The longtime architect and civic leader known as “Mr. Downtown” dies at the age of 74.
Jacksonville architect and business leader John “Jack” Diamond died July 14 after a long battle with dementia.
Diamond, 74, was born in 1945 in Columbus, Ohio, and moved to Jacksonville in 1970. He joined KBJ Architects, where he began his career and years of leadership and civic involvement.
“We were such close friends. I truly loved him,” said Jim Citrano, a veteran real estate executive and former chair of the Jacksonville Port Authority.
Citrano said Diamond was accomplished.
“At his 60th birthday party, I think everyone in the community who had anything to do with anything was there. He was the most popular man in town,” Citrano said Monday.
Citrano said he prefers to recall earlier days before dementia affected Diamond’s personality and temperament.
“He was hard-working, selfless, successful and generous to a fault,” Citrano said. “That personality was larger than life and that’s how I chose to remember him.”
Known as “Mr. Downtown,” Diamond helped to shape the Downtown Jacksonville master plans of 1987, 1992 and 2000, said the family’s obituary.
City Council member Matt Carlucci called Diamond “a great contributor to our city.”
“He was a kind and gentle soul and extremely smart and well respected by all,” Carlucci said Monday.
Carlucci previously served three terms on council, including from 1987-94 when it approved River City Renaissance, a $235 million bond issue promoted by Mayor Ed Austin in 1993 to fund urban renewal.
Carlucci said he did not vote for it because he thought it didn’t adequately address drainage needs among some of the city’s communities.
He said Monday he wished he had, educated soon after the vote during a road trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, with Diamond.
A mutual friend arranged for Carlucci to drive his SUV to Charlotte with Diamond as a passenger.
“Jack was very gung-ho about Downtown, as you know,” Carlucci said.
Carlucci recalls the trip was seven hours up, five to seven hours studying Charlotte’s downtown and seven hours back.
“We became the best of friends and that was one of the turning points in my life as an elected official,” Carlucci said.
“I became much more of a Downtown proponent.” Carlucci served another term from 1999-2003, including a year as president.
Carlucci said Diamond began to understand the needs of some of the older neighborhoods, as well.
“He had such an enthusiasm that came from his core,” Carlucci said.
Diamond worked for KBJ for 27 years, serving as president the last 14 years. In 1997 he started Diamond Architects and in 1998 merged with Rink Reynolds Fisher Architects to become what was later known as Rink Design Partnership Inc.
Diamond grew up with his brothers, Mike and Pat, playing baseball and basketball and spending Sundays with his grandparents playing euchre, a card game, according to the obituary from the family.
He graduated from Bishop Hartley High School in 1963 and earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree from The Ohio State University. He was awarded the school’s highest honor, the Alpha Rho Chi award for leadership, service and merit.
Diamond joined the Navy in 1968, graduating from Officer Candidate School, the Civil Engineer Corps and was stationed at Albany Naval Air Station in Albany, Georgia.
He came to Jacksonville on the recommendation of a Navy comrade.
His family says that Diamond knew at an early age that he wanted to be an architect.
“He wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. His work is all around us, encompassing many of the prominent buildings forming Jacksonville’s skyline: the Prudential complex, the BellSouth Tower, the Federal Courthouse, the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, multiple projects at the University of North Florida, the Earl Hadlow Center for Caring, the expansion of Christ Episcopal Church and many other award-winning projects,” said the family’s obituary.
Diamond was an active member of the American Institute of Architects where he was awarded the distinction of being admitted to the College of Fellows (FAIA) for his commitment to community involvement, leadership and his vision for the city of Jacksonville, said the obituary.
“Jack was a true visionary who could conceptualize a design anywhere and anytime. All you had to do was ask. Many a project was started with a concept drawn on a dinner napkin,” said the obituary.
Diamond chaired the JAX Chamber, then known as the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce; the Rotary Club of Jacksonville; University of North Florida Foundation; Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida; Hospice of Northeast Florida; the United Way Campaign; Visit Jacksonville; and was a founding member of JaxPride, a civic group advocating for removal of visual blight and cleaning up the city.
“He enjoyed dancing, fishing, golfing, the symphony and he especially loved playing cards with a special group of guys for over 25 years,” said the obituary.
Diamond donated time to children’s issues, charities, art, cultural and environmental causes in Jacksonville, it said.
Citrano said it “was never what he was going to get out of it. It was what the community was going to get out of it.”
He said Diamond was “a great friend with a tremendous sense of humor and generosity and spirituality.”
Diamond is survived by Elizabeth, his wife of 22 years; children Scott (Rachel) Diamond, Trisha (Tom) Dyess; grandchildren, JT, Samantha, Mia, Max; brothers Mike Diamond, Pat (Kathy) Diamond and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Aug. 9 at Christ Episcopal Church at 400 San Juan Drive in Ponte Vedra Beach.
The interment will be later at Jacksonville National Cemetery.
Those who want to make a donation are asked to do so in his memory to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida.