Jacksonville, FL (December 1, 2013) For well over a year and a half, the JTA “Jacksonville Transportation Authority” has been involved with a community initiative called the Southside Blvd. Visioning Study, focusing on the future redevelopment of Southside Blvd. This study looked at multi-modal transportation improvements, integrated land use development and urban design improvements while involving the many local residents and neighborhoods along Southside Blvd.. Citizens Advisory Groups for which I participated were solicited to voice their opinion and concerns about this major corridor through-out our area that is forecasted to be a “failing” roadway by 2035, if not before. In anticipation of that fact, this corridor will be in line for some major improvements which could include widening current 4 lanes to 6 or 8, inclusion of bike paths, mass transit right of ways, pedestrian oriented sidewalks and landscape improvements to name a few.
The outcome of the Vision Study was to support a Vision Statement “to create a corridor that meets both the needs and aspirations of the surrounding community and its diverse group of stakeholders. A key outcome was to create value for the community – to provide improvements that enhanced mobility and connectivity, that stimulated economic activity; and advanced, complemented, and brought value to adjacent land uses and neighborhoods” which could be fulfilled.
In February of this year, I hosted a public meeting with JTA, at the Deerwood Campus of FSCJ. Over 50+ residents turned out to provide JTA feedback as to what they currently thought were problems in the area but also to listen to the Urban Planners in what might be possible solutions for the future. One thing carried away from this meeting was the fact that a “Visioning” process allows for the community to think “Outside the Box” and to imagine the possibilities as to “What a Community can be and re-developed into”.
A few examples that were discussed included: Roadway improvements, Transit Oriented Development “TOD” and the expansion of the Southside Blvd/I-95 Connector. As for the TOD land use – its purpose is “to defined policies which increase residential density, reduce automobile parking, provide pedestrian oriented open space, mixed use development and reduced setbacks in areas designated for mass transit stations” – to encourage pedestrian transportation and discourage automobile uses. Areas pin pointed as possible TOD land use included The Avenues, Baymeadows / Old Baymeadows and Tinseltown at Touchton road.
At the August SE CPAC (Citizens Planning Advisory Committee) meeting, the JTA gave their final presentation of this study to its members. As this study has now concluded, it became a major first step of many that begins to tell our current and future City Leaders, Developers and Urban Planners how our community can be re-vitalized and re-shaped for years to come.