by erin thursby
Following up on our commitment to the Go LO initiative, we’re encouraging folks to buy local, shop local and eat local. This month, our Go LO spotlight is on Downtown. For those willing to explore it, there’s more to Downtown than most people in Jacksonville know. With that in mind, we’re giving you a quick guide to just some of what Downtown has to offer, and the resources to find the rest.
Three major performance venues Downtown cater to the desires of the city. At the Veteran’s Memorial Arena this year, you’ll find Kenny Chesney, a beer festival, the Jacksonville Sharks, Cirque du Soleil and more. The Florida Theatre hosts everything from local events to national headliners. The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Artist Series with national tours of musicals (like Shrek in May) and international performers. It’s also home to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
Milt Russos, Executive Director of The Artist Series/Broadway (presented by Florida State College at Jacksonville), finds the Downtown T-U Center for the Preforming Arts to be a wonderful match for their needs. “Downtown Jacksonville is perfect for The Artist Series as it’s a central location that is easily accessible from the North, South, East and West including the nearby Interstate 10 and Interstate 95. Adjacent to the theater, there is plenty of parking, numerous restaurants and convenient lodging for out-of-town patrons,” says Russos.
Family activities and shopping can be found at the Landing. From there, you can ferry across the St. Johns or enjoy the Riverwalk. The view of the river and the Riverwalk is one of the reasons Downtown is a popular place for charities to hold fundraising events such as walks/runs.
If your activities involve less sunshine and more alcohol, there are a number of popular watering holes along Bay Street such as TSI, the Dive Bar and Mark’s. Dos Gatos, The Ivy, Lit and The Sinclair should also be on your radar. Downtown’s newest bar is Burro Bar, where London Bridge Pub used to be. It’s brought to you by the folks from the home-grown Burro Bag brand. This local bar will be serving local brew such as Bold City and Intuition. There will be events, D.J.s and live music throughout the week, and they plan to host jazz events during the Jacksonville Jazz Festival.
During the monthly Art Walk, you’ll find established galleries and Off-the Grid locations. During Art Walk, various businesses will display local art. Hemming Plaza features artsy vendors, and you can pop in to one of the more than a dozen galleries Downtown. See our story on Downtown galleries on page 11. The MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville) is free and open to the public during Art Walks, though you can pay to go during their regular hours. Family friendly activities and programs for tots to adults can be found at the Main Library, right next to the MOCA. The MOSH (The Museum of Science and History) and the Maritime Museum are two Downtown museums that get traffic from kids and adults.
For the sports-minded individual, Downtown has Everbank Field, home to the Jags. There are also the minor league Jacksonville Suns at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, our newest basketball team, the Giants, and our arena football team, the Jacksonville Sharks.
Peppered with lots of breakfast and lunch venues, many of Downtown’s eateries are only open during the week in the day time to feed the hordes of office workers.
One of the most popular places to catch a bite is the new Farah’s Uptown Deli, in the middle of everything on Hogan Street. They open early (7 am) for a hearty breakfast. Lunch service has all the usual suspects you’d find at a deli. We also hear the grouper is excellent. For a book, coffee and a bite, head over to Chamblin’s Uptown Cafe. The book store has surprisingly good sandwiches, including some vegetarian options. On the Southbank there’s the swanky b.b.’s for a business dinner or lunch, which you can wash down with one of their martinis. Or you can hang with the cool kids on the Northbank core at the Burrito Gallery. The BG has a bar and a stage in back and is an Art Walk hotspot, because they always display a gallery show of local art.
Local Goods and Services
Downtown is honeycombed with independently owned shops. We couldn’t possibly cover them all, and Downtown Vision Inc.’s website has an excellent, searchable directory of whatever good or service you might need, but here’s a sampling of the diverse businesses and services you’ll find there.
The Daniel James Salon is located inside the historic Drew building, with an atrium and several floors. You might not find this Aveda-certified salon on West Bay Street if you weren’t looking for it. Salon owner and master stylist Daniel James has had 30 years at the shears, and he loves what he does, guiding people to that perfect look. Says James on the salon’s website, “I consider it an honor when I hear a guest say, ‘I trust you, make me look the way you think I will look best.’” That sort of trust between client and stylist is exactly the reason folks choose to be a regular at a local salon.
New to Downtown is Fab*lis on Adams, a clothing and accessories retailer with sizes S to XL, and most items in the $30 range. The Letter Shop carries a lot of local fashion and accessory labels such as Arturo, Burro, Faction Habit, GrannyMachine, Thread Wizard and Tact.
Instead of a big-box art store, you can Go LO at Reddi-Arts for your art supplies on the Southbank. They also have a small local gallery and classes taught by home-grown artists.
When shopping for the kids (or with the kids), you’ll want to stop by The Toy Factory at the Jacksonville Landing. From vintage-based wind-ups and fantasy figures to the somehow cuddly Uglydolls and Hello Kitty stuff, you’re bound to find something unique.
There are a cadre of jewelers to be found Downtown. One of the oldest locally owned and operated jewelry stores in Jacksonville is Jacobs Jewelers, established in 1890. You can find everything from high-end men’s watches (such as Omega, Cyma and Patek Phillippe) and the finest in gemstones to excellent and unique estate jewelry. You can also buy Waterford crystal and ceramic items.
If you’re restoring an historic home or looking for just the right accent piece, Go LO at Architectural Accents and Antiques, which specializes in fine antiques and architectural detailing from the 17th to 19th centuries.
Pamela Elms of Downtown Vision, Inc, knows that “supporting our Downtown businesses is critical.” It’s personal purchase decisions that keep Downtown going. Says Elms, “Despite the economy, we all have necessity purchases. For example, Katherine Moore in our office is getting married. She made a conscious choice to purchase her rings from Hemming Plaza Jewelers, have her shoes custom dyed at Gus’s and host her bachelorette party at Dos Gatos and Mark’s. Her choices keep dollars flowing to these businesses and that keeps business and activity flowing in Downtown. It’s choices like hers that make a big difference.”
So the next time you need anything, from a haircut to a shoe repair or even historical crown molding to art supplies, Go LO Downtown, and make the choice that makes our city even better!
Downtown Vision, Inc. www.downtownjacksonville.org This well organized site has it all, from local businesses to upcoming Downtown events and improvements. It’s the go-to website for everything Downtown.
The Urban Core Blog theurbancoredotcom.blogspot.com Add this to your feed to get news on the Urban Core (which includes Downtown).
Make a Scene Downtown www.makeascenedowntown.com Great resource for low- or no- cost Downtown events.
Metro Jacksonville www.metrojacksonville.com While this site and its forums serve all of Jacksonville, it’s a good place to get the skinny on Downtown development and discussions.