by Max Marbut
The word “charrette” has been in use for hundreds of years. The literal translation from French is “cart” or “chariot.” It was originally used to define the conveyance used to transport condemned individuals to the guillotine. Later it described student architects who would often be finishing their projects and presentations at the last minute while riding in the school cart through the streets of Paris.
In the modern context, the word “charrette” is used to describe a collaborative effort in which people congregate to offer their ideas for a specific project or common issue. It has become a protocol favored by urban planners in particular because it involves all the parties who have an interest in a specific project.
The future enhancement of Metropolitan Park will be the focus of a charrette sponsored by the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission in collaboration with JaxPride.
The future of Metropolitan Park was addressed in the Downtown Action Plan (DAP) published in 2007 by the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission (JEDC). Described as “a prime waterfront venue for large events” and having “the potential to become Jacksonville’s premier special events venue” the plan also points out that a detailed civil assessment and Master Plan should be developed. The DAP also states the Master Plan should include utilizing the space so it “engages the river and provides connectivity to the surrounding uses and the overall Downtown experience” and continues, evaluating the “feasibility of expanding Metropolitan Park into the space occupied by Kids Kampus and possibly the WJCT property, both of which could be accommodated in another location off the riverfront.”
“It’s time to look at how such a large space that serves so many different user groups and events can be organized to make the best use of such a premier location on the river,” said architect Christopher Noel, a JaxPride volunteer.
In addition to design changes, it’s also time to improve the infrastructure at the park which has been in use for 25 years. The stage area needs new electrical service and the drainage in some areas of the 23-acre park also needs to be improved.
“We have identified Metropolitan Park as a key component of Downtown’s future, but it’s old and it’s tired,” commented JEDC Deputy Executive Director Paul Crawford.
He added the charrette process will be a valuable tool to help decide how to proceed with future development of the facility.
“The first step is to inventory what we have (at Metropolitan Park) then analyze that inventory and distill it to a concept. We need to look at it from the user’s perspective and from the owner’s perspective. That’s where we’ll be after the charrette.”
Commercial real estate executive Oliver Barakat is also a JaxPride volunteer. He said the organization has taken on the Metropolitan Park charrette project as a way to “reach the entire community and find out what the community wants at Metropolitan Park.” He added, “This is an important urban planning project and the charrette will be an opportunity to give the mayor and the City Council an idea of what the community wants to see happen at the park.”
All persons with a business, professional or personal interest in the future design or use of Metropolitan Park are invited to attend the workshop which will be held Nov. 15, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Main Library. To RSVP, call 356-2846 or e-mail: [email protected].