement for
downtown Jacksonville, but also advances the future of
transit through innovative technology. Given the U2C’s
national prominence as a proving ground for emerging
21st-century public transportation while using the existing
Skyway infrastructure and surrounding street network, JTA
should be applauded for pursuing discretionary transporta-
tion innovation grants, such as the U.S. Department of
Transportation’s recently announced BUILD (Better Utiliz-
ing Investments to Leverage Development) program, along
with the necessary state and local matching funds.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIFIA
(Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act)
loan program may offer another source of capital funding
for the system but require a future funding source to repay
the loans. Finally, public/private partnerships might provide
an opportunity to finance the construction or provide an
alternative means to operate the U2C system.
Automated vehicles and the U2C present an opportunity to rethink
how public space is dedicated to parking and driving, allowing
pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, and autonomous vehicle traffic to
safely intermingle. The diagram represents how street space could
be converted to enable people-focused design for improved and
safer mobility.
Case Studies: Financing Transit Expansion
The following cases studies are examples of transit expansion projects that have
included transit-oriented development (TOD) as a major component.
Crossrail 2 London. The London Crossrail project is a
new north–south rail line that is anticipated to increase
the Underground network’s capacity by 10 percent. The
project will provide access to parts of London and the
region that are currently underserved. The project is anti-
cipated to stimulate the building of more than 200,000
homes and create more than 60,000 jobs. The project
was sold as an economic development tool to access
affordable housing locations. To fund the project, a frame-
work was created in 2007 in which London businesses
within the zone affected by the proposed Crossrail
contributed to the cost of constructing the project. About
60 percent of the construction funding ultimately came
from the Greater London region’s residents and
businesses. The funds are managed by Transport for
London and the Greater London Authority. This strategy
of “monetizing” the future value created by the transit
investment to leverage additional capital for construction
should be considered for the Jacksonville region.
Moscow Suburban Railway Corp. Transport Hubs Program. The railway corporation
realized that development around station areas it owned was a source of revenue and
additional passengers. Analysis and calculation of the commercial potential of railway
stations and railway-owned land around the stations was conducted. This helped identify
stations to be targeted for TOD plans that would have a high return on investment.
Transbay Transit Center. The Transbay Transit Center is a modern, multimodal transit
hub that connects 11 transit systems in downtown San Francisco, including a next-
phase 1.3-mile extension of the Caltrain commuter rail and space for the future high-
speed-rail project. The project area encompasses about 40 acres of redevelopment
sites and a 5.4-acre park on the roof of the transit center. The vision for this $ 6 billion
project has been evolving for 30 years and is financed by a variety of federal grants,
loans, private investments, and local and state funding. The first phase of the project
has created a new five-story Transit Center with one above-grade bus level, ground-
floor level, concourse, and two below-grade rail levels serving Caltrain and future
California high-speed rail.
In 2014, ULI published
Successful Public/Private
Partnerships: From Principles
to Practices. This report outlines
best practices to combine the
strengths and resources of the
public and private sectors most
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
Think beyond the Station
To maximize the developmental benefit of an enhanced
transit system, the city and JTA should focus on extending
station improvements to the adjacent community through
the use of “complete streets” or “complete neighborhood
public improvements as well as more traditional street-
scape improvements.
Should the city issue bonds in the future, it should con-
sider directing some of the capital improvement funds to a
station area improvement program to improve the at-grade
environment around the existing Skyway stations as well
as the new at-grade AV transit stops. In many cities, simi-
lar physical improvement and streetscape programs are
considered an integral part of their economic development
Implement Smarter Parking Management
Compared with many other cities, downtown Jacksonville
is well served by public parking surface lots and garages.
To make the most effective use of its parking assets, the
city should conduct a downtown parking inventory and
utilization study.
New technologies exist to better inform the public in real
time about available public parking near their destination
through the use of electronic road signs and phone
apps that notify drivers of the nearest parking facilities
with immediate availability. This will help the city more
effectively manage available parking supply as future
development converts surface lots into more productive
and tax-revenue-producing buildings.
Transit-Oriented Development
JTA requested recommendations on two types of eco-
nomic development opportunities, including redevelopment
(Rosa Parks Station) and development (Shipyards Station).
The panel explored these two stations but also looked at
several others:
Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center;
Five Points Station (panel-proposed station to replace
Brooklyn Station); and
District Station.
JTA has an opportunity to think beyond the U2C stations in creating
livelier and safer streets. This rendering shows a tree-lined boulevard
that allows pedestrians and AV traffic to safely intermingle.
