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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jan. 19, 200712:00 PM EST

JEDC Downtown Task Force relay: final leg underway

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

The Jacksonville Economic Commission’s Downtown Pedestrian Experience, Open Space and the River Task Force held its second meeting Thursday to establish the group’s goals and assign topics among five subcommittees.

The focus groups are charged with submitting recommendations for the Hogan and McCoy’s Creek projects, existing parks and the St. Johns River and the Riverwalk. The groups look at how those areas can attract more people to the urban core and create an inviting streetscape that would support retail development.

JEDC Deputy Director Paul Crawford told the task force members they were beginning their work as three other task forces are completing theirs ”because this task force is seen as the twine that holds the other task forces together.”

It’s also the task force with the most diverse range of elements to study. Concepts being considered by the subcommittees include awnings, signage and lighting pedestrian areas; reviewing existing marina locations and water-taxi boarding points, identifying additional locations for both; creating a series of activities and destinations along the Northbank and Southbank Riverwalks; defining opportunities and issues for the planned Hogan Creek and McCoy’s Creek parks in terms of environmental concerns; and ways to expand the usefulness and size of Metropolitan Park and better use of Hemming Plaza, Friendship Fountain Park and Kids Kampus.

“There are some great conversations going on,” Crawford said of the subcommittees. “The synapses are firing.”

He cautioned the committee members to stay on task and on target.

“The scale of the topics is so immense,” said Crawford. “A limited, focused discussion will yield a better product in the end.”

The task force also heard a presentation from Pete Sechler of Glatting-Jackson, a community planning and design firm retained by the JEDC.

“Our role is to show how to connect the elements into a ‘story’ for Downtown,” said Sechler.

“We’re looking for as much as you can give us,” he added. “But what we really need to know are the key principles and your programming ideas.”

Sechler also said he and other representatives from Glatting-Jackson will return to Jacksonville the first week of March to hear the task force’s final recommendations. His firm expects to complete its work by the middle of April.

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