3. Eastside Activity Heats Up

Dating back to the end of the Civil War, the Eastside may be Jacksonville’s last cohesive reconstruction era Gullah Geechee community still standing. A stone’s throw from TIAA Bank Field, it’s also one of the city’s densest and most architecturally unique neighborhoods. Originally an attractive location for sawmill, port and industrial workers, significant historical figures associated with the Eastside include Asa Philip Randolph, Zora Neale Hurston, Sallye B. Mathis, Princess Laura Adorkor Koffi, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, Joseph E. Lee, James Weldon Johnson, John Rosamond Johnson and Bullet Bob Hayes.

Located on the opposite side of Hogans Creek from downtown and Springfield, it is positioned to become the urban core’s next hot destination for redevelopment. Officially designated as an Opportunity Zone, significant development proposals in the neighborhood include Lot J, a soccer stadium and the adaptive reuse of the old Duval County Armory and Union Terminal Warehouse Company buildings into a food hall, artist studios, loft apartments and more. While revitalization is desired, the Eastside is a community organized to fight displacement associated with gentrification. In 2020, the development conversation regarding this historic urban African-American community should heat up, along with a push from residents to retain the neighborhood’s unique sense of place.

2. The Emerald Trail Breaks Ground

Looking south at the Lee Street viaduct after the completion of the 1.3-mile Model Project.

When complete, the long anticipated Emerald Trail system could encompass as much as 19 miles of new trails, greenspace, parks and waterways encircling Jacksonville’s urban core, linking at least 14 neighborhoods and Downtown with Hogans Creek, McCoys Creek, the S-Line Urban Greenway and the Northbank and Southbank riverwalks. With a goal of completing the proposed trail network over a ten year period, Groundwork Jacksonville announced in October 2019 that funding had been raised to go toward the engineering and construction of the first mile of the trail, the LaVilla Link.

The LaVilla Link, the Model Project, will connect the S-Line to Brooklyn, through LaVilla. POND & Company has been selected and is currently designing this first segment. Viewed as a catalyst for outdoor recreation, economic development, social connection and civic pride, groundbreaking is expected to take place in October 2020, with completion in September 2021.

1. White-collar job growth expands downtown

The construction of FIS’s new world headquarters should begin in 2020.

Across the country, there has been a trend of companies moving back downtowns in major cities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of metro area jobs located within three miles of downtowns increased 7% between 1996 and 2013. In the past, job growth was primarily associated with the downtowns of cities like New York and Chicago. In recent years, the trend has spread to Sunbelt cities like Miami, Houston, Orlando, Charlotte and Nashville.

Over the past year, VyStar’s decision to relocate its corporate headquarters to downtown has been followed by recent announcements from Florida Blue and Fidelity National Information Services Inc. about their intent to expand their operations. Fidelity’s plans include the construction a $145 million, 12-story, 300,000-square-foot world headquarters in Brooklyn. Smaller firms, such as Chicago-based engineering and planning Benesch with offices in the Enterprise Center, also intend to expand their local downtown presence. In 2020, we’ll witness this job creation and experience a trend of additional job growth created from their investments.


Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at