Map representing the primary experiential streets identified by the panel.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
The panel took the liberty of proposing a new station at
Five Points in place of Brooklyn to take advantage of the
existing momentum in that neighborhood while at the
same time exploring the redevelopment potential of a
street-level station. Based on the site visit, stakeholder
interviews, and background research, the panel proposes
three different station typologies for redevelopment:
Terminal (JRTC);
Street level (Five Points, Shipyards, and District); and
Elevated (Rosa Parks).
Jackson Regional Transportation Center
(Terminal Station)
The new JRTC will connect the new Intercity Bus Terminal
with the existing Convention Center Station, with the pos-
sible addition of a future train station, as well as the new
JTA headquarters. Located in LaVilla, this terminal station
will be a catalyst for redevelopment.
Because of this terminal station’s significance, the
JRTC will cater to a ten-minute walkshed. Therefore,
improvements should not be concentrated in just the
land immediately adjacent to the station, but the major
bike and pedestrian corridors must also see significant
Complete street improvements, coupled with traffic-
calming measures, on Water Street and Adams Street
extending to the east will enhance connections to the
center of downtown and on Park Street to the south
will enhance connections with Brooklyn/Five Points.
These improvements will spur further high-density infill
General Design Guidelines for
Station Areas
Note that all three station typologies proposed by the
panel (terminal, street level, and elevated) —and as a
result all five stations—must incorporate some of the
same general station design guidelines (listed here in
no specific order):
Pedestrian scale;
Universal design principles;
Street-level activity;
Green infrastructure;
Improved sidewalks;
Street trees or other shade elements;
Infill development;
Neighborhood-serving retail;
Public space;
Bike accommodations ( personal or bike share);
Wayfinding (physical and digital);
Complete street/neighborhood improvements;
Zero setback; and
Active ground floor.
Typology of building density near
terminal and elevated stations
recommended by the panel.
Typology of building density
recommended near street-level
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
redevelopment and investment in this area, which has
begun with the Lofts at LaVilla and the Lofts at Monroe.
Given the amount of city-owned land in the station area,
the city should assemble parcels for developers and
provide adequate public open space. The city should also
encourage mixed-use development and mixed-income
housing options. A reduction of parking needs because
of the numerous transit options will also free additional
land for redevelopment. An opportunity exists to engage
the LaVilla School of the Arts in creative ways to better
improve the neighborhood experience.
The reenvisioning of the Skyway and the redevelopment
of the Florida Times-Union office and printing facility
creates greater potential for the area surrounding the new
terminal station. With the U2C, the JTA Skyway Operations
and Maintenance Building could be moved or eliminated,
providing a large contiguous area to provide a mix of uses
near a number of transit options. The nearby McCoy Creek
should be daylighted, which will help mitigate future flood-
ing and provide additional recreational space.
Five Points (Street-Level Station)
Five Points Station can build upon the center of gravity
that is already forming at the intersection of Park Street,
Margaret Street, and Lomax Street. As a street-level sta-
tion, meaningful improvement must be made in addition
to dedicated lanes to communicate the permanence to
developers and investors. For example, the panel noticed
that even with the successful rollout of the new JTA bus
rapid-transit service, these new bus routes are stopping
at existing bus stops that are not on a dedicated transit-
way or more than just a bus shelter. Incorporating raised
platforms, ticketing machines/gates, and canopies will
provide a clear visual cue to where the U2C will stop and
ensure a sense of the system’s permanence. Not only will
this be helpful for potential riders, it will also provide a
sense of confidence for investors and encourage lending
by financial institutions.
Map representing five-minute
and ten-minute walk distances
surrounding the JRTC and the
Rosa Parks stations.
Building along right-of-way.
Building setback along right-of-way allows for more open space and
public uses.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
The station also provides an opportunity to leverage its
proximity to the St. Johns River as well as Riverfront Park.
Special attention should be paid to the block surrounding
Riverside Park, which could accommodate high-density
infill redevelopment to promote safety with more eyes on
the park. Nearby institutions include Riverside Park United
Methodist Church, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gar-
dens, and Riverside Arts Market. Local retail and residents
could help support new development.
A great deal of effort has already been expended to
reenvision the riverfront, and Five Points is located near
Brooklyn, which can take maximum advantage of these
improvements. Ensuring a strong connection with the St.
Johns River will enhance the redevelopment opportunities
in this already dense area. Furthermore, the addition of
the new I-95 bike and pedestrian bridge will further con-
nect Northbank and Southbank in a less auto-dependent
Rosa Parks (Elevated Station)
The Rosa Parks Station will be ripe for redevelopment
when JTA moves its bus operations to the new JRTC. Dur-
ing the stakeholder interviews, it was anticipated that Rosa
Parks would be able to reduce the number of bus bays
from 18 to four. This reduction would free considerable
JTA-owned land for redevelopment.
