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Marketing effort aims to bring people to Downtown Jacksonville

6:15 PM, Jul 26, 2012   |    comments
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Video: EverBank's move good for downtown businesses

  • Downtown Marketing Council formed to market downtown and bring visitors to enjoy restaurants and activities and museums
  • Akel's Deli doing booming business after Everbank employees move into downtown building nearby
  • Everbank moved 1600 employees from the suburbs to downtown over the past few weeks

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Private money has been raised to launch a marketing effort to bring more people downtown to enjoy the activities and restaurants.

Several groups with a vested interest in downtown like Downtown Vision, the Chamber of Commerce, Visit Jacksonville, JTA, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Civic Council are among a group that have formed a downtown marketing council. They have raised $135,000 to market downtown and bring more people downtown. The Urban Land Institute and NAIOP, a commercial real estate association are also contributors.

Jaguars senior vice president Bill Prescott, a longtime advocate of downtown, is on the council and says changing the conversation about downtown is the goal of the group.

He says there are misconceptions about downtown that must be challenged. Prescott says it is safe and there is plenty of parking. He urges people to come on down to downtown.

"Get them to come down and realize the great things that are down here, some great restaurants downtown, museums, great attractions. Come visit a little more often and make it a vibrant place it can be."

Greg Desanto owns Olio Restaurant on Bay Street and has been there 15 months. He's doing well downtown despite the old courthouse closing across the street. Desanto is glad to hear of the plans by the downtown marketing council.

"Well anything to bring more traffic to downtown is always appreciated, especially by a business owner who is downtown. I hope that it just follows through. There's been a lot of push for downtown before, but it kind of stalls every once in a while and I hope that it does not have that effect this time," said Desanto.

Downtown Vision is hoping to raise $170,000 in private money to add to the marketing effort. One of the first things the council did was start a website called to bring attention to the events and restaurants downtown.

An example of what can happen if people come downtown is what has happened with EverBank moving downtown.

EverBank just completed it's move from the suburbs to downtown. 1,600 employees now work in the original AT&T tower between Bay and Forsyth streets. One worker told First Coast News off camera she loves being downtown.

At Akel's Deli across the street, it was packed at lunchtime. They were lined up to grab something to eat and the cash was changing hands.

"The impact of EverBank has been wonderful," said Paul Ganim, who is among the family owners of the deli. "We are seeing lots and lots of EverBank employees and they are keeping us very, very busy. We are very happy."

Bradley Valentine runs Popka Dogs on the corner across from the Landing. Valentine says he's seen a lot more foot traffic since EverBank has moved in downtown and it's been a boost for his business.

"Absolutely, absolutely. It's been reflective in our daily numbers," said Valentine. "There's nothing constant, nothing free in Jacksonville business. It is always difficult, always hard , but definitely it's helping, definitely it is cause for hope and we see a good increase for the business."

"I am happy for anyone who is doing good down here," Valentine said.

Meanwhile, Downtown Vision officials tell First Coast News that four small businesses have moved or are moving soon to downtown bringing a total of 80 more employees downtown.

First Coast News

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