Tuesday, February 25

A Tree Grows in Jacksonville

broken window building jax
I was talking to a young man visiting Jacksonville from Illinois, and he wanted to know more about the city, as he was considering relocating here. I gave him the regular routine about the weather (heat and hurricanes), told him to be ready for long dinners out, and said that you always have to be aware of criminal activity. He also wanted to know about downtown, since he had been there at a bar but didn't know much beyond that.

I told him it was kind of spread out, with run-down parts adjacent to thriving parts, which means (like the rest of Jacksonville), it's spread out and semi-shady. Take the photo evidence in this article, taken from behind Sweet Pete's. The candy store is nice, but behind it you have this industrial-looking garage-type building. No big deal. Behind that, however, is a brick building with a plethora of broken windows. Through one of those windows, a tree grows. While you could imagine some kind of important metaphor here, it's really just an abandoned building. And nature will eventually devour abandoned buildings in Florida. And this isn't the only abandoned building downtown. 

Whenever I drive through downtown Jacksonville, it always feels like the size of it could be cut in half. The vacant lots, dilapidated buildings, bus depot, and other oddities could all be moved to one side of downtown, and then the occupied buildings, restaurants, hotels, and places people want to see would fill the other half. Instead, it's all mixed together, which makes the entirety seem sketchy. It's like my neighborhood where I grew up--it was a really nice block, except there was a big old haunted farm house at the end of the block. Sure, I got used to it, but other kids visiting my house always asked about the big yellow house. When I assured them it was haunted, some wanted to explore it, while others were freaked out. Some tourists might want to explore the abandoned buildings, bus depot, and homeless park in downtown Jacksonville, but most people will be freaked out. 

broken window tree jax
When I was at Disney Springs recently, I saw that two stores were under construction, but it wasn't because I saw broken out windows or construction crews. Disney used giant boxes (for lack of a better term) around buildings or new rides to cover them when under construction. Maybe Jacksonville could use this technique to cover the broken-window buildings, if nothing else. Just print on the covering that a luxury hotel is coming soon. Tourists won't know that nothing is coming soon, and instead of an eyesore, the city will have one more thriving business yet to be named.

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