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Categorized | Publisher's Letter

The Time May Finally be Right

Could it be real this time?

As I write this, Downtown is alive, with an expected 180,000 visitors celebrating innovation, courage, big ideas, and aspirational dreams.

You know of it as One Spark. And it could be just the catalyst Downtown Jacksonville needs to finally turn the corner and create the urban environment we have been looking for, for 20 years or longer.

I’m optimistic, but cautious. We have seen this momentum before, but it has stalled. Is it different this time? I believe it could be. Here is why.

Remember back around 2005-2006? Commercial real estate barons were making deals every week. Big ones too.

Cameron Kuhn was dubbed “Mr. Downtown,” after he invested hundreds of millions of dollars and bought more than one of the buildings making up the Downtown skyline. Sadly, most of the projects he started never materialized. He (among others) was overextended and overestimated demand. The “new Downtown” renaissance was a mirage and likely set us back years.

Perhaps now we have the right people with the right ideas to start a meaningful activity that translates into money for real redevelopment. Perhaps now it’s being done the right way.

I learned a long time ago to never bet against the determined entrepreneur. Like a river flowing to the sea, they will not be denied because they are willing to change, innovate and find a way to make their business work.

The question is, will Jacksonville be perceived as a place where they can prosper? Time will tell, but momentum is on our side. It could be the start of something special too, provided we can make resources available, be flexible and open our minds to new ideas. This just might work.

This time, it’s not banks and large commercial real estate firms leading the charge. It’s mostly (yet) unknown people who are working on hundreds of projects and initiatives simultaneously. It’s a true organic groundswell of momentum coming from the most logical source.

Let’s encourage them and find ways to say, “Yes,” when they approach us with partnerships and relationships. Our time is now.

The right people just might be leading the charge this time.

Until next time,

Brian Barquilla
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