Living Downtown: A Manhattan Native’s Perspective

Submitted by Downtown resident Patricia Sterling

“When I retire I want to go home,” said my future spouse not long after we started dating in 2005. He was born and raised in Jacksonville but left in 1977. I’m a native of Manhattan and lifelong resident of the NY tri-state area.  Like others from that region, I thought Florida started in Daytona and ended in Key West. Jacksonville? Where was it? What kind of place was it? I found out when my husband accepted an early retirement package and we headed south in October 2011.

I’m not a natural fit for living in a gated community. Thankfully, my husband had purchased a condo Downtown in The Peninsula before we met. The grand 38-story building on the Southbank of the St. Johns has a terrific, diverse community of residents (from MDs to Jaguars), and spectacular views of the river and city skyline. Most importantly, to a transitioning Manhattanite, our home is within walking distance of good food, shopping, entertainment, museums and so much more.

A little more than a year after relocating to Jacksonville, I tell family and friends back in the northeast that it’s a stunning port city with plenty of character, grace and vibrancy. I say that people here are uniquely and consistently friendly, that even Floridians from other regions of the state remark on it. If I were asked to come up with a tagline for Jax it would be something like First Port City of FL – Coastal Splendor, Southern Hospitality, Urban Style.

I hear and read a lot about the obstacles to revitalizing downtown – perceived crime, lack of public transportation, city budget deficits, everybody out at the malls, etc.  But I lived in New York City during the 70s when it was on the brink of bankruptcy.  I’ve seen broken neighborhoods in the five boroughs transform against all odds.  When citizens of a city want a central place to connect with experiences and other citizens, they find a way to create it. That’s why I believe Downtown will ultimately flourish. It has too much heart and it’s too gorgeous not to.

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