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Beyond San Marco by Design

August 17, 2016

Article by Valerie Feinberg, AICP originally published in 1st Coast Planner August 2016 Email Newsletter




In 2012 Doug Skiles, then President of San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS), expressed the intent of a major neighborhood planning initiative that is San Marco by Design.  He stated:

“When San Marco Preservation Society contemplated this effort we were very clear that we didn’t want another “great neighborhood plan” that was going to sit on a shelf and collect dust.  Many people were making a commitment of time and money to articulate a vision for the community.  With development pressure easing, we felt it was an ideal time to pause and reflect on what makes our neighborhood special and to dream about what we would like it to become.” (Source: www.smpsjax.com)

San Marco by Design continues to advance preservation and enhancement of the economic and social value, health and charm of the San Marco neighborhoods.  A planning effort that began in 2008 culminated with the first iteration of San Marco by Design: A Smart Growth Plan for North San Marco.  The plan did not sit on a shelf for long.  It has transitioned to the next logical step in the planning process, an implementation strategy that will guide future development.

San Marco by Design Neighborhood Action Plan (SMbD NAP) is proceeding through the legislative process for adoption as an ordinance and will become a key part of the planning process for new infill development from Mitchell Avenue and the San Marco Square to I-95. It will serve as corollary guidance to the Jacksonville Planning and Development Department.  The plan is available at http://smpsjax.com
In addition to the SMbD NAP official adoption, Council President and District 5 representative, Lori Boyer has introduced legislation to modify the current zoning overlay that governs new construction on riverfront and modifies the intent of Planned Unit Developments (PUD’s) in certain locations. A map of the overlay boundary is provided below and further information on the proposed legislation, bill number 2015-834, can be found on the City if Jacksonville  Bill Search website


San Marco Overlay Boundary Map

San Marco continues to be impacted by the construction of the Overland Bridge project. However;  it has not had the severe negative effect on existing adjacent businesses as was anticipated. For example, Tidbits Restaurant continues to thrive amongst the dust.  The timing of the San Marco legislation may be fitting because after years of static growth, there is a renewed interest in San Marco as indicated by a number of recently completed development projects.  These recent projects together with a number of planned projects will provide a catalyst for growth and a synergy that could result in San Marco becoming Jacksonville’s fastest growing neighborhood.  

A vacant lot behind Tidbits Restaurant  owned by San Marco Professional Building LLC is slated for a  five-story, 50-unit apartment on the property. It is currently in the design phase.  In addition, plans to redevelop the Florida Baptist Convention property located south of I-95 on Hendricks Avenue and Nira Street into a mixed-used residential building with retail space and on-site parking  are  being contemplated.  

The lack of public parking for the Southbank Riverwalk, for Friendship Fountain, MOSH and the developing retail corridors along Old Kings, Hendricks and San Marco continues to be a major challenge for redevelopment. The City of Jacksonville (COJ) has been working with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) to assure that upon completion of the Overland Bridge project, the right of way under the various bridge sections will be available for public parking. So far, ten parcels have been identified for public use with limited hours. By partnering with FDOT and JTA, various lots on San Marco Boulevard could help with Riverwalk parking in addition to help activate this corridor. The merchants in San Marco conceive of running a shuttle to connect remote parking to San Marco Square according to Council Representative’s Lori Boyer’s recent District 5 Newsletter. (Source: www.loriboyer.org)

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