The mere mention of "living downtown" in a large city, for many, paints a starry, romantic picture of living in the middle of the action. A lifestyle with active nights, and a proximity to great food and public transportation also comes to mind.
Unfortunately, Downtown Jacksonville has a way to go before a new resident expecting such things isn't turned away disappointed. While the city's downtown has the internal structure to be the city's action-packed center, it's far from it.
Downtown Jacksonville, like the historic Springfield district to the north, can be considered up and coming, and it has indeed improved drastically in recent years.Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown made Downtown Jacksonville a priority during his 2011 campaign, recognizing that a city with an active downtown scene has a better chance of succeeding and attracting businesses and residents. Only time will tell if the city will continue to make revitalizing the area a priority.
There are several condominium buildings downtown for those interesting in purchasing real estate. Renters can choose from several high-rise apartment buildings, such as The Carling, 11 East, Metropolitan Lofts and City Place.
The biggest problems facing Downtown are a large homeless population, and a number of decaying and abandoned buildings, such as the old Marble Bank on Laura St., and the Barnett Bank building.
Downtown Jacksonville's nightlife has improved in recent years, although it still has a ways to go. Bay Street in particular is home to numerous bars and clubs, including TSI, Dive Bar and Mark's, an upscale cocktail bar.
Dining, during the day, is above average. During the evening, however, it's sub-par, with only a couple of spots open most nights, such as Burrito Gallery, and a couple of restaurants in the Jacksonville Landing. While there are many high-quality restaurants and shops downtown, most of them close early once the flux of nearby workers are gone.
Nearby attractions include The Jacksonville Landing, The Times-Union Center for Performing Arts, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Florida Theatre and EverBank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Most of these are within comfortable walking distance for centrally-located downtown residents. Downtown is also the center of Jacksonville's First Wednesday Art Walk, held the first Wednesday of each month from 5 to 9 p.m.
As a resident of Downtown Jacksonville for two years, I can say personally that living downtown is a mixed bag. All in all, it depends on the type of person you are. While I enjoy unique spots like Chamblin's Uptown, a two-story cafe/used bookstore, I often find myself travelling to nearby Riverside, Avondale or San Marco in the evening.
Public transportation, not a strong suit of Jacksonville as a whole, seems to be slightly better downtown due to the proximity of everything. The Jacksonville Skyway is also available, with a connecting station at Hemming Plaza, the city's first park. The Skyway, however, is presently more of a novelty than anything. The "Ride to Nowhere," as it's often called, doesn't have many notable stops. If it were connected to nearby Riverside or Avondale, the Skyway would be much more useful.