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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 24, 201312:00 PM EST

Downtown revitalization ideas taking shape

by: David Chapman

Make the Shipyards a world-class park. Or, convert it to a riverfront mixed-use development.

Tear down the former courthouse and City Hall buildings. Or, rehabilitate them.

Keep some Downtown roads the way they are. Or, put them on a "diet" to encourage greater pedestrian use.

Each of the ideas and many more will be up for discussion in upcoming public workshops, which could help determine the direction Downtown's early redevelopment will take.

Downtown Investment Authority board members have been working for months on a redevelopment planned with a consulting firm. On Wednesday, the firm provided a rough outline of target changes that could "move the needle" and improve the area's economy, mobility and capacity.

Four potential target areas were:

• The Laura Street corridor, from Monroe to the Landing. Pitched possibilities include incentives for renovation projects, improved lighting, a property condition report for the Snyder Memorial Church and the use of art installations.

• The East Bay Street corridor, which includes the Shipyards, former courthouse and former City Hall annex. Ideas include a "road diet" by replacing vehicle lanes with sidewalks, bike lanes and other pedestrian-friendly components; demolishing the courthouse and former City Hall annex; and making the Shipyards a "world-class city park."

• Riverside Avenue and Forest Street corridor. Possibilities include addressing parking issues and converting outside travel lanes to make two tree-line boulevards. Doing so would reduce pedestrian crossing distance.

• The Downtown East-West circulator. Ideas are to have a reliable and frequent trolley system that extends from the Riverside Arts Market to the Jacksonville Landing, Bay Street and Metro Park areas. That could be done with a partnership with Jacksonville Transportation Authority and a one-year pilot program, with a possibility of federal grants to purchase environmentally friendly vehicles.

Also pitched were methods of trying to find better uses for waterfront property, starting with the area around Friendship Park, and revamping and updating the signage around Downtown to help visitors.

There will be public forums at 5 p.m. Nov. 4 at City Hall and 5 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk.

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