Activating Jacksonville's Riverfront

About the Project

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund is facilitating a study of what it will take to activate Jacksonville's Downtown Riverfront through programming, activities, and public space design interventions for the benefit of all of our residents and visitors. The project has convened extensive community conversations, stakeholder workshops, and public presentations. The plans, recommendations, and interventions contained in the Activation Plan have been informed by hundreds of hours of conversation between January 2021 and October 2021 with stakeholders from across Jacksonville’s neighborhoods. 

View the recording of our Activation Plan Presentation and explore the presentation

Explore what we've heard from Jaxsons across the city in our Public Input Summary; the economic case for riverfront activation in our Economic Impact Study; and what we learned from cities around the country and the world in our Benchmarking Report.

View our public space planning principles and Shipyards Conceptual Plans

View our second project newsletter (July 2021)

View our first project newsletter (May 2021)

Partners & Collaborators

Project lead:

  • DVDL, an agency of cultural forecasters working with cultural institutions and public spaces around the country, leading the project and development of the activation plan.

Project partners: 

  • Groundwork Jacksonville, leading the community engagement work in their capacity as our city's nonprofit trust dedicated to creating a more walkable, liveable community. We share that goal, and the Emerald Trail and inclusive waterfront public spaces are both important steps to achieving it.
  • WXY, a New York-based design and planning firm.
  • JLP+D, a funding strategy and development firm.

Project collaborators:

In the News


Upcoming Events


Throughout the spring and summer of 2021, DVDL and partners have worked through a series of frameworks, tasks and conversations, including:

  • meeting with community leaders, including next-generation representatives, for group conversations and one-on-one interviews;
  • benchmarking against comparable projects around the country and the world;
  • launching a series of programs to engage residents in these discussions, including tours of the waterfront and community meetings; and
  • distributing a city-wide survey on public space usage, cultural institutions and well-being among Jacksonville residents.

Initial design and activation plans take into account the learnings from each of these work streams, and were presented to the public on October 19. View the meeting recording and presentation here. We also expect to host community meetings or town halls to share the findings of our work directly with our neighbors.


Meet the members of our Task Force, Activation Coalition and NextGen stakeholder groups!

Task Force

Activation Coalition


Recent Events


Why is the Jessie Ball duPont Fund involved in this work?

Our work in Jacksonville—including grantmaking, funding research, and convening community partnerships—is designed to create spaces where the members of our community feel they truly belong. An important part of that work is expanding access to shared community spaces that reflect the diverse identity of our city.

To that end, we are helping to convene conversations to see how we might accommodate as broad a segment of wishes and desires for the Jacksonville waterfront as possible. Working with community leaders, we plan to gather input at the neighborhood level, build on prior work, and use what we learn to build consensus on how best to bring the Northbank and Southbank to life.

Why are public spaces so important?

Public spaces have the potential to bring together residents from all walks of life; in that way, we also have a responsibility to make them as inclusive as possible.

When designed and activated in a way that feels welcoming and exciting, these are places that foster health, equity, dialogue and social connection for residents and visitors.

In order for public space to be successful, there must be a diverse slate of activities throughout all seasons and time of day. The culture and history of the community should be felt and be visible, and spaces should allow for flexible uses in the future.

What is an activation plan? How will it complement and soften planned commercial and residential development along the riverfront? How will it promote green space, trees, native plants, and resiliency?

The Riverfront Activation Plan is first and foremost about bringing people and energy to the downtown waterfront. The focus of the Activation Plan will be on programs, activities, and events for and by all residents, and what is required to fund, run, and maintain these in years to come. We will include recommendations for funding and permitting that allows for more flexibility and sustainability of successful events that attract large crowds.

The design portion, which is not the main focus but important to support the recommended activities, will have a strong emphasis on accessibility and connectivity.

As part of recommending activities and programs, we will come up with ways to soften the hard, concrete spaces along the river, and wrap any hardscaped activity spaces in green surroundings. We think of this activation process as the starting point for future, potentially larger, developments of green spaces along the river.

