Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Downtown Merchants Paying Price for Progress

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Downtown Merchants Paying Price for Progress

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

I've been around Jacksonville long enough to remember when downtown still was a destination and Hemming Plaza was the bustling center of the city.

It would be wonderful to see that happen again. That's supposed to be one of the goals of the Better Jacksonville Plan: to make downtown a place where people want to shop and eat and live.

It's just too bad that, in the process, people who have committed themselves to keeping downtown alive are being uprooted in the name of progress.

Less than a year ago, after 110 years in downtown Jacksonville, the owners of The Luggage Shop closed the doors of their store at 305 Laura St., facing onto Hemming Plaza. The site had been chosen by the city for a new downtown library.

That left The Young Men's Shop, which in October 1999 celebrated its 80th anniversary in downtown Jacksonville, as the oldest remaining downtown retail store. But in February, The Young Men's Shop also will close.

City Hall, located in a building that once housed a downtown department store, wants the site of the Young Men's Shop, at the corner of Main and Duval streets, for a new parking garage. The parking garage, which is going to occupy most of the block of East Duval Street that lies between City Hall and Main Street, will be built to accommodate visitors to the library and to the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, which will be next to the new library.

The Young Men's Shop won't be the only store along that block of East Duval forced out. The Czigan-Rummel Gallery, an art gallery owned by Betsy Czigan and Ryan Rummel, who had been living in the back of the store, must move. Their upstairs neighbor, Stephen Dare, who used his loft, dubbed The Loft, as both home and performance space, also is being uprooted. Dare says it's all a plot to get rid of young artsy types. …

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