Rethinking the Jacksonville Landing
Harbinger Innovation Presented at PB&J's PechaKucha
The Jacksonville organization PB&J puts together “charity events to aid those non-profits that are specifically helping our community’s interests.” One of their annual events is PechaKucha. PechaKucha is a presentation format developed by an architecture firm in Tokyo in 2003 wherein the presenter shows 20 images, each image for 20 seconds, and talks to the images all designed around a specified topic.
PechaKucha Night Jacksonville Volume 29: What Should The Jacksonville Landing Become?
- Wiatt Bowers, transportation and land-use planner
- Jason Fisher, principal at content design group
- Paula Horvath, UNF professor and editorial writer for The Florida Times-Union
- Keri Kidder, executive administrative professional at Citi and community activist
- Brandon Pourch, architect and artist
- Steve Williams, CEO of Harbinger Sign and Harbinger Innovation Group
Jacksonville Landing owner, Tony Sleiman, was in the audience to hear the suggestions first-hand. The event was initially intended to take place at Hemming Park, but due to rain it was moved into the gorgeous and fun Sweet Pete’s.
The Stated Goals for Landing Redevelopment According to DIA
The Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) recently selected 3 design firms to present redesign concepts for the Landing to their board. They made clear goals, stating that plans should “focus on design of the open space and massing and location of the buildings,” according to the request for qualifications, as reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal.
DIA-Stated Goals for the Redevelopment of the Landing:
- Open a view corridor from Laura Street to the river.
- Provide open space near the river as part of the riverwalk system.
- Better connect the site to the city and to adjacent properties.
- Design a visually interesting project that engages the public and can become a recognizable symbol for Jacksonville’s waterfront.
- Energize and activate the site day and evening.
- Ensure economic sustainability for the site.
Problem No. 1 is Goal No. 1
Steve Williams questioned the wisdom of the first goal on DIA’s list. It is the only list item demanding an expensive redesign of an established, iconic structure. How would this artificially-imposed aesthetic demand make people want to go there and stores want to be there? How would knocking that building down make it a place that Jacksonville is proud of and a destination where people want to go? People want to go to RAM and Jaxon’s Night Market and those places are under bridges and in parks. It isn’t about altering the space, it’s about changing the programming, culture and perception.
Innovating the Landing
The Landing could be where locals get their groceries and visitors get products created by local makers; items not available anywhere else in the world.
Steve Williams went to his innovation team with a vision for a Jacksonville Landing that was like Chelsea Market in New York.
A place where a startup coffee company like Vagabond could develop their brand to transition from a cart in the park to a brick-and-mortar store. Steve tasked his innovation team with exploring what The Landing could become if the budget for redesigning it were applied to re-programming and rebranding it as a public marketplace and incubator for local entrepreneurs and makers. Keep the iconic building, but pump new blood into its veins.
A New Kind of Public Market
Harbinger Innovation Group concepted a place that acted as an incubator space for startup retail operations and restaurants as well as a public market for the community. It could be a center for entrepreneurial education where local makers learn how to build brands and balance books between rushes.
What if the entranceway facing Laura Street were covered with fresh local fruits, a real baker, a fresh fish market, a local butcher. And what if inside were retail incubators where local companies like Rethreaded and Tact could grow their brands. And upstairs were restaurant incubators showcasing a constantly changing parade of exotic and clever concept cuisines.
Live Tweeting the True Story of The Landing
This was the story for PechaKucha. But for it to resonate after fantastical renderings of dramatic new structures and gardens along the fabulous St. Johns River, how could a story like “reprogramming” be as compelling? The missing context was the true story: the current state of the Landing.
During the PechaKucha presentations, Steve Williams left Sweet Pete’s and went to the Landing to live tweet in real time the actual space. His Twitter presented the context for the conversation occurring across town.
As Wiatt Bowers presented his redesign, Steve’s Twitter…
When Jason Fisher of Content Design Group presented some cool ideas about activating the river and bringing local merchants into the programming, Steve’s Twitter…
As Paula Horvath talked about the focal point of the river and Keri Kidder got the crowd laughing about how obvious a choice local vendors is, Steve’s Twitter reminded us that there are some great shops in the Landing. Would they survive until reconstruction is complete? Would reconstruction guarantee them business?
Brandon Pourch presented a fantastic architectural vision that resembled a whale’s tail and included an aquarium, while Steve showed the Landing’s current destination-maker.
When the time came for Steve to present, the Chief Strategist of his innovation team, Jon Bosworth, took the stage and invited everyone to follow Steve’s live tweets to see the real space, in all of it’s beauty and vacancy, while looking at what other communities have done with similar spaces.
The Landing is a beautiful and iconic structure. The problem isn’t the building. It needs an investment in exciting programming and an aggressive rebranding strategy.
Just because #dtjax is on fire, doesn’t mean we have to burn The Landing down (yet)
This is the title of Harbinger Innovation’s proposal in the PechaKucha event. As Steve tweeted images of empty storefronts live from The Landing, Jon showed images of successful, thriving public markets.
“Public Markets are succeeding in cities our size all over the world.”
“These markets are where entrepreneurs and craftsmen come together to create a destination. It also helps them transition from hobbyist to entrepreneur.”
“Give residents a market where they can purchase locally grown vegetables from farmers every day, local meats, local fish.”
“Inside could be retail incubators for craftsmen and entrepreneurs that have outgrown RAM but aren’t ready for brick-and-mortar. Fill the empty spaces upstairs with restaurant incubators.”
Invest in Reprogramming & Rebranding for Real Success
“Make the river visible from Laura Street,” isn’t a business goal. The landing is a brand mark for Jacksonville. Don’t alter that mark, pursue a better goal: “Make this place an asset to our community and a centerpiece of successful Jacksonville businesses.” Look at what is working in other places and the evidence here in our community that it will work here. Change what The Landing is about and then prove to Jacksonville that things have changed. Reprogram and rebrand. Spend that redesign money on an experienced and cultured curator and management team from successful public markets and incubators in other places. Then design a new brand experience inside The Landing.
The way to improve the landing isn’t to knock holes in it; it is to fill it with the creative heart of our city and then to create a brand that makes Jacksonvillians look at The Landing with fresh eyes and be proud of it again.