Can downtown be saved? Lori Boyer is trying

It must be tough to be Lori Boyer right now. Lori is a former City Council Member and now runs the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA).

Downtown development is not easy and has been a thorn in Jacksonville’s side for many, many years. Jacksonville is in a messy situation with a federal investigation and loss of trust in our local leadership. But, Lori is trying to stay above the mud slinging and is whittling away at new ideas and projects. Agree with them or not — they are innovative and may just be a shot in the arm we need.

For instance:

  • How would you like to see a former Naval warship docked downtown? It might just happen and Eye thinks that’s a great idea. Why wouldn’t Jacksonville – a big military town – support a big idea like this? The Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association – check them out here: – has been working on this project for many years and it may just be coming to reality soon. The DIA has approved the deal and the City Council will need to agree. It’s the USS Orleck and it may appear on the riverbank in the next few months!
U S S Orleck
  • The DIA’s Targeted Food and Beverage Program wants to give opportunities for people who work downtown to eat at a cluster of restaurants and bars in walkable areas of Downtown. By incentivizing restaurants to open up in this district, her hope is it will bring people downtown at night as well. It’s a good idea if she can pull it off. It will take a lot of work and a major marketing campaign to draw people from the town centers to downtown. There isn’t much there and the nights can be scary. She seems to have a plan to address those concerns.
A cluster of downtown restaurants and bars. Sounds like fun!
  • Lori Boyer agreed to grant the proposed $600 million, mixed-use project – The District – an extension on its full performance schedule. The owners of the project requested a six month extension but they were granted 90 days. Eye was not supportive of this huge handout to the developer because it appeared to be too rich a contract with all the other issues our city was facing. However, once it was approved, we hoped it would get off the ground and create the vision they sold us. This hiccup in funding is a little worrisome and we hope they get it handled within their 90 day window. We would hate to have another riverfront debacle to deal with.
The District — Healthy Town rendering

Jacksonville has much to offer and the messiness of a federal investigation is hindering some business relocations. Lori Boyer is doing her part to keep doing the work while the Feds do theirs.

So here’s a wink for Lori Boyer as we start the weekend — but not so fast — we have one question about the projects above…

The deal for the Naval warship did not provide the nonprofit with any city money. The deal for bringing restaurants downtown did. The deal for The District with a big millionaire was huge and now we are giving extensions to get the project going while ad valorem taxes are not being collected.

Why would we not help out the Naval Warship Museum group with some money? It’s a non-profit and it would seem they would need it and would deserve it more than a private business or a millionaire.

We hope Lori will reconsider this and show this great project a little love as well. After all, it’s a military town and the non-profits need the help much more than the millionaires!

Whew — what a nice way to start the weekend – with a Wink!! A well-deserved one for a working-hard Lori Boyer.

Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives

Billie Tucker Volpe

Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives.


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