A Different View of ‘City Center’
Denise Reagan’s Editor’s Note in response to a letter-writer’s praise of the St. Johns Town Center points out several things [“Town Center Cannot Be Town Square,” Sept. 11].
First, the letter-writer finds much to like and to do at the Town Center, and it’s not just shopping. Reagan sees the Town Center as a place to shop, not a destination for other activities.
Second, both writers have a different view of the great city concept. The letter-writer seems to think of a “city center” as a place where he and his friends are attracted to what such a center has to offer on a repetitive basis. He is thinking locally and not what might attract visitors to the city.
Reagan also wants a “city center” that is attractive to locals but also to visitors from outside Jacksonville. In this, she seems to me to be somewhat confused. She talks about attractions that might make Jacksonville a destination for visitors; things like a world-class aquarium or the proposed USS Charles F. Adams museum ship. They may very well attract some outsiders to Jacksonville (though I am opposed to the USS Adams project, and I am a retired Navy officer), but something else must keep them here.
She also talks about our museums and the Main Library. Such things are unlikely to make Jacksonville a destination for travellers and they have limited function as city centerpieces for locals. I enjoy the Cummer, MOCA and the Karpeles whenever I visit, but they are not attractions that bring people back every week or even every month. They are not draws to the core because, with the exception of MOCA, once you are done, another attraction, restaurant or nice place to walk is a car drive away. Even MOCA’s surroundings, although there are other things to do within walking distance, require a walk you may not want to do in the dark.
A city center is someplace you can go to on any day of the week, day or night and find some enjoyment even if it’s just walking around, getting a quick bite and enjoying the people-watching. Downtown Jacksonville has a long way to go in that regard.
Reagan especially should think more about what she sees as a vibrant city center. If you are going for a destination for travellers to stop and then find more to do than what drew them initially, you need the big-ticket attraction like an aquarium but lots of other things surrounding it. The Baltimore Inner Harbor comes to mind. It’s a world-class aquarium with dozens and dozens of other things to do, all within walking distance. Also, remember that a world-class aquarium is not something locals visit frequently, but in Baltimore there are lots of things that draw locals day and night, weekdays and weekends to the Inner Harbor.
Don’t Move Andrew Jackson Statue
In regard to the Backpage Editorial, “A Better Home Needed for Andrew Jackson” [Aug. 28], I cannot disagree more.
The Andrew Jackson statue is currently in the center of Downtown activity where it should remain. For Downtown to succeed as a destination, we must have a core of activity, and the Laura Street beautification project has given us a renewed start. From The Jacksonville Landing to Hemming Plaza, this corridor is the middle of activity for Art Walk and regular events at The Landing, such as weekly walking tours and concerts. Yearly events including Jazz Fest, One Spark and football games all take advantage of the Laura Street core from Independent Drive to Duval Street. The statue is proudly displayed for all to see in its current core location across from The Landing.
The editorial opinion stated that the new Duval County Courthouse should be considered as a new location for the statue. This proposed placement is several blocks from the main visitor core. The costly suggestion of relocating Andrew Jackson inside the secure building would certainly diminish it as a landmark. If any money was allocated for the courthouse property, a better consideration may be to put in sidewalks to make it pedestrian-friendly.
The opinion also offered the alternative to move the Andrew Jackson statue to Hemming Plaza. In one respect, it’s a good point if you were to consider the history of the park. Hemming Plaza was our first city park and was donated by the city founder, Isaiah Hart, in 1857. However, Hemming Plaza already has a large Confederate Memorial statue with a fountain dominating the center of the park. There is also a statue of U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett, several historical placards and a particular group of residents who deter visitors from walking into the park. So spending money to move the Andrew Jackson statue to a corner of Hemming Plaza is also less than optimal. If there was money to be spent on the park, it should be applied to creating public events in the park, not adding a statue. If we wanted to tie Andrew Jackson to our most historic park, consider placing a small identifier next to the magnolia tree, which is a descendant of the Andrew Jackson Southern Magnolia tree on the White House lawn.
The Andrew Jackson statue should clearly remain a visible landmark to be enjoyed by the largest number of locals and visitors. The current location of our statue in the center of a traffic circle is consistent with the placement of many statues in Washington, D.C., and other cities to visit. It is an honor for the statue to be in the center of Downtown activity and be a part of our growing heritage tourism.