Mayor Alvin Brown today joined representatives from the Downtown Investment Authority, City Council and Friends of Hemming Park to announce that an agreement has been reached to manage Hemming Plaza.
“This public-private partnership to reimagine and revitalize Hemming Plaza is great news not only for Downtown,” said Mayor Brown. “It’s also great news for our entire city and for everyone who visits Jacksonville.”
The City Council Hemming Plaza committee, chaired by Council Member Denise Lee, played a key role in assisting efforts to enhance programming at the park. Mayor Brown applauded the group’s leadership in making sure that Hemming Plaza becomes all that it can be.
"As the Downtown representative, this is part of my district and ever since I’ve been in office, Hemming Park is something I saw we needed changed,” said Council Member Don Redman. “This is our goal and I thank the mayor for his tenacity.”
Friends of Hemming Park will run the historic 1.5 acre public park, located in the center of Downtown. The group’s key priorities will include making the park safe and inviting, beautification, and increasing and organizing events. The group’s five-member board, chaired by Wayne Wood, is comprised of Jacksonville leaders with extensive background in neighborhood revitalization, management and marketing.
“Hemming Plaza has been at the heart of Downtown for over 150 years, and for Downtown to be successful it must have a healthily and vibrant heart,” said Wood. “We look forward to making Hemming Plaza just that, and it being the first step in revitalizing Downtown Jacksonville.”
Friends of Hemming Park Vice Chair Terry Lorince echoed Wood’s sentiments.
“Successful urban parks grow out of daily activation, hands-on partnerships with surrounding businesses and cultural venues, and community ownership,” Lorince said. “It’s a recipe for success and we’re thrilled to have this opportunity to make Hemming Plaza a premier Downtown destination again.”
Mayor Brown said this is an opportunity to be a catalyst to enhance Downtown and activate its full potential.
“A great city depends on having a great Downtown, and a great Downtown depends on having great public spaces like Hemming Plaza,” said Mayor Brown. “This park is a precious community asset for all of Jacksonville, but it’s fallen short of its tremendous potential. We know it can be so much better. With this agreement, that’s going to happen.”
Oliver Barakat, the Downtown Investment Authority chair, said he is looking forward to the new partnership.
“The DIA is excited to be part of this solution,” Barakat said. “We look forward to seeing Hemming Plaza evolve into an asset for Downtown.”
The City of Jacksonville and 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 budget 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.
Hemming Plaza was established in 1857 and is Jacksonville’s oldest public park.
The proposed agreement will be filed with City Council for final approval.