Reality Check First Coast, a project that was months in the making, came to St. Johns County Convention Center at the World Golf Village on Thursday. Reality Check First Coast is a visioning exercise that seeks to analyze and develop alternative growth scenarios for the seven county area—Nassau, Duval, Clay, Baker, St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam—through the year 2060. According to research performed by the GeoPlan Center at the University of Florida and the Northeast Florida Regional Council, the First Coast area is expected to projected to add 1.6 million people and 650,000 new jobs by 2060.
The visioning exercise conducted at the May 21 event was designed raise awareness as to the projected levels of region-wide growth, and to lay the foundation fort the development of a concrete list of next steps to meet the region’s future job, housing, transportation, infrastructure and recreational needs.
To that end, over 275 of North Florida’s political, business and non-profit leaders gathered to share their vision of what the First Coast can become. There were 30 tables of 10 people people who used red (jobs) and yellow (residential) Lego’s to represent future development. Among the participants were UNF President (and former Mayor) John Delaney, Mayor John Peyton, Councilman Kevin Hyde, Councilman Art Graham and Councilman Bill Bishop. Governor Charlie Crist also spoke at the event.
My table had a diverse group, including a former Jacksonville City Councilwoman, the City Manager of a neighboring town, a School Board member from a neighboring county and business leaders from Jacksonville and surrounding areas. Interestingly enough, perhaps a testament to what we would all like North Florida to become, we began by marking off greenspace areas that we wanted to preserve and enhance. We then moved on to identifying where we would like alternative forms of transportation, such as high-speed rail, and moved on from there. Perhaps the most difficult challenge was deciding where to place the scores of red (jobs) and yellow (residential) Lego’s. We had said that we wanted to avoid the urban sprawl that plagues so much of North Florida, and that proved rather challenging to change. In the end, our consensus was that North Florida must develop better forms of Transportation, mixed-use developments with high-quality schools and accessible greenspace that accentuates our River, Beaches and the natural beauty of our region.
The project is by no means complete. Visit Reality Check’s website for information on how you can become involved.
Oh…and for the political junkies…interestingly enough, the prospect of hearing the incumbent Governor and current Senatorial candidate didn’t seem to inspire more of Jacksonville’s City Council members to attend, other than Hyde, Graham and Bishop who were already mentioned… More pictures below…