For this redevelopment to be successful, the panel identi-
fied a number of issues to be resolved. The high-speed
one-way pair of State Street and Union Street acts as a
barrier to downtown, and traffic-calming measures should
be implemented.
Improvements should be made the length of Main Street,
leveraging the Florida Department of Transportation Com-
plete Street Guidelines for the full length and incorporat-
ing traffic-calming measures so that Main Street ceases
to be a thoroughfare through downtown and becomes a
local road with ground-level retail activity that serves as
connection between Northbank and Southbank. Moreover,
Laura Street should be improved along its length all the
way to the St. Johns River, with the road terminating as
a pier. This view corridor would greatly benefit from the
reenvisioning and redevelopment of the Jacksonville Land-
ing, possibly as public open space, that incorporates the
extended right-of-way.
Rosa Parks Station bus bays as seen from the Skyway platform.
Five Points Station represents
neighborhood-scale stations.
Five Points
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
When considering infill redevelopment opportunities, dis-
cussions should include Florida State College and address
the need for potential student housing for some of the
5,000 students in addition to other residential develop-
ment options. This discussion should include a new vision
for the JTA employee parking lot and the vacant bank site.
Careful thought should be put into how the Florida State
College campus could grow with the inclusion of adequate
public space and where classrooms and housing should be
located to activate the street. Furthermore, available land
could be dedicated for community gardens using raised
beds, which will support the fresh food needed by the
Florida State College culinary program.
The edge of campus should be defined better along Laura
Street and Bethel Baptist Street. In addition, the sidewalks,
street trees, and shade elements should be incorporated
into existing or proposed corridors and trail system to the
north and west of the station. The Florida State College
campus should explore the possibility of an agreement
with the First Baptist Church to use the existing structured
parking to free up surface parking for redevelopment.
Giving consideration to the underside of the elevated sta-
tion is also important. Downtown has seen various levels
of improvement in these areas. Examples for the vertical
support elements should be taken from the beautiful exist-
ing murals throughout downtown and incorporate white
paint underneath with uplighting and music to activate
the space. Given the relocation of the major downtown
transportation hub, JTA must provide clear instructions
and wayfinding for those seeking connections and the
Greyhound bus terminal at the new JRTC.
Seattle’s Sound Transit issued
a request for qualifications and
proposals for firms interested
in submitting real estate
development plans near the
Capitol Hill light-rail station.
Gerding Edlen was awarded
the project as master developer
and is building a mixed-use
project as part of a Federal
Transit Administration Joint
Development project. Some of
the economic value created by
the project is being leveraged
by Sound Transit and the
developer to finance expenses.
A farmers market under the
Bay Area Rapid Transit Fruitvale
Station in Oakland shows a way
to activate space.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
The District (Street-Level Station)
The District Station will be a great addition to the momen-
tum already occurring in Southbank, yet this is another
area where the panel did not focus its efforts because of
already announced plans for the area’s redevelopment.
The area would be strengthened by the new bicycle and
pedestrian bridge adjacent to I-95 and the improvements
to Main Street connecting Northbank and Southbank
currently being planned. Complete street improvements to
Hendricks Avenue, Riverplace Boulevard, and Prudential
Drive, coupled with the existing stations, will provide a
more pedestrian-friendly experience that will enhance the
need for neighborhood-serving retail. The panel suggests
moving the station from the east San Marco location to
just north of the Square at San Marco to better serve the
Map representing the five-minute walkshed surrounding a proposed new location for
the San Marco U 2C station.
Map representing the five-minute walkshed of the proposed stations within the
Stadium District.
The Shipyards (Street-Level Station)
The Shipyards is a significant development in the Stadium
District; however, the panel instead focused its efforts in
areas that could take advantage of the existing redevelop-
ment momentum. Once completed, the Shipyards develop-
ment will strengthen the Bay Street corridor, anchored
by downtown on the west and the TIAA Bank Field to the
east. With a winning combination of the U2C testing facility
and the efforts as part of the North Florida Transportation
Planning Organization Smart Region Roadmap, Bay Street
will have a lot to offer in the future.
However, at this time, the panel does not feel investments
in this smart corridor should be prioritized at the expense
of other opportunities, such as connecting to Five Points,
and additional investments should be aligned with the
timeline of the Shipyards development.
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
Land Development Strategies and
Organizational Structure
THIS SECTION IS DIVIDED into a description of poten-
tial land development strategies and their implementation
with a new organizational structure.
