A Personal Introduction to UNITY PLAZA Our city's modern-day Central Park under construction in Riverside

Thanks to the generosity of Will, Shelley and Rachel Henley – friends to all and the family behind EU – I am now privileged to share a monthly article providing you the intimate details and inside scoop behind the development of our city’s modern-day Central Park, Unity Plaza, coming to life in Jacksonville at 220 Riverside Avenue in the fall of this year. In each issue this year, I will provide an update regarding all aspects of the project; its business plan, event calendar, programming, restaurant development, amphitheater design, greenspace additions, staffing, board membership opportunities, and soft as well as massive grand opening details. Stay closely tuned!
As I’ll be on the property almost daily and look forward to meeting you in person next year, in this first submission please allow me to make a proper introduction. My name is Jen Jones, and I have been a gallery owner and a residential, corporate and healthcare art consultant in Jacksonville, Florida, from 1998-2013. It has been an honor to serve the visual arts community both here and abroad as well to serve in the position of Visual Arts Chair for the JAX Chamber Board of Directors, the boards of the Cathedral Arts Project and Patrons of the Hearts and the Dean’s Leadership Council at the University of North Florida Library.
However, I believe wholeheartedly the activities which best prepared me for developing this project for our community were the years serving as president of the Avondale Merchant Association and overseeing the visioning, redesign, grant-writing and ultimate execution of the restoration of the Shoppes of Avondale from 2002-2007. Also formative was my life as an art dealer at R. Roberts Gallery, where we introduced ground breaking and art historic shows featuring famed creators such as Renoir & the Impressionists, Picasso, Miro & the Spanish Masters, Peter Max, Dr. Seuss and so on. My favorite part was utilizing the fame of the historic greats to elevate the immense talent thriving and creating in Jacksonville. To serve in this fashion, supporting not only the visual artists, but bringing the best local, regional and national performing artists, health and well-being gurus, leadership educators and so much more as a public servant, is my dream job.
Unity Plaza is modeled after the top ten best outdoor spaces in the nation – primarily Bryant Park in NYC and Pioneer Courthouse Square, affectionately termed by Portlandian’s as Portland’s “Living Room,” in Portland, Oregon. Unity Plaza will be a beacon of local, regional and globally beloved entertainment, enrichment, education and electrifying community engagement activities. This unique campus will be seated in front of and surrounding 220 Riverside, with a mix of 18,000+ sq ft of indoor and outdoor restaurants. It will be several acres including a state-of-the-art amphitheater. As an urban gathering space, it is dedicated to supporting performing and visual arts, leadership, integrative health and environmental programming and community education and engagement. NAI Hallmark Partners, the visionary team behind this park and the Jacksonville-dedicated real estate developers providing rebirth to Brooklyn and building a more “walkable” urban core in this region, established it. Over the period of a decade, and during three mayoral administrations, it was grown thoughtfully and methodically in order to become a premier “Central Park” to uplift and inspire Jacksonville every day of the year.
I invite everyone to contact me directly to inquire about engaging in this project. Very excitingly, this space is for you and established to truly elevate the city of Jacksonville. Next month, look forward to thrilling and specific updates. Here’s a teaser: BIKESHARE!