Jacksonville is very near and dear to my heart. Of all the sun-drenched places in the world, I chose this locale of my own volition. That being said, it's disappointing when people don't cherish my city as much as I do, and even more troubling is the complacency of the city government itself to attract new business to the most visible part of our city.
Tax breaks are currently in place that allow citizens of Jacksonville to reside in a more historic part of the city. These tax breaks take 50% off of your property taxes for 10 years. Enticing isn't it? So here's the really big question: where's the love for all the business owners that want to make downtown a vibrant place that rivals Town Center or the beaches in terms of large volumes of people spending their evenings (and disposable income) in the very spot where most cities flourish? Merely offering the same kind of tax break isn't enough simply because you're talking about a larger scale. This isn't a 200,000 dollar home, it's a 1.2 million dollar building, and in order for that property to generate revenue, it has to look like it's not an eyesore from the early 20th century. I, for one, love the allure of historical buildings downtown being converted to trendy after-work venues. It gives the city the flair of SoHo, but there needs to be more incentive for investors to spend the kind of money it takes to revitalize and upgrade the existing building.
If I may be so bold, Mad Men Marketing is doing its part to promote a new downtown Renaissance. A lot of hard work and lots of money has been spent updating electrical, plumbing, partitioning off what was once a bare art studio, and even taking down plaster to expose the natural (and beautiful) brickwork. The place is really looking quite stunning.
Underbelly, another success story on Bay Street, has done a FANTASTIC job of giving the interior of an older brick building a face lift. When you walk in, natural wood accents the original brickwork and the open space is very inviting. A lot of effort was put in painting the central columns and there's a stage where music is played nearly every night. A recent show that brought former TV personality and stand-up comedian Doug Stanhope, packed the place. Oh, and did I mention that Underbelly has over 30 beers on tap? Underbelly has done everything the right way and can serve as a model for those who come after them.
It has also come to my attention that Intuition Ale Works wants/wanted a place on Bay St. or the surrounding area, but that the city was unwilling to make some kind of reasonable accommodations. Do banks and cities really just want to sit on these vacant properties and allow them to deteriorate? Would they rather have nothing than get 3/4 of the asking price? Would they rather wait for a buyer rather than lease the place out to an ambitious entrepreneur? I say "Good for you Intuition for wanting a stake in the revitalization in downtown Jax". I can only hope that the bureaucratic nightmare that exists in local government will aid you in your acquisition of a location that suits your needs. After all, what is economics but the study of INCENTIVES?