Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP

Rethinking how Downtown works

This month, after 20 years in business, the Zodiac Bar & Grill closed its doors. Relying on the downtown office worker lunch crowd, the COVID-19 pandemic led to many working from home, eliminating 70 to 80 percent of the restaurant’s business.

Unfortunately, it’s very likely that this story won’t be the last in 2021. Revitalization strategies of relying on the Downtown office market as a major factor to stimulate and support small business growth will have to change.

While there will always be a need for physical office space, the number of people working daily in downtown offices will likely never returning pre COVID-19 levels. This means, the days may be over where small businesses and restaurants could at least rely on the lunch crowd. More than ever before, 2021 will be a year where Jacksonville will need to seriously include the concept of clustering, complementing uses, within a compact setting, in all of its revitalization, adaptive reuse and redevelopment strategies and projects.

Revitalization of Cathedral District heats up

It can be said that the Cathedral District is Downtown Jacksonville’s one lost and forgotten walkable neighborhood that actually still exists. Situated on the crest of Billy Goat Hill, the Cathedral District derives its name from the cluster of historic churches located in this section of the Northbank. Its also an example of preservation through the use of unintended consequences, largely sparing it from various failed urban renewal and redevelopment gimmicks. Armed with its own master development plan, revitalization of the Cathedral District is poised to visually take off in 2021.

Developments either nearing completion or beginning construction within the next twelve months include the Duval County Armory being revamped into a 12 kiosk food hall and arts hub, Ashley Square apartments (120 units), Lofts at the Cathedral apartments (120 units), shipping container apartments, the restoration of several existing multifamily residences as short term rentals, and the nearby massive Union Terminal Warehouse (228 units) being renovated into a historic mixed use development. These projects follow the recent completion of the restoration of the Elena Flats building into luxury apartments.