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Photos by Max Marbut - The future of Hemming Plaza was one of the many discussion points of the Downtown Investment Authority last week.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Apr. 1, 201312:00 PM EST

DIA continues to shape priorities

by: David Chapman

Board members of the Downtown Investment Authority spent about four hours Thursday identifying issues and items to prioritize in its mission to revitalize Downtown.

Many issues, such as Hemming Plaza, the Laura Street Trio, the Shipyards, homelessness and parking, were discussed during the first two hours of the authority's Environment Committee, but no set list was established as to where the authority should focus its efforts — or potential funds.

The purpose of the committee meeting was identifying such issues, with a Redevelopment Committee meeting directly after used to further discuss priorities.

Melody Bishop, authority board member and Redevelopment Committee chair, presented an evaluation matrix that prioritized Downtown issues based on feedback from a committee workshop. The matrix was used as a point of reference throughout the discussion.

In order, heading the list was to identify and facilitate large-scale, catalyst projects; enhancing event planning; linking the St. Johns River and marine-themed events; converting Downtown one-way streets to two-way streets; marketing strategies and the Riverwalk.

Bishop's matrix used categories of public realm and activation, economic benefits and contribution toward the residential base as measuring points, but board member Oliver Barakat asked for another: geography and leveraging.

The topic launched a greater discussion on how incentives should be implemented for Downtown, with Barakat advocating for incentives favoring the urban core portion of Downtown.

Board member Tony Allegretti disagreed, saying he personally did not like favoring any geographic point within Downtown and said he thought the market would drive development.

"The point of incentives is to influence the market," Barakat countered.

Bishop said the Community Redevelopment Area plan calls for specific projects and strategy and is supposed to be updated every five years.

The redevelopment plan is being formulated to present to City Council for approval.

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