City Council Approves New Public-Private Partnership to Enhance Hemming Plaza

August 29, 2014  
Photo from the June announcement that the Friends of Hemming Park were selected to program Hemming Plaza.

Nonprofit Organization Will Manage Jacksonville’s Oldest Public Park

Saying it will help boost Downtown Jacksonville’s economic vitality and quality of life, Mayor Alvin Brown today expressed thanks to City Council for passing legislation that supports a new public-private partnership to transform and reinvigorate Hemming Plaza.

Friends of Hemming Park was given overwhelming approval to run the historic Hemming Plaza, located in the center of Downtown.  The group’s key priorities will include making the park safe and inviting, leading beautification projects, and organizing more community events.  Led by Dr. Wayne Wood, Friends of Hemming Park is composed of Jacksonville leaders with extensive experience in neighborhood revitalization, management and marketing. 

“I want to thank our City Council for approving this important initiative to improve and revitalize our Downtown,” said Mayor Brown.  “By joining together with a private partner, we will renew this iconic public space to make it safer, cleaner and more attractive as a venue for community activities.  Hemming Plaza is a precious community asset, and we know it can be so much more than what it is today.”
 
Mayor Brown lauded Councilmember Denise Lee, chair of City Council’s Hemming Plaza Ad Hoc Committee, Councilmember Bill Gulliford and Councilmember Don Redman for their leadership and work in recommending to the Downtown Investment Authority initiatives that will create a public-private partnership for the operation of Hemming Plaza that will make Hemming Plaza safer and more appealing to Downtown workers, visitors and residents.
 
“We want people to be able enjoy the most central, public place in Downtown,” Councilmember Lee said. “The Ad Hoc Committee engaged the Brown administration, Council members and Downtown business owners and residents to make recommendations that led to the best plan to help Hemming Plaza reach its full potential. At the end of the day, all of this had to be done to enhance our park. And it was accomplished by all of us working together to improve Hemming Plaza.”
 
“The Hemming Plaza Ad Hoc Committee began the process of how to program the park over two years ago,” said Councilmember Redman.  “I am thankful for all the business owners, residents and stakeholders who participated and shared their ideas; creating what became the Friends of Hemming Park. This group, led by Dr. Wayne Wood, is the perfect fit to provide programming that will encourage people of all ages to visit Hemming Plaza and our beautiful Downtown.”
 
The City of Jacksonville and the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) will invest $1 million for the first 18 months of a five-year management contract.  That includes $200,000 from the City’s Parks Department and $800,000 from the DIA.  As part of the agreement, Friends of Hemming Park is required to raise $250,000 for the first term of 18 months.
 
"Our organization, Friends of Hemming Park, is excited to get to work to transform this tarnished jewel into a world-class park,” said Wood. “It has been the heart of our city for over 150 years, and we have great plans to transform it into a vibrant, clean, and safe gathering place for Jacksonville. We will engage the entire community in this process, as well as utilize the great ideas we have gathered from successful parks all over North America, to create a renaissance in the center of our city. The job ahead of is a great challenge, and we are ready for it. We plan to make Hemming Park not just a pleasant place to visit, but also a major attraction for downtown Jacksonville. We appreciate the support and commitment of Mayor Brown, the City Council, the DIA, Parks and Recreation, and the Downtown merchants for helping us to launch this ambitious undertaking."
 
Park visitors will begin to see changes occurring in the park before the end of September. Hemming Plaza was established in 1857 and is Jacksonville’s oldest public park.  



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