Downtown is made up of eight districts, flanking the River’s Northeastern curve on both sides: Brooklyn, LaVilla, Central Core, Church, Cathedral, Sports & Entertainment, Working Waterfront and Southbank. Each district offers a unique, captivating history. The map below showcases the boundaries of each Downtown district.
Map of the Downtown Overlay Districts
Map of the overall Downtown boundary
Modern and colorful, Brooklyn connects the Central Core to the historic Riverside neighborhood and 5 Points shopping and entertainment district. Home to major corporate headquarters – Haskell, Black Knight Financial, and FIS, to name a few – Brooklyn offers an ideal location for businesses and residents alike. The district has a mix of uses, including riverfront office, multi-family housing developments, restaurants, retail, and light industrial. The community enjoys plentiful river access, and with various major projects currently underway
, the Brooklyn district is well-positioned for continued growth and success.
East of the Central Core, LaVilla is home to a rich cultural heritage. As Jacksonville’s oldest suburb, LaVilla was known as the Harlem of the South and the epicenter of black culture and commerce in Northeast Florida, as well as Jacksonville’s railroad hub. The Life Ev'ry Voice and Sing Park – located on the site of James Weldon Johnson’s homestead – is central to the District. As was the case in many urban areas nationwide, LaVilla experienced a sharp decline in population and quality of life through the latter half of the 20th Century. At the start of the 1990s, The River City Renaissance (RCR) Plan aimed to revitalize Jacksonville’s downtown and focused on making room for future development through the acquisition and clearing of property, many acres of which occurred in LaVilla. Much of the architecture in Lavilla was demolished, and nearly thirty years after the start of RCR, LaVilla is only now seeing the glimmers of redevelopment in the form of new workforce housing, as recommended in the 2019 LaVilla Neighborhood Development Strategy (to obtain a copy of the plan, please contact the DIA).
The plan also calls for a LaVilla Heritage Trail for pedestrians and bicycles – connecting Brooklyn with the “Emerald Necklace” – and a Water Street road diet to connect the historic district to the riverfront.
The central core encompasses many of Downtown’s office towers, government services, regional non-profits, and various art and cultural centers, making it the most concentrated area of focus for economic development on the Northbank. The Central Core’s small walkable blocks are filled with historic architecture, cultural amenities, and public art. The City of Jacksonville was founded on the riverbank of the Central Core, and iconic cultural centers like the Times Union Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Florida Theatre reside in the Central Core. Today, work is underway to re-establish key riverfront properties and enhance Jacksonville’s iconic skyline. The availability of several unique and historic properties provide significant opportunities for adaptive reuse.
Situated along the northern boundary of Downtown between the Central Core and the historic Springfield neighborhood, the Church District is at the beginning stages of a major transition. Drawing its name from the multi-block First Baptist Church of Jacksonville campus, the area is ripe for redevelopment, with nine contiguous blocks currently for sale
and multiple adaptive reuse projects underway to bring residential, retail, and a hotel to the district.
Anchored by five historic churches, the Cathedral District connects the Central Core to the Sports & Entertainment District and is home to Billy Goat Hill, the highest point in Downtown Jacksonville. Beginning in 2016, the area has been championed by Cathedral District Jax-Inc. (CD-J)
, a Florida nonprofit, which created a Master Plan for the area to support development and revitalization efforts, including the continued support of the senior residents – 600 and counting – that call the district home via affordable, quality housing and amenities.
SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Sporting the biggest concentration of entertainment venues, the Sports & Entertainment District is home to five sports teams, major concerts, the annual Jacksonville Fair and much more. The district was once home to a thriving maritime industry, its riverfront lined with shipyards. Today, major mixed-use developments are planned to bring residents, employees, and visitors to the area.
In 2017, portions of the Cathedral District and the Sports & Entertainment District were designated as “Opportunity Zones.” Opportunity Zones were created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and offer investors tax breaks designed to encourage economic development in economically distressed areas. For investors to gain the maximum tax break of 15%, the investment has to be held for seven years and completed by 2026.
The Working Waterfront sits on the eastern edge of Downtown beyond the Sports & Entertainment District. Home to the North Florida Shipyards, the district primarily supports industrial waterfront uses and the district has a special zoning overlay to accommodate the needs of shipping, lumber, concrete, oil, and like businesses operating there.
Home to tall riverfront office and residential towers, the Southbank sits between the St. Johns River to the north and the San Marco neighborhood to the south. The Southbank is home to hotels and multiple medical campuses including Baptist Medical Center, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center and Nemours Specialty Care center. The district also features riverfront access via the Southbank riverwalk, a boat ramp, kayak launch, and River Taxi stops.