Land Development Strategies
To fully realize the downtown development opportunities
offered by the U2C’s enhanced transportation network, all
parties need to refocus themselves, so they can act more
strategically as they review development proposals and
negotiate development incentives that promote crucial
public benefits in return. The introduction of autonomous
transit vehicles and other emerging transportation options
in downtown Jacksonville may require the reallocation of
street and sidewalk space, while public investments should
extend beyond the U2C station to enhance the physical
environment of the surrounding community.
Organize for Action
Although the city of Jacksonville and civic organizations
have completed many high-level vision downtown plans
over the years, now is the time for all parties to commit
to a joint strategic phased action plan to more effectively
implement downtown development. The parties should
agree upon a coordinated action plan that prioritizes
and sequences development opportunities and related
infrastructure projects to more effectively leverage future
The effort should clearly assign responsibilities and
tasks to a primary organization and secondary partners.
Although many of these responsibilities will likely fall under
the auspices of the DIA, effective downtown development
will require strong partnerships with other landholding and
infrastructure agencies as well as other stakeholders.
If the city’s leadership believes high-quality downtown
development is a priority, the mayor or a high-level designee
should convene the public or quasi-public agencies that
hold developable parcels, have infrastructure responsibili-
ties, or are vested with regulatory oversight to confirm
project management/timetables and oversee the prep-
aration of a mutually agreed upon action plan.
Focus on Small Projects
Although the city has focused much of its time and energy
to pursuing large-scale, catalytic development projects—
such as the District and the Shipyards—it should make a
more concerted effort to focus on smaller, infill develop-
ment projects. Successful small projects can be as
impactful in catalyzing surrounding development and can
set up the conditions that allow the more visible large
projects succeed.
Expect the Best
The city of Jacksonville and its partners should provide
consistent direction and set strategic public benefit
expectations when negotiating development incentives and
development approvals through its entitlement process.
Whenever the city provides a financial subsidy to assist
private development, the city of Jacksonville should always
secure meaningful benefits for the public and the sur-
rounding community.
The various plans prepared for downtown provide a road-
map for the DIA and the Downtown Development Review
Board that identifies public improvements and amenities
surrounding the proposed development that can also
enhance the development’s value—a win–win. These
public benefits should pay special attention to ground-floor
uses, streetscape improvements (including those support-
ing transit use), and parking requirements.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
Prepare for the Future
Every city is affected by national economic cycles, and
Jacksonville can better position itself for future develop-
ment upturns. During the next down cycle, the city and its
partners should aggressively focus on more specific area
or corridor-level planning (rather than vision planning) and
finalize entitlements with developers of strategically located
parcels to take advantage of the full real estate up cycle.
By doing this, the city will be well prepared to benefit from
new development at the start of the next real estate boom,
without losing two or three years of opportunities.
Unbundle Parking
Although the panel acknowledges that providing accessory
parking (exclusive parking in a building or lot dedicated for
the tenant’s use) is important to the economic viability of
downtown Jacksonville, new techniques “unbundle” park-
ing from a building and allow a nearby parking facility with
excess capacity to be used in lieu of building new parking
spaces. The focus should encourage better utilization of
existing parking spaces; however, as a last resort, devel-
opers can contribute to a parking fund that would support
the construction of a shared parking garage. An appropri-
ately priced fee should incentivize developers to unbundle
parking (which is cheaper than constructing new parking).
Stabilizing Neighborhoods during Investment
In Washington, D.C., where white households have a
net worth 81 times greater than their African American
counterparts, JPMorgan Chase & Co. is supporting
collaboration to ensure inclusive economic growth.
The company has provided $10 million in grants to
support Community Development Financial Institutions
(CDFIs) to make strategic investments in the econom-
ically and racially disparate communities that will be
physically linked with the development of the 11th Street
Bridge Park, a $ 50 million elevated bridge across the
Anacostia River.
To ensure that the 11th Street Bridge Park does not displace low- and moderate-income
residents but provides new opportunities, the CDFI collaborative, which includes the
community-based organization Building Bridges across the River, the Washington Area
Community Investment Fund, City First Enterprises, and the Skyland Workforce Center,
is making strategic investments to expand access to capital and provide technical
assistance for local and minority-owned small businesses. The collaborative is also
working to establish the Douglas Community Land Trust, which will work to increase
housing affordability and reduce displacement.
More information about the 11th Street Bridge’s equitable development goals can be
found at
This strategy would make more efficient use of land
resources as future developments are constructed on
increasingly scarce vacant parcels and fine-tune parking
supply with local demand. As developments are reviewed
by the city through its discretionary process, tailored park-
ing programs and requirements can be considered to meet
the specific needs of the development and its tenants as
transit service improves in the downtown area.
The panel notes that parking costs are often a significant
portion of overall development costs and reducing parking
overcomes a key barrier to financial feasibility. Moreover,
small infill sites may not be able to accommodate surface
parking and yield enough density but at the same time
may not support the cost of podiums or decks.
