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Harris

Five in Focus: Donald Harris

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Donald Harris is the general manager of the 320-room Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk Hotel Downtown on the Southbank. Mayor Alvin Brown named him the first chairman of the Downtown Investment Authority, an independent authority that will oversee and guide Downtown’s economic development and revitalization.

Harris has an extensive background in the hospitality industry and worked his way up through its ranks. He serves on the board of Downtown Vision Inc. and is an ex-officio member of the board of directors of Visit Jacksonville.

What’s the first priority of the Downtown Investment Authority?

We’re going to try to put together a job description for the CEO position. (Once finalized, the description will be reviewed and approved by City Council.)

What is the most important quality in a CEO?

The most important thing is that they understand what an urban plan is, a master plan for Downtown and the city. That includes a business and marketing plan, a strategic plan and a strong vision in terms of how it works. I’d like to see someone who has had success with a city our size –– someone who knows how to do it.

What do you believe to be the biggest challenge for the authority?

How can we get excitement back to Downtown? If we do that, we can get a lot more corporations, businesses and housing. I think you have got to have both business and housing.

What will come first for Downtown? Rooftops or retail?

We’re a little bit behind in Downtown residents and rooftops. I think if we can improve that, the grocery stores, the drug stores, the retail will follow. We’ve got to create more entertainment. We have to take advantage of our biggest asset, the (St. Johns) River. We can definitely do more to utilize it.

Why did you want to serve?

I’m a lifelong resident of Jacksonville. I want to see my city become great. We’re just on the cutting edge of something great and it’s nice to be a part of it.

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