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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 25, 201712:00 PM EST

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says even after two shootings, Downtown is still a safe place

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Despite two recent shooting incidents, Downtown is statistically one of the safest places in Jacksonville when it comes to violent crime.

That was the message delivered Wednesday by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Jackson Short to a group of people who live, work and own businesses Downtown.

Police continue to investigate a shooting after Art Walk on Jan. 4 that left a teen with a non-life-threatening injury.

An 18-year-old, Tyrik Solomon, was arrested in the apparently related fatal shooting of 16-year-old Khamoi Petersen at the Jacksonville Landing on Jan. 16 after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

Solomon is charged with carrying a concealed firearm without a permit. No other charges have been filed.

Short said the two incidents appear to be related and “they were not random.”

Speaking at Downtown Vision Inc.’s quarterly stakeholders meeting, Short said in terms of reports of what JSO calls priority violent crimes — homicide, aggravated battery and aggravated sexual assault — the sector that includes the urban business and entertainment district is one of the safest in the city.

Downtown is one of three sectors in JSO’s Zone 1. In addition to the business district, the sector comprises the area east of Interstate 95 to the Mathews Bridge and the neighborhood near the bridge between Springfield and the Sports Complex.

In 2016, 186 priority violent crime incidents were reported in the sector and 40 percent of the reports were for incidents between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Only sectors in Baldwin, the Beaches, around Chaffee Road in West Jacksonville and Oceanway in North Jacksonville had less reported violent crime last year, Short said.

He said the Downtown locations where violent crime is most likely to be reported are convenience stores and the Greyhound and JTA bus stations.

In many cases, the suspects know each other.

“It is extremely rare for a truly innocent victim to be targeted for a violent crime Downtown,” Short said.

“Downtown is safe,” he added. “But that doesn’t relieve you of your responsibility to be smart, pay attention and say something if you see something.”

Jake Gordon, DVI CEO, said people who attend Art Walk on Feb. 1 will notice a new circulation pattern that will encourage moving around and discourage “clustering” areas.

On a lighter note, Amanda Napolitano, executive director of The Donna Foundation, said while most people consider the 26.2-mile National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer as an event at the beach, this year much of the weekend’s focus will be Downtown.

Along with the 10th annual health and fitness expo Feb. 10-11 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, followed by the 26.2 with Donna on Feb. 12 at the beach, two additional races are on the schedule.

The new Anniversary 10K for Metastatic Breast Cancer and the Donna 5K & Family Fun Run will take place Feb. 11 on a course between the convention center and EverBank Field.

The 10K route will go past Hemming Park. Napolitano said spectators are encouraged to line the streets and cheer on the runners.

“We’ll even provide the cowbells,” she said.

Gordon said he’s registering for the 10K and will run the course “potentially in a pink suit.”

Traci Jenks, senior director at the Cushman & Wakefield commercial real estate firm and a member of DVI’s board of directors, said the Downtown market for commercial space is “doing pretty good.”

Urban core Class A vacancy has declined to about 4 percent on the Southbank and about 17 percent on the Northbank.

Overall in Jacksonville, the vacancy level for Class A commercial space is about 15 percent. But it’s only about 3 percent in Deerwood and Southside, which could help brokers lease space Downtown in 2017.

Jenks said as inventory becomes scarce in the suburban office parks, lease rates rise and availability of large blocks of space decline.

Downtown has plenty of office space in large blocks and while Southside lease rates are about $24 a square foot, space can be leased Downtown for about $20 a square foot.

Jenks said she’s expecting “a lot of good momentum Downtown.”

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