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Committee proposes private foundation for Hemming Plaza
The NASCAR #Gen6 Road to Daytona Fueled by Sunoco made a pit stop Tuesday Downtown at Hemming Plaza. Programming events is part of the plan for the plaza outlined Tuesday by the Hemming Plaza Committee of the Downtown Investment Authority.
The Hemming Plaza Committee of the Downtown Investment Authority, chaired by Jim Bailey, publisher of the Financial News & Daily Record, proposed Tuesday the creation of a private foundation to take over administration and programming of Hemming Plaza.

The organization outlined Tuesday would be called "H.A.R.T." – the Hemming Arts Recreation Team – after Isaiah Hart, the founder of Jacksonville who deeded to the City the land for the park.

If approved by the DIA, it would be a nonprofit 501c3 corporation supported entirely by private contributions. Its mission would be "to enhance Hemming Plaza through events, collaboration with local businesses and volunteerism."

Bailey said the proposal is based largely on the work done over the past two years by a City Council ad hoc committee on Hemming Plaza. It was chaired by Council member Denise Lee, who presented the ad hoc committee's findings to the investment authority in December. Lee attended the presentation Tuesday.

"This task is far more than to look at whatever potential Hemming Plaza has. This is an opportunity for us to unleash the potential in the plaza," Bailey said.

Possible partners for the organization include the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, the City Parks & Recreation Department, the Jacksonville Historical Society and Downtown Vision Inc.

Bailey said a group of founders would each make a tax-deductible contribution to establish the organization. He said the staff, including a director, grant writer, programmer, webmaster, volunteer coordinator and director of promotions and public relations, would primarily be volunteers.

The Florida Theatre Association has offered to provide assistance with programming and event management, Bailey said.

Possible sources of sustainable income for the organization include memberships, sponsorships, grants, sales of embossed bricks, dedication of street furniture and an adopt-a-tree program, according to the proposal.

Downtown Investment Authority Chairman Donald Harris said he supported bringing the proposal to the authority for evaluation and possible action to pursue the establishment of the foundation.

"I think the more resources you can have will make all the difference in the world," Harris said.

Downtown Vision Executive Director Terry Lorince said she doesn't think the City should "bow out" of its responsibility for the park.

"It's going to take a village to manage this park. It's imperative that the City should fund a portion of the improvements to the park," Lorince said.

"We have been looking at this for a decade and nobody has done anything for a decade," Bailey said.

He described the proposed foundation as "an opportunity for DVI to assist a new organization."

Lee said she hopes the effort to improve Hemming Plaza does not become "one-upsmanship" among organizations.

"With all due respect to DVI" and to the City administration over the past 10 years, "nobody was doing anything until the Council ad hoc committee," said Lee.

The proposed Hemming Plaza foundation is expected to be presented when the Downtown Investment Authority convenes at 2 p.m. today in Room 851 in the Ed Ball Building at 214 N. Hogan St.

mmarbut@baileypub.com

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