Share Development Expertise
For JTA, the disposal or joint development of its real estate
assets offers long-term value to the agency and contrib-
Representation of how infill development can occur on vacant or
underused land.
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
utes to the revitalization of the downtown area. However,
the agency would have to ramp up in-house capacity to
effectively transact real estate deals. JTA should consider
a partnership or agreement with DIA or a similar organiza-
tion for joint development or land disposal professional
services so the agency can benefit from the real estate
transaction while focusing on its core mission to provide
the best transit services for Jacksonville residents.
Organizational Structure
As mentioned previously, Jacksonville’s downtown and
broader city center area has been included in multiple
planning efforts over the past two decades, but these
efforts have been completed on a piecemeal, fragmented
basis. Although these plans and efforts are useful and
provide guidance to individual organizations or authorities,
to the panel’s knowledge, no single document knits these
plans together and offers a clear, comprehensive vision for
the future of downtown Jacksonville.
As JTA continues to refine its plan for expansion of the
Skyway system, the panel recommends that DIA take the
lead and synthesize the objectives and recommendations
set forth in the following planning documents in an effort
to develop an overall vision and a single implementation
document that will direct the city as it redevelops its
downtown over the next decade:
DIA Business Investment and Development Strategy;
DIA Downtown Redevelopment Plan;
Downtown Master Plan;
Urban Core Vision Plan;
Downtown Action Plan;
Groundwork Trail System;
Riverfront Plan; and
Miscellaneous small area plans.
It is critical that the city as a whole (including decision
makers, implementers, stakeholders, and the community
at large) understand the vision for downtown so that imple-
mentation is focused and deliberate. Without this single
implementation strategy, the panel believes that downtown
Jacksonville will develop in a disconnected, inefficient
manner and will not produce the outcome the community
desires—a vibrant, diverse center city with residents,
employees, visitors, entertainment, services, retail, and
interesting destinations. Rather, downtown will become a
hodgepodge of individual economic development efforts,
resulting in a disjointed urban fabric.
Once the key themes from these plans are coalesced into
a single comprehensive vision, the panel recommends
that two groups be formed to shepherd its implementa-
tion. Several key people clearly are committed to making
a strong city center for Jacksonville. However, their efforts
seem to have been somewhat siloed. To create a great
city, Jacksonville must not only identify and empower the
champions who will lead the implementation efforts but
also bring these people together to collaboratively make
decisions that will shape Jacksonville’s future.
The panel proposes an organizational structure that has
proven successful in downtowns nationwide. It includes a
decision-making body, a stakeholder group that will ensure
that implementation happens in a way that works best for
the community, and a community engagement component
to debate, discuss, and direct downtown’s future.
The panel identified potential individuals and organiza-
tions that should be involved in each of the three groups,
Moving from Planning to Action
“Authority must align with responsibility,” says Tom
Murphy, former mayor of Pittsburgh and a ULI senior
resident fellow. Those who are given the responsibility
must be given the authority to act. This is a key
principle for achieving results.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
but entities may have been overlooked or over time these
participants may need to be adjusted. The following groups
should be organized to move from planning to action:
Downtown Executive Team;
Downtown Jacksonville Community Stakeholder Group;
Public Engagement Group.
Downtown Executive Team
This group is convened by the mayor and consists of
senior-level executives who serve as the champions for
the transformation of downtown Jacksonville. Creating
this group will bring together senior leadership of both
public and private sector organizations so the perspec-
tives and resources of both are at the table. Their job is to
identify the resources needed, to build the budgets and
the schedules, and to assign projects and responsibilities
to organizations and individuals. They then will hold them-
selves and others accountable for achieving these results.
JTA, among others, will have leadership roles on this team.
This group is a public/private partnership that is modeled
after groups that exist in downtowns throughout the coun-
try but, more specifically, is modeled after the committee
tasked with implementing the Downtown Denver Area
Plan. A group like this is fundamental for success, because
it coordinates interagency efforts and becomes the cham-
pion for the projects (small and large) that will transform
downtown Jacksonville into the vibrant, diverse community
that its constituents desire.
Groups like these nationwide are also tasked with (and
doing a good job of) explaining why downtowns are so
important to the health of their entire regions. This is
their first—and perhaps most important—job because
they must reverse the pattern of decades-long disinvest-
ment in downtowns and their surrounding neighborhoods.
Over time, these groups see a reversal of the downtown
disinvestment trend and gain momentum and confidence
that comes from experiencing even small successes. They
often become the strongest and most effective civic lead-
ership group in the entire region. They learn how to engage
as civic leaders and become skilled advocates at the local,
state, and regional levels.
