Now that it is possible to fully reflect on the year that was 2014 it is safe to say it was the most energized and productive 12 months seen in Jacksonville in decades! EU Jacksonville invites you to be inspired by our listing of the 14 Best Things of 2014. And by all means share your own opinion: if you think there is something monumental we overlooked, if you truly disagree that our choices are worthy or if you want to compliment us on our taste, please do so at our Facebook page.
14. Street Food Makes a Home in Jax!
The line between street food and sit-down restaurant food continues to blur, embodied perfectly on the 800-block of Post Street in 5 Points. There, the hungry can choose between food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar Corner Taco and Hawkers, a full-service restaurant that promises cuisine typically sold out of food carts found on streets throughout Asia. The uniting concept of “street food” here defined is a wide variety of choices offered casually and inexpensively. Any place you can leave feeling full after spending $10 (that is not a chain drive-thru!) is a contender. Food trucks offer variety and flexibility; it’s now impossible to imagine a Jacksonville event without them! Next to Kuhn Flowers on Beach Blvd the Food Truck Food Court operates weekdays from 11-2. Whether operated out of a truck or setting down roots in a permanent home, these gourmet fast food alternatives are on a roll. (Har, har!)
2014 saw Uber & Lyft become frequent choices for many Jacksonvillians. While the 2 app-based brands occupy a legal gray area compared to conventional taxis, their focus on customer service is inarguable. This year the city stepped in and saved the river taxis, a valuable and fun transportation option. JTA made permanent its Riverside Trolley Night the first weekends of every month. In this huge city, the more ways we have to get around the better.
12. Sports Records
You do not need to move to become a megafan of a winning team, just look to the Suns. Post to Post Links II error: No link found for term slug "jacksonville-suns" won their fourth Southern League title in a decade. Hoo-hah! Another sports record achieved in Jacksonville was when the US Mens National Team played Nigeria before a Florida-record attendance of 52,000+ screaming soccer fans. Everbank Field would provide the MNT the second-largest crowd they played before all year, including World Cup matches. Let’s make sure they return!
And, oh yeah, the Post to Post Links II error: No link found for term slug "jaguars". Well… Bortles shows promise, the Jags offer more entertaining trick plays and fourth quarter drama than many other teams and those pools sure are getting attention. And, yes, Shad Khan’s video boards are the largest in the NFL and 12th largest in the world!
SAFE AND SOUND – NO Hurricanes came even close to threatening Northeast Florida.
10. The Arc of History is Long But Bends Towards Justice. And Chickens!
In area legal developments, Chip Southworth did not see jail time or a trial for his Keith Haring’s Ghost street art that emblazoned messages of love and acceptance on drab roadside utility boxes. Michael Dunn was sentenced to 90 years in prison for the senseless murder of Jordan Davis. And chickens were legalized. As of January 2014 the city issues backyard hen permits.
9. Nordstrom Comes to Town
For years shoppers have longed for the day that Seattle-based department store Nordstrom might see fit to open in Jacksonville. This number one retailer brought its famed customer service to the St. Johns Town Center with a Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack.
8. If You Think That Love Isn’t Found On The Radio…
Then you haven’t been listening to WJCT 89.9FM! We love our local public radio stars, including Swamp Radio (pictured). Al Letson’s State of the Re:Union continues to win Edward R. Murrow Awards for outstanding achievement in electronic journalism and was recently credited by Slate as producing one of the top 25 podcast episodes ever! First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, providing essential information every morning, further bolstered its local cred this year by changing its theme to one written by local talent, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra violinist Piotr Szewczyk. WJCT’s nighttime musical offerings, particularly David Luckin’s Electro Lounge, Bob Bednar’s This Is Jazz, and Matthew and Andrew on Lost in the Stacks, are superb.
7. Sweet Pete’s and The Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails
One of downtown Jacksonville’s former jewels is experiencing a rebirth, the Seminole Club. For close to one hundred years the Seminole Club operated downtown as a private dining and social club for the Jacksonville power structure; and only men could be members. Located at the corner of Hogan and Duval, the building has been restored and reimagined, thanks to an impressive partnership that includes the Behringers of Sweet Pete’s, the Earnests of The Chef’s Garden, the Cottrills of River City Contractors and Marcus Lemonis (TV’s “The Profit”). Now open as Sweet Pete’s and The Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails, the former private club is open to all and offers excitement and surprises for all ages.
