The Chicago Riverwalk recast an industrial and underused riverfront into a bustling urban destination. Image credit: R Boed via Flickr

What We Learned from Cities Around the Country

Detroit's Robert C. Valade Park features a sandy beach, a children’s musical garden, a floating bar and a community barbecue pavilion. Image credit: Marc Pasco via
  • A site with a mixed-use profile and high level of community engagement can create a space true to local character that employs hundreds of locals.
  • Adaptive reuse of building materials and industrial spaces is both sustainable and maintains a connection to the site’s rich cultural history.
  • Commitments to sustainability and ecology are more meaningful when there are opportunities for the public to engage with them, not just see them.
  • Design can overcome flood risks in an unobtrusive manner, using slopes and grades rather than flood walls.
  • Integrating mixed use development and sports stadiums bring 24-hour activity to a park and make it an extension of the city.
  • Building small parks along a riverfront creates stepping stones for more expansive development and sets the stage for public-private partnerships.
  • Partnerships with hospital systems suggest that the medical community can be a valuable partner in programming and activating public space.
  • In addition to being fun, programming can focus on serving critical social needs, like linking people with counseling resources and early literacy programs.

This research is the result of a collaborative effort between DVDL—cultural strategists and forecasters leading the Activation Plan development—and Riverfront Parks Now—a citizen-led initiative advocating for green space and parks in Jacksonville. The research looks at waterfront projects in 20 cities around the country and the world. It is meant to inspire and provide lessons for Jacksonville as we collectively reimagine the future of the Downtown Riverfront.

This is one of several research releases associated with this project. Explore our Public Input Summary to read about Jaxsons' priorities, see the data and hear from your friends and neighbors in their own words. Learn about the economic benefits of an active riverfront in our Economic Impact Study conducted by James Lima Planning + Development. Explore the final Activation Plan released in August 2022.

Stay tuned to your email and @duPontFund on Twitter for more learnings from our work. Sign up to receive our emails.

Learn more about Activating Jacksonville's Riverfront.

Written by
Melanie Cost Young