Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Walkable Downtown Needs Commitment and Funding

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Walkable Downtown Needs Commitment and Funding

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage

Well, Mayor John Peyton's emerging "Big Idea" for downtown has certainly created a buzz.

Much of it has missed the point.

Too much focus has been placed on Toney Sleiman and The Jacksonville Landing.

The Landing, which is important, is just a part of the overall plans for downtown.

But what would have happened if Peyton had agreed to give the city-owned land under the Landing to Sleiman and he built a parking garage next door?

For one thing, Sleiman would have gotten a heck of a deal. He bought the Landing for $5 million from The Rouse Co., which spent $40 million to build it. Getting the valuable riverfront property for free would have been a nice sweetener.

I side with those who think the land should remain in public ownership so its future use will be determined by the city, not by the whims of a developer.

And consider this:

Sleiman builds the garage. A couple from Arlington decides to go to the Landing for dinner. The couple parks in the garage and goes to a restaurant in the Landing. The couple then returns to the garage and drives back to Arlington.

This would help Sleiman's pocketbook but would do absolutely nothing for downtown. The couple might as well have gone to any of Sleiman's shopping centers.

One of the key elements of the "Big Idea" is making downtown more walkable.

If more people are out on downtown's sidewalks, it's more likely they would visit other shops and restaurants.

That's exactly why Peyton nixed the idea of building an elevated walkover connecting the new downtown library to its adjacent garage. He wanted to encourage people to walk around downtown.

Making downtown more walkable is behind the part of the "Big Idea" that would convert the Main Street bridge into a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare connecting the Northbank and Southbank riverwalks. …

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