Bonus! If you didn’t get a chance to see the episode of “The Profit” featuring Sweet Pete’s, here’s a clip:
6. Equality for (Almost) All
On September 27, 2014, Equality Florida held a sold out gala at the Florida Yacht Club. Not so very long ago it would have been unthinkable that an organization dedicated to “securing equality and justice for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community” might find a warm welcome inside a redoubt of old school Jacksonville right in the heart of Ortega. Times have surely changed and changes like this are a sure sign our city is growing up. The event was well attended by gay and straight people alike, including honorees John Delaney, Maria Mark and Pat Geraghty (pictured). The cities of Neptune and Atlantic Beach both enshrined equality into local law. (The huge sore thumb here is obviously Jacksonville!) And just one more little thing… Marriage equality came to Florida! The ban was ruled unconstitutional in multiple courts and definitively in August by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle. In December the US Supreme Court refused to grant a stay and just today Judge Hinkle clarified that his ruling applies statewide. Despite the objections of conservative clerks of court, including Duval’s own Ronnie Fussell, there is every reason to expect marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples throughout the Sunshine State beginning January 6.
5. Hemming Park
Our oldest public space, Hemming Park has seen better days. And will again! In 2014 the city turned over management of Hemming to a private nonprofit organization, Friends of Hemming Park. Already improvements are evident, with more events and more concessions operating within the park. Hemming Park is the heart of downtown and the team effort going into its revitalization is inspiring. Though it has been building for a while now 2014 is the year it became apparent that Jacksonville has a city center again, and it’s Hemming Park. A family can enjoy a day at the library, the park, MOCA and Sweet Pete’s, and even protest (or compliment) leadership at City Hall. Just head downtown and see what’s happening.
4. BEST NEW FEST: Springfield’s PorchFest
Ask anyone who was there, Springfield’s first ever PorchFest was a perfect way to spend a day! Strolling the streets of Springfield on a fall day, stopping in front of numerous beautiful homes to soak in the sounds of the best musical acts Jacksonville has to offer, taking a break for a bite from a food truck and maybe a libation… It was heavenly.
3. One Spark Burning Bright
The second year of One Spark drew about 260,000 people to downtown Jacksonville over its five days, double the inaugural year’s attendance. The One Spark crew also took our homegrown crowdfunding festival international by launching One Spark: Berlin.
The boob that started a movement… But enough about Clay Yarborough! Ah, the jokes write themselves. And were enjoyed by the boisterous crowd who rallied in support of artistic expression during the Art Walk one week after the city council president’s complaint made headlines.
What makes this the second greatest thing to happen in Jax in 2014 is much bigger than the tempest in a tit surrounding Angela Strassheim’s Project Atrium exhibition*. It is the culmination of years of transition. In this moment the creative community came together to say, “We will not be intimidated. We represent this city. As much or more so than one reactionary elected official.” And the creatives won the day. Alvin Brown did not give in to Yarborough’s demand to rescind city funding of the art museum.#IStandWithMOCA made visible a change that has been building for years, that the reins of this city are now in the hands of a new creative class determined to achieve greatness, including Tony Allegretti at the Cultural Council, Hope McMath at the Cummer Museum, MOCA’s Marcelle Polednik, community activists like Wayne Wood, publishers, bloggers, artists and everyday folk. For many years there was a sense that “they” ran this city; now “we” do.
*Apologies to the artist in the center of all this, Angela Strassheim, whose tender, quiet work is not deserving of a politician’s scorn or this writer’s sophomoric japes. The art transcends the debate; I highly recommend a visit to the MOCA before the exhibition ends March 1.
1. We Can Have Nice Things
THE FRESH MARKET OPENED!
After scrolling through all these great things going on in Jacksonville you’re going to tell me that the best thing in 2014 is the opening of a chain grocery store?! Yes. Yes I am. For a very specific reason: The Fresh Market opening in Brooklyn is a harbinger. For decades the stretch between downtown and Riverside has been desolate. One or two things would click into place then fall victim to poor urban planning. Riverside and 5 Points thrive while Downtown continues to struggle mightily. 2014 is the year that changed. Not just with one grocery store, for it would not be there without the exciting residential developments around it. As Brooklyn fills in, downtown will no longer feel like an island, isolated by highways, train tracks and bridges. It will begin to be anchored to a thriving community. The Fresh Market and all the development around it is screaming, “Downtown, we’re coming for you! Don’t give up!”
Honorable MentionsSculpture Walk, Trader Joe’s, Eco Relics, C.A.S.K., Brew, Whit’s, Adecco moves offices to downtown, San Marco Blvd. reconstruction completed, the Memorial Park Association, Cultural Council awards inside Marble Bank (produced by Artivores), and finally… So many big plans for our city were announced in 2014, the only reason they didn’t make the list is that so far they are plans only. From the Cowford Chophouse (planned for the Bostwick building) to the Barnett to Healthy Town to all the excitement of Unity Plaza to the pièce de résistance, a boutique Marriott and Scotty Schwartz restaurant slated to occupy the Laura Street Trio…
Truly the best thing about 2014 in Jacksonville is looking forward to 2015 and beyond!