Whether for a transit project, housing policy, or some other
civic issue, downtown leadership in many U.S. cities is at
the forefront. Downtown leaders succeed by becoming
champions and engaging their communities in their work.
Duties of the Downtown Executive Team should include
the following:
Evaluate the already established objectives for
Establish priorities and time frames for implementation;
Coordinate public and private resources (TIF, capital
improvement projects, etc.);
Review and reevaluate the Implementation Plan annually
to prepare work programs and readjust priorities as
opportunities arise;
Receive public input and guidance from Jacksonville
Community Stakeholder Group; and
Celebrate and publicize accomplishments.
Downtown Executive Team
City of Jacksonville
Mayor’s Office
Department of Planning and Development
Department of Public Works
Department of Parks, Recreation, and
Community Services
Downtown Investment Authority
Jacksonville Transit Authority
Note: The executive body could appoint additional executive team
members through amendments to the bylaws.
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
Downtown Jacksonville Community
Stakeholder Group
The plans that exist for downtown Jacksonville were devel-
oped with the input and influence of a variety of stakehold-
ers, including a Citizens Planning Advisory Committee
(CPAC) that is a mayoral-appointed group composed of
residents living in the urban core (from State and Union on
the north to the St. Johns River on the south). The panel
recommends forming an expanded downtown Jacksonville
Stakeholder Group that includes downtown residents (such
as those who serve on the Urban Core CPAC) and other
civic leaders to inform the Downtown Executive Team of
the public’s recommendations for downtown.
Community leadership and direction can emerge from this
stakeholder group. Although they are not the implement-
ers, they can help make sure that implementation happens
and that it happens in a way that works best for the
community. They serve as something of a proxy for the
community and can take the pulse of stakeholders’
opinion, provide feedback, and provide a platform for
downtown leadership development.
Duties of the Downtown Jacksonville Community
Stakeholder Group include the following:
Meet on a regular basis (quarterly);
Endorse the Downtown Executive Team’s priority
projects and policies;
Identify ways in which the community can support such
projects and policies; and
Be the “eyes on the street” for the Downtown Executive
Team, informing them of new opportunities and threats
to the implementation of the downtown Vision.
Public Engagement Group
The panel recommends creating a comprehensive public
participation and outreach process that is grassroots in
nature, including the following elements:
Public meetings;
Online surveys;
Outreach to specific stakeholder groups; and
Educational sessions focused on particular topics.
These events should be coordinated in a way that is com-
munity driven and location based.
Community engagement is needed in debating, discussing,
and directing downtown’s future. This cannot involve just
a single group of downtown stakeholders or a near-term
effort but instead must actively involve many people
and groups for a sustained period of time. Regular and
two-way communication is important. This will make for a
stronger and more robust downtown revitalization.
Community Stakeholder Group
Neighborhood leaders
Large employers
Arts and cultural institutions
Public School District and higher education institutions
Faith-based organizations
Environmental groups
Historic preservation groups
Bike and pedestrian advocacy groups
Convention and Visitors Bureau
Chambers of commerce (including affinity group
ULI North Florida
American Institute of Architects
Note: This is a cursory list developed by the panel. Additional
stakeholders may need to be included as required.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
the potential to serve as a model for how to implement a
fully automated, on-demand transportation system. Never-
theless, technology does not make cities great: rather, the
people who live, work, and play in the city and the places it
provides for them to do so are a city’s greatest asset. The
panel sees a bright future for downtown Jacksonville, but
it will take a much more concerted, deliberate, and long-
term effort to achieve the vision laid out in this report.
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
About the Panel
Ladd Keith
Panel Chair
Tuscon, Arizona
Keith is an assistant professor in planning and sustain-
able built environments and chair of the Sustainable Built
Environments program at the University of Arizona. He
researches policy innovation in planning, including the use
of climate science in the planning and design of cities.
He has affiliations with CLIMAS (Climate Assessment for
the Southwest) and CCASS (Center for Climate Adapta-
tion Science and Solutions). He has taught a number of
courses, including planning for urban resilience, sustain-
able design and planning, public participation, and
planning theory.
Keith also currently serves on the city of Tucson’s Planning
Commission where, as chair, he led the commission’s
public participation process for Plan Tucson: General &
Sustainability Plan 2013, which guides city planning policy
for the next decade.
An active member of the Urban Land Institute, Keith has
participated on several Advisory Services panels. He also
served as a council member on the Sustainable Develop-
ment Council, was chair of ULI Southern Arizona, and was
a founding member of the ULI Center for Sustainability
Advisory Board, ULI Next, and ULI Southern Arizona Young
Leaders Group. In 2016, Keith was recognized as one of
ULI’s 40 under 40, who represent the best young land
use professionals from around the globe, as selected by
members of ULI.
