Downtown Vision Inc. announced it hired Kady Yellow to fill the new role of senior director of events and placemaking.
DVI CEO Jake Gordon said Jan. 24 the position resulted from the Downtown nonprofit business advocacy agency’s boundary and service expansion.
According to the Project for Public Spaces, “placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community.”
“One of our goals in hiring Kady was to really prioritize the events and placemaking to try to really take Downtown to the next level,” Gordon said.
“Prioritizing daily activation is what we want to do but we want to make sure those fit in with the fabric of the development that we have now,” he said.
“We want to make sure we’re in lockstep with the development vision” of Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer, the DIA, the mayor’s office and the developers, he said.
Yellow, 32, has been a placemaking specialist in Ireland, Portugal, and in at least 12 U.S. states and cities including New Orleans, California and Alaska. Her annual salary with DVI is $70,000, according to Gordon.
She came to Jacksonville from Flint, Michigan, where she implemented 120 pop-up projects that prioritized the riverfront, public parks, sidewalks, streets and alleys over two years, said a Jan. 25 DVI news release.
Her writing has been in FlintBeat and My City Magazine in Michigan; Street Art United States in Boston; CURBED in New Orleans; and she published a book on urban art in 2019, the release said.
Yellow’s training includes with the National Endowment for the Arts and Project for Public Spaces.
She was named the youngest commissioner for downtown development and co-founded the Department of Public Art while employed by the Binghamton Mayor’s Office in New York.
During her tenure, she launched Binghamton’s riverfront revitalization and led a local art co-op focused on assisting artists to revitalize the main street.
“When you have big companies come here, their employees want active, healthy downtowns so they have good lives and urban lifestyles. So they’re going to look for that,” Yellow said.
“Talent retention requires it.”
Yellow will oversee DVI’s events lineup meant to showcase Downtown’s attractions and amenities and to serve as economic drivers for area businesses. That includes the Jax River Jams, the Third Thursday Sip & Stroll, the First Wednesday Art Walk and the #DTJax Gala fundraiser.
According to the release, DVI’s October boundaries expansion allowed the taxpayer-backed nonprofit to restructure its strategy to cover six focus areas: district services, stakeholder support, marketing, research, events and placemaking.
“This restructure will allow Downtown Vision to expand the role of events and placemaking in Downtown’s public spaces and Yellow will lead efforts in these two areas,” the release said.
Yellow said while in Flint, she hosted a local event for the international Placemaking Week series where she brought together urban and city planners and municipal government employees to discuss civic discord and public space management.
She said placemaking was a term coined in the 1970s, but the 2008 housing crisis and the coronavirus pandemic brought a surge in programming and use of outdoor public spaces.
Yellow says now is a critical time to ensure public spaces keep pace with private development.
“It’s a national crisis, actually a global crisis, that our public spaces are underutilized,” Yellow said.
Gordon said DVI is finalizing the hiring of a new communications director and office, also part of DVI’s growth.
In June, the Jacksonville City Council approved an increase in the DVI district from 0.5 to 1.3 square miles.
The expansion will result in a new tax for property owners in the expanded area. DVI is funded by a 1.1-mil tax assessment.
The expanded territory means DVI will expand its Downtown Ambassadors services that help with street waste pickup and beautification into Brooklyn and the Southbank.
Gordon said in October that DVI will add 14 ambassadors by the end of 2022 to the crew of 16, creating a team of 30.
The Council vote also increased the nonprofit organization’s budget from $1.699 million in fiscal year 2020-21 to $2.514 million in 2021-22.
The legislation increases the city’s contribution to DVI from $510,615 to $661,898.
DVI is working with the city and DIA to move its offices from 214 N. Hogan St. in the Ed Ball Building to a larger, 20,660-square-foot space in the city-owned parking garage at 33 W. Duval St.