Florida Times-Union: Hope is knocking on door of Hemming Plaza

Florida Times-Union article published on Friday, September 27, 2013, asks: “If Hemming Plaza is Jacksonville’s front door, could you blame a visitor for being reluctant to ring the bell?” This opinion piece calls for simple, practical steps to make Hemming Plaza more inviting for everyone:

“City officials don’t need to drum up a committee for ideas to immediately improve Hemming Plaza’s overall vibe.

They could simply re-read “Best Practices in Urban Parks.”

It’s the January 2012 report submitted by Downtown Vision Inc., one of Jacksonville’s main downtown advocacy groups, when a City Council special committee previously discussed Hemming Plaza’s future.

The report had plenty of common-sense ideas for improving Hemming Plaza’s appearance. Nearly two years later, those ideas remain just as sensible and worthwhile as ever.

“The issue is attracting more people to (Hemming Plaza),” says Terry Lorince, Downtown Vision’s executive director. “And there really are simple things you can do along the way.”

Hemming Plaza

From short-range to long-range, best practices in urban parks tend to fall into three categories:

  • Make the space clean, safe and attractive;
  • Create events and activities to bring visitors to the park; and
  • Redesign the space based on how the community wants to use it.

It is no mystery that thriving public spaces are essential to Downtown revitalization. Well-articulated and managed public spaces humanize their cities.  They serve as gathering places for social engagement. They capitalize on creative energy of the community and generate economic activity. They are inclusive and welcoming for all, including women and children.

DVI believes Hemming Plaza can once again become all of these things and stands committed to working alongside current and future partners to create an atmosphere that makes the urban park welcoming to the entire community by making it cleaner, safer, more attractive and programmed with lots to do throughout the week.