Marcel Acosta
Washington, D.C.
As executive director of the federal government’s central
planning agency, Acosta leads a team of urban planners,
architects, historic preservationists, and other profes-
sionals who are committed to preserving and enhancing
the extraordinary qualities of America’s capital city and
national capital region. The National Capital Planning
Commission (NCPC) provides long-term planning guidance
for federal land and buildings in the region, and approves
memorials and museums, civic buildings, federal instal-
lations, and public spaces and parks through its design
review process.
Before joining NCPC in 2001, Acosta served as senior vice
president of planning and development for the Chicago
Transit Authority, the nation’s second-largest public
transport system, and held the position of deputy commis-
sioner for the city of Chicago’s Department of Planning and
Development. He was a federal government appointee to
the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board
of directors from 2010 to 2014.
Acosta received a master’s degree in urban and regional
planning from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and
was appointed a Loeb fellow at the Harvard University
Graduate School of Design.
Amitabh Barthakur
Los Angeles, California
Barthakur’s core expertise is centered on economic evalu-
ation of land use and environmental policy decisions. He
assists developers and public agencies to balance land use
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
strategies that are economically viable in the marketplace
and fiscally sustainable in terms of their impact to public
Throughout his career, Barthakur has led a wide range of
projects in the areas of land use economics, land use and
environmental policy, strategic planning, and tourism and
hospitality for a variety of public and private clients. In the
United States his clients include the cities of Los Angeles
and San Diego, the state of California, Walt Disney Parks
and Resorts, Credit Suisse First Boston, Dallas Fort Worth
International Airport, and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
Internationally Barthakur has advised the Delhi Mumbai
Industrial Corridor Development Corporation in India,
Economic Zones Company in Qatar, Khazanah Nasional
Berha in Malaysia, the city of Kunming in China, Reliance
ADA Group and the DLF Group in India, and Ascendas and
Grupo CIE in Mexico.
Before joining HR&A, Barthakur was a vice president with
AECOM and served as regional director for the planning,
design, and development business line for AECOM in
India. Earlier, he led AECOM’s economics practice in the
US-West region and served as the Global Practice leader
for the firm’s economic planning and real estate market
sector. Before joining AECOM, He was a principal with
Economics Research Associates in Los Angeles, until the
two firms merged in 2007.
Barthakur is a member of the American Institute of
Certified Planners, American Planning Association,
Urban Land Institute, and Council of Architecture (India).
Between 2010 and 2012 he served as a board member
of the US-India Energy Cooperation Program ( ECP) and
headed the Energy Efficient Buildings working group
under the ECP.
He holds a master’s in urban planning with an emphasis in
economic development and a master’s in building science
from the University of Southern California. He also holds a
bachelor’s of architecture from the School of Planning and
Architecture in New Delhi, India.
Neal Payton
Los Angeles, California
Payton is a principal at Torti Gallas + Partners, where
he created and directs the firm’s West Coast office in
downtown Los Angeles. Focused on the infill and refill of
cities and towns, he leads the office’s efforts at designing
residential and mixed-use buildings in urban and urbaniz-
ing locations and in the development and redevelopment of
neighborhoods and downtowns. Working across scales, he
focuses his efforts on common themes such as connectiv-
ity to transit networks, a focus on walkable urbanism, infill,
public participation in the design process, and the inextri-
cability of urban design from economic development. His
article titled “Transit Oriented Development” is included in
the recently published Architects of Community: The Work
of Torti Gallas + Partners (Vendome, 2017).
Before arriving in California, Payton codirected Torti
Gallas’s urban design efforts in its Washington, D.C.,
area office. His efforts have been honored multiple times
with national awards for urban design from the American
Institute of Architects, the Congress for the New Urbanism,
and the Urban Land Institute, among other organizations.
Payton has a bachelor of architecture from Carnegie Mel-
lon University and a master of architecture from Syracuse
University and has served on the architecture faculties
of the University of Virginia, Washington University in
St. Louis, Rice University, and the Catholic University
of America.
Jamie Simchik
Boston, Massachusetts
Simchik is the principal of Simchik Planning & Develop-
ment in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Simchik Planning &
Development is an urban/transportation planning and real
estate redevelopment advisory services firm that manages
its clients’ projects throughout their entire life cycle to
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
shape the highest and best use of the built form. Simchik
Planning & Development works with real estate develop-
ment firms to assist with urban planning, transportation
planning, market feasibility, public engagement, and
project management.