What space are we talking about? How far along in the process are we? 

We are putting together a map of the riverfront that delineates space whose use has and has not been determined.  This current process – of community engagement and conceptualization of open spaces – began in April and is scheduled to conclude in October.

Are you dealing with both publicly owned land as well as privately owned?

While we are focused on the publicly owned land, we believe that the successful activation of the riverfront is dependent on deliberate, planned interaction between the public and private spaces.

How will this planning process result in specific recommendations for specific space, e.g., Metro Park, the Landing, Shipyards?

While the primary focus of this work is activation, there will also be conceptual representations of what the Shipyards and other spaces might include and look like.  The Downtown Investment Authority has already engaged three design firms to propose recommendations for Riverfront Plaza, formerly the Landing.

When you talk about the Shipyards, what is included in that? 

When we talk about the Shipyards, we are also talking about all of Metropolitan Park, including Kids Kampus and the Festival Lawns.

Can the Shipyards be park space?

As part of the design scope, but in parallel to the development of the Activation Plan, we are working with WXY Studio to develop a conceptual space plan for what could happen with the Shipyards. All scenarios will include a large park space. See our initial concepts >>

Is the proposed MOSH part of this plan?

MOSH will certainly continue to be a major waterfront asset.  Our understanding is the museum is currently engaged in conversations with multiple stakeholders around the best possible location.  They are an involved participant of our Activation Coalition.

What are "small public space interventions"?

In this project, the design will be smaller elements that can give a boost to public space and draw people to the downtown riverfront. These can take on various forms but could be simple mobile units like food trucks (or even smaller units when there is an issue of access for food trucks), it could be a unit where materials are stored for all types of programs or, simply, a small kiosk for coffee and snacks. Other small interventions could facilitate public art installations creating fun, informal spaces for creativity and reflection.

What will be the role of "passive" opportunities along the riverfront? How do we ensure that we don't have a series of pocket parks with buildings in between? 

In the Activation Plan, we will consider the downtown riverfront as a whole, looking at both the north and south banks of the river. To create vibrancy and make sure people use the riverfront on a daily or weekly basis, a wide range of activities will be considered ranging from passive, restorative “activities” like areas for picnicking and seating, to exercise facilitates, venues for performances, but also public services like food markets or a kiosk with educational information, health care resources, or other community resources.

How will this plan serve the homeless?

The goal of the Activation Plan is to create a vibrant riverfront which is welcoming and accessible to all, whether young or old, regardless of abilities or economic means, and regardless of whether you are housed or unhoused. This will require thinking around basic amenities like restrooms and wash stations, as well as providing social services and opportunities on the riverfront.

Are you aware of the AIA Jacksonville Riverfront Activation Nodes Vision?

Yes, we are in close contact with the main creators of the AIA Nodes Vision and are taking all these ideas into account along with other former and current plans and proposals.

What is the role of City staff, City Council and Downtown Investment Authority, as well as riverfront landowners, in this planning process?

We are in close conversation with the City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department, the Mayor’s Office, individual City Council members as well as City Council Commissions. We are also in close touch with the Downtown Investment Authority. And other city-funded organizations that have an impact on the waterfront. Through our stakeholder groups, we are working closely with businesses and organizations operating along the riverfront. Additionally, we are working with groups like Riverfront Parks Now and local CDCs to understand the concerns and interests of as broad a group of stakeholders as possible.

Who is responsible for bringing all of the public and private resources together in an actionable plan? 

Currently multiple organizations are partnering to bring this initiative to fruition – looking at both the community’s desires for the riverfront and possible funding models.  Partners include the Downtown Investment Authority, City of Jacksonville, Jessie Ball duPont Fund, DVDL and Groundworks Jacksonville.  These organizations will collaborate to present learnings and recommendations to the City Council.

Here To Help

Katie Ensign
Vice President for Placemaking & Administration
Send Email904-544-9533
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Your input is critical to creating a vibrant riverfront for and by all.

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