The presence of the St. Johns River running through downtown Jacksonville is one of the city’s greatest assets.
In the 1980s, the city worked hard to put that natural asset to use, creating the Riverwalks along the north and south banks of the river.
Originally the Riverwalks were planned with far more amenities, including a riverfront aquarium, an amphitheater, and an open-air marketplace, but many aspects of the initial plans were either scaled down or removed.
Over the years, even some of the elements that did get built out have been removed: the maritime museum, some riverfront shops, and a few other amenities.
But with the ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Jax becoming a high priority for the city, it would make sense to start exploring ways to improve the Riverwalk experience to generate more activity along our valuable riverbanks.
Years ago, with foot traffic declining, it made sense to remove retail elements from the Riverwalks.
But now, with a significantly-increased number of residential and hotel units in the near vicinity, it may be a good time to give retail a try again.
There’s quite a bit of unused space along both of the Riverwalks that could be utilized to build small retail kiosks. Based on the success of those, larger units could be constructed later.
Likewise, a restaurant or two that fully utilize their riverfront position would be a welcomed sight. As it stands now, the restaurants that exist along the riverfront – such as Chart House or River City Brewing Company – aren’t easily accessible from the Riverwalk and aren’t oriented to properly take full advantage of their proximity to the water.
More retail and restaurant options along the river – particularly ones that take advantage of the riverfront – would activate the Riverwalks and bring about consistent pedestrian activity.