Downtown Vision, Inc. (DVI), Downtown Jacksonville’s Business Improvement District, presented four awards Saturday, March 19, 2016 at the inaugural #DTJax Gala to recognize champions for Downtown who exhibit outstanding dedication, vision, persistence and commitment. DVI’s Executive Committee selected the four award recipients for Ambassador of the Year, Downtowner of the Year, Downtown Business of the Year and the Downtown Achievement Award.
Ambassador of the Year: Lydia Cobbert
Downtown Ambassador Lydia Cobbert has been with DVI since the Ambassador program launched and has been welcoming people to Downtown since September 2002. Whether she is giving guidance to Downtown points of interest and local businesses or resolving cleanliness and safety issues, Ms. Cobbert’s bright and friendly personality has certainly made an impact on Downtown residents, employees, business owners and visitors.
Ms. Cobbert won the Recognition of Service Excellence, or ROSE, Award in 2009—the first year it was offered—for demonstrating excellent customer service in Northeast Florida and for creating an extraordinary visitor experience. Ms. Cobbert is often called “Downtown’s most Compassionate Ambassador.” She is always requested for special events in Downtown and she is on the scene anytime women, families or seniors need help.
Jim Bailey, Bailey Publishing president and publisher and Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) Board Chair, presented the award.
Downtowner of the Year: Alex Coley
Alex Coley, Principal and co-founder of Jacksonville-based Hallmark Partners, runs a real-estate development firm that has developed a quarter-billion dollars in projects even before the 220 Riverside venture began. He is a leader in the Jacksonville business community and has worked for decades to make Jacksonville a better place. Mr. Coley has been credited for his work to spark the growth and revitalization of Downtown’s Brooklyn neighborhood.
His latest project to make its mark is the $40-million 220 Riverside, mixed-use apartments and retail space, and the adjacent Unity Plaza. The beautiful, modern 220 Riverside is popular with residents. It’s retail tenants Hob Nob and Sbraga and Company offer high-end dining. And, the amazing Unity Plaza amphitheater provides a gathering space for the community. This development has quickly ignited the Downtown neighborhood of Brooklyn, acts as a gateway from Riverside to Downtown, and has led to new interest in the area by other developers.
DVI Board Vice-Chair Oliver Barakat, senior vice president with CBRE Group, Inc. and DIA Board Member presented the award.
Downtown Business of the Year: Sweet Pete’s Candy
Operating out of a historic Springfield house for years, Allison and Pete Behringer, co-founders of Sweet Pete’s Candy, grew their candy shop into a regional destination. After appearing on “The Profit” and securing investment from Marcus Lemonis, the Behringers knew that they needed to expand. Despite suggestions that they move to other parts of town, they had their hearts set on Downtown and undertook a dynamic renovation of the historic Seminole Club.
The Behringers could have moved anywhere but chose to renovate and preserve this Jacksonville landmark for the community. Their conscious integration with and commitment to the community has paved the way for new retail to open in Downtown. Sweet Pete’s Candy hosts field trips, weddings and even chocolate and candy-making workshops where people can tour the facility and participate in the process. It is this mindful and welcoming nature that attracts so many people to Sweet Pete’s everyday.
DVI Board Secretary Pat McElhaney, senior vice president with EverBank, presented the award.
Downtown Achievement Award: Jessie Ball DuPont Fund
The Jessie Ball duPont Fund—legacy of philanthropist and one-time Jacksonville resident, Jessie Ball duPont—focuses on investing in people, organizations and our community. So it is only fitting that the Fund bring together community organizations in the heart of Downtown. Completed in 2015, the Jessie Ball duPont Center is home to 12 local, non-profit organizations in one of Jacksonville’s most iconic and beautiful buildings. Formerly the Haydon Burns Library, the Center is housed in a mid-century modernist building. After standing vacant for eight years, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund looked to leading energy conservation and green building practices as guideposts for the renovation – and the result is stunning.
Accepting on behalf of the Fund is Sherry Magill, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. Ms. Magill joined the Jessie Ball duPont Fund a program officer in 1991, was named executive director in 1993, and president in 2000. She is also the founder of the Florida Philanthropic Network.
DVI Board Member Steve Crosby, CEO of Invest Jax presented the award.
“We’re excited to launch a new award program to recognize important contributions to Downtown Jacksonville,” said Jake Gordon, Downtown Vision, Inc., CEO. “We’re grateful to this year’s award winners who have all worked so hard to make Downtown a better place to live, work, visit and invest.”
About Downtown Vision Inc.
Downtown Vision, Inc. (DVI) is a not-for-profit 501(c)6 organization revitalizing Downtown through clean and safe initiatives, experience creation, marketing and information management. Created by commercial property owners through a self-assessment and governed by a board representing Downtown property owners, DVI administers a 90-block Business Improvement District. For more information, visit downtownjacksonville.org.