Before this current role, Simchik was a principal planner
at Fort Hill Companies, an architectural, engineering, and
urban planning firm with offices in Massachusetts and
Florida. He was also a public engagement assistant with
Regina Villa Associates, undertaking public outreach for
sewer separation and road reconstruction capital improve-
ment projects in Massachusetts. In addition, he was a
research planner with Connor Holmes, an urban planning
consulting firm in South Australia, collaborating on a vari-
ety of projects for government and private clients.
Simchik is a member of the ULI Urban Development &
Mixed-Use Product Council (Purple Flight) and ULI Boston
Infrastructure Council. He is an active ULI Boston Urban-
Plan volunteer, 2018 ULI Hines Student Competition jury
member, 2017 ULI Boston Partnership Forum participant,
and 2015 ULI Michigan Larson Center for Leadership
alumni. He has co-chaired several ULI technical assistance
panels and participated in the ULI Advisory Services panel
in Bellevue, Washington. Simchik graduated from Colgate
University and has a master’s of business administration,
master’s of urban planning, and graduate certificate in real
estate development from the University of Michigan.
Julie Underdahl
Denver, Colorado
Underdahl is the president and CEO of the Cherry Creek
North Business Improvement District (BID) and has served
in that role since 2007. Cherry Creek North is a grow-
ing, high-end commercial and residential district known
for its walkability, the strength of its businesses, and its
high-quality building and streetscape design. Historically
Cherry Creek North was a small-scale, retail-only district
with a local clientele. Today it is an urban center with a
mix of land uses drawing national and international visitors
and companies. Cherry Creek is the most visited tourism
destination in Colorado and a major financial employment
center; it has the highest concentration of fine shopping
and dining establishments and of wealth management
professionals employed in the region.
The BID provides marketing, streetscape, management,
and advocacy services for businesses in its service area
and is the second-largest BID in Colorado in revenues.
Under Underdahl’s leadership, the BID issued bonds to
finance and build “The New North,” an $18.5 million
districtwide streetscape and onstreet parking improvement
project. Cherry Creek North was the first BID in Colorado,
and one of the first in the country, to issue its own bonds.
As a part of the project, the BID successfully reopened a
formerly vacant pedestrian plaza to limited vehicular traffic
and created a new space for events and adjacent mixed-
use development. Underdahl played a leadership role in
initiating and completing a new city area plan for Cherry
Creek and the subsequent rezoning of the district. Both
have led to an unprecedented level of financial investment
and redevelopment activity in Cherry Creek North. She also
helped create the Cherry Creek Area Business Alliance, a
new business advocacy organization for the larger area.
Before she joined Cherry Creek North, Underdahl’s
career was in economic development. She recruited
companies nationally and internationally to Denver and
helped plan and implement the development of major
sites such the former airport, closed military bases, and
the airport environs.
Underdahl’s civic and professional leadership includes
serving as the chair of the City and County of Denver
Planning Board, on the executive committee of the Metro
Denver Visitor and Convention Center Bureau, and on
the board of the International Downtown Association.
She is also a member of ULI Colorado’s Recreation,
Entertainment, Tourism and Leisure Council and on the
board of the Denver Sports Commission.
She graduated magna cum laude from the University of
Colorado, Boulder, and holds a master’s degree in urban
and regional planning from Eastern Washington University.
Jacksonville, Florida, June 17–22, 2018
Cassie Wright
Amarillo, Texas
Wright is a real estate development and urban planning
consultant with over 15 years of experience in the private,
public, and nonprofit sectors. Currently located in Amarillo,
Texas, Wright offers real estate development and asset
management services, urban planning expertise, and
community development resources to the Texas panhandle
and beyond.
Before relocating to west Texas, Wright was the develop-
ment director for Urban Ventures LLC, a Denver-based real
estate development company that is dedicated to creating
healthy, sustainable communities. There, she worked on all
aspects of real estate development, from land acquisition
to project close-out. She tested the financial feasibility
of projects, actively participated in the site planning and
design processes, developed marketing strategies, and
coordinated all project management.
While at Urban Ventures, Wright intensively focused on
the relationship between the built environment and healthy
living. In this role, she researched and implemented best
practices and health-based programming to foster com-
munity development that promoted social cohesion and
positive well-being. Her primary projects included Cultivate
Health, Aria Denver, Aria Cohousing Community, and
STEAM on the Platte.
Wright’s other professional experience is diverse and
includes a variety of work in economic development, mul-
timodal transportation initiatives, infrastructure planning,
environmental sustainability, neighborhood revitalization,
and adaptive use. She holds a master of city planning
degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in
sociology/anthropology from St. Olaf College.
Printed on recycled paper.
2001 L Street, NW
Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036-4948
A ULI Advisory Services Panel Report
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