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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Dec. 10, 201512:00 PM EST

Turning parking spots into parklets

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DVI gala to raise money for project
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Dancing, dining and drinking. That’s how to promote Downtown.

At least it will be March 19 during Downtown’s Gala: Urban Oasis.

The event at the Jacksonville Bank Building at 100 N. Laura St. will be Downtown Vision Inc.’s first fundraising gala since the nonprofit urban core advocacy group was established by City Council in 2000.

“We need an opportunity to celebrate Downtown and the people who support Downtown,” said Jake Gordon, CEO of the organization.

In addition to cocktails, dinner and a live band, the evening’s agenda includes live and silent auctions and awards to recognize people, companies and organizations that have supported Downtown programs.

“A lot of people are very passionate about Downtown. The goal is to get everyone together — those who are passionate and those who should be,” Gordon said.

Another goal is to raise funds for a demonstration project to construct a “parklet” along a busy Downtown street. The idea is to convert a parking space or two near a restaurant, for example, into an attraction for pedestrians.

Katherine Hardwick, DVI director of marketing, said the inspiration came from San Francisco, where parking spaces were first converted in 2010. The city now has more than 50 of the small urban parks, installed by merchants, neighborhood groups, nonprofits and other organizations.

San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks Program helps people who want to build the small public spaces work with agencies such as planning, public works and mass transit for design approval and permitting.

The parks provide amenities such as seating, plants, bicycle parking and art, according to a report published by the program.

“Parklets reflect the diversity and creativity of the people and organizations who sponsor and design them,” the report said.

They are funded and maintained by the private sector but are open to the public, according to the report.

“They put the emphasis on walkability,” Hardwick said. “It’s a fair balance between vehicle and pedestrian traffic.”

Gordon said DVI is seeking a consultant to develop a “how-to manual” for the local effort.

That part of the plan is funded by a $15,000 grant from Urban Land Institute North Florida, matched by DVI.

The manual will combine best practices developed in San Francisco and other cities that have similar programs with information on navigating the process through design concept and review, local regulations and insurance requirements.

Gordon said the first Downtown parklet should be open by December 2016.

“We’re reclaiming the streets to create more public space and we want to get it right,” he said.

For gala ticket and sponsorship information, visit dtjaxgala.com.

[email protected]

(904) 356-2466

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