Mapping out a Firm Foundation for Jacksonville Urban Planning Expert Trying to Turn Downtown's Potential into Reality

Article excerpt

Paul Krutko, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, is probably best known around City Hall for his doodling.

It's pretty serious doodling, however.

Krutko, Jacksonville's point man for revitalizing downtown, frequently conducts meetings by covering a large map of the urban core with onion-skin paper and drawing in proposed projects and illustrating how one area will be linked to another district.

It's an off-the-cuff seminar in downtown planning and Krutko, 44, the energetic professor, typically leaves his audiences excited and interested.

First-term City Councilman Reggie Fullwood, whose district includes parts of downtown, calls Krutko "probably one of the best investments the city has made."

Nearly 2 1/2 years into his job in Jacksonville, Krutko has begun to win the bureaucratic battles to make his vision of downtown development -- one in which residential growth plays the leading role -- the blueprint for Jacksonville.

In addition, he's played a leading role in the city's well-received Downtown Master Plan, a 10-year blueprint that carves the city into a series of special-use districts.

It calls for making the city more pedestrian friendly, creating parks along Hogans and McCoy's creeks, and establishing distinctive business, residential, cultural, sports and retail districts within the center city.

The plan calls for the city to spend about $12.5 million in the next two years. Some of the project funding -- including more than $7 million to extend the Riverwalk -- already has been set aside by the administration, said Susan Wiles, the mayor's top political aide.

With downtown housing projects under way, Krutko's vision, formed during his nearly two decades in various urban planning jobs in his native Cleveland, can soon be judged by objective measures.

For now, however, the early reviews are positive.

"I think the city got just what we were after -- an expert in urban core planning, downtown housing and urban historical buildings. And he's been very good at that," said Mayor John Delaney.

Krutko's boss, Jacksonville Economic Development Commission executive director Mike Weinstein, has a similar outlook. …