JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Florida. The Jacksonville Beach community remains divided over Latham Plaza’s current development plans, as discussions at today’s Community Redevelopment Agency meeting showed. The City recently hosted two workshops to gather feedback and engage with the community regarding the proposed Latham Plaza project.
Action News Jax reporter Annette Gutierrez was in Jacksonville Beach, where the Latham Plaza development appears to be imminent.
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According to the CRA, the main takeaway from the workshops is that the Latham Plaza project proposal will move forward despite significant opposition. The main source of opposition was the vendors and event organizers who attended the seminars.
During the workshops, about 40 vendors attended each session to express their disagreement with the proposed project.
Mark Braddock, a retailer, questioned the city’s priorities, saying: “Do we want landmark events that grab national attention? Like Deck the Chairs? Or do you want mud flaps, glowing lights, and essentially a future disaster for any coming hurricane?”
Frances Powlosky, Vice Chair of CRