April 1, 2020
Hemming and hawing: Jacksonville revives Hemming Plaza


Northeast Florida roundup

Hemming and hawing: Jacksonville revives Hemming Plaza

Ron Word | 10/28/2014

Hemming Plaza, a 1½-acre park in downtown Jacksonville, survived the great fire of 1901, mob attacks on civil rights demonstrators, an invasion of starlings and urban blight.

Now Jacksonville is hiring an advocacy group, Friends of Hemming Park, to revive the city’s oldest park, hoping it can deal with homeless squatters, panhandlers, contentious all-day card games and the perception by many that the park is just unsafe.

Downtown businesses have com- plained of unruly behavior, vulgar language and noise from the people frequenting the park. City Hall sits at one end of the square park, while the federal courthouse and the Museum of Contemporary Art sit on other sides.

While the group just received a $1-million grant from the city, Wayne Wood, president of the Friends board, says it has been looking at solutions to revive the park for about two years, studying successful urban parks around the country.

Vince Cavin, events and operations manager of One Spark, will serve as executive director of the group. “Starting today, we are embracing a plaza, a park, soon to be transformed into a vibrant cultural center,” Cavin said in early September.

Under its agreement with the city, Friends of Hemming Park must schedule five special events per quarter that draw 500 or more people to the park. It also agreed to continue supporting the regularly occurring events such as Art Walk, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival and One Spark.

“Hemming Plaza has been at the heart of downtown for over 150 years, and for downtown to be successful it must have a healthy and vibrant heart,” says Wood.


Mayo Clinic has named Gianrico Farrugia vice president and CEO of the clinic’s Jacksonville campus. He succeeds William Rupp, who will retire at the end of 2014. Farrugia has been at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for 26 years.

Jackie Burns, director of the Citrus Research and Education Center at Lake Alfred, is now dean of research at UF/IFAS.

Declan Reiley has been named vice president for economic development for the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. He previously served as vice president of business development for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission and was previously business development chief for the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. Reiley replaces Norm Gregory, who resigned.

APR Energy has named former CEO John Campion executive chairman. Laurence Anderson is now CEO, and interim CFO Lee Munro has been named CFO. Campion and Anderson co-founded Gianrico Farrugia APR Energy.

Profile HP500

HP500, an affiliate of Hallmark Partners, is developing Beacon Riverside, a 15-story, 45-residence condominium along the St. Johns River near downtown Jacksonville. It will be the first new high-rise condominium in northeast Florida in nearly a decade, says Bryan Weber, a principal of Hallmark Partners.

The condo units, located adjacent to the Cummer Museum and Gardens, will start in the upper $700,000s and range from 2,400 to 5,000 square feet with 10-foot ceilings and terraces with views of the St. Johns River.

Hallmark is also developing 220 Riverside, a 294-residence urban apartment complex, 18,000 square feet of retail and is involved in a public-private partnership to create Unity Plaza, a new central park, amphitheater and public green. The two developments are about a mile apart.

Business Briefs

CLAY COUNTY — School officials are reviewing their dress code policies after pictures of an Oakleaf High School student wearing a “Dress Code Violation” T-shirt and sweat pants went viral. The girl’s mother called the outfit, which the school required the girl to wear because her skirt was too short, a “shame suit.” 

GAINESVILLE — The University of Florida has launched a rebranding campaign in hopes of moving it closer toward its goal of being a top-10 school. Its new slogan is “For the Gator Good.” University spokeswoman Janine Sikes says the rebranding is a progression of the UF Rising campaign. > Stephen and Carol Shey, founders of Shey Associates, a property management and development company, are donating their 12,000-sq.-ft. home and 657 acres of conservation land to the University of Florida. The home will be used as a UF retreat center for visiting academics and as a conference center. > The University of Florida hit a record $702 million in research funding in fiscal 2014, eclipsing the previous record by $34 million. The College of Medicine in Gainesville and Jacksonville brought in $366 million. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences received $102 million. The College of Engineering received $63 million, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences received $35 million. UF has received more than 50 grants of at least $1 million each to various departments.

JACKSONVILLE — The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is revamping its mass transit system. Changes range from new uniforms to revisions of its routes and schedule. Some 30 bus routes are being redesigned to better suit passengers. > Flightstar Aircraft Services, a 915-employee firm that maintains and repairs transport aircraft, is adding a third large hangar in January at Cecil Airport. Fred Cotten’s Bar-B-Q is closing after 68 years. > The 30-story EverBank Center and a parking garage downtown have been sold by El-Ad Florida to Amkin West Bay of Miami for $47.4 million. The building is 60% leased and is the fourth downtown building to be sold in the past year. > The Jacksonville Civic Council, a group of the city’s influential business leaders, is not endorsing plans to tear down the iconic Jacksonville Landing and replace it with two structures that would include apartments, restaurants, shops and possibly a hotel. Bob Rhodes, chairman of the Civic Council’s Downtown Task Force, says the group believes a better plan can be developed. The riverfront mall, owned by Seiman Enterprises, is on city-owned property. > Jacksonville-based APR Energy has signed a contract for a peaking power plant in western Australia.

NASSAU COUNTY — A museum honoring the history of American Beach and its founder Abraham Lincoln Lewis, has opened in Fernandina Beach. During segregation, American Beach was designated as a black beach. Lewis, founder of Afro-American Insurance, started the beach community in 1935.

ST. AUGUSTINE — Flagler College has announced the completion of Pollard Hall, the first new academic structure since 1996. The 16,600-sq.-ft. facility, named for benefactor Nelson C. Pollard, a great-great nephew of Henry Flagler, will provide classroom space for communications and psychology students and replace the old communications department building. Railway Worker Training in St. Augustine has been acquired by Kentucky-based R.J. Corman Railroad Group. Corman operates 11 short-line railroads and provides a variety of railway services. It employs more than 1,400 people in 23 states. Corman says the acquisition will not affect the St. Augustine headquarters of RWT, which has about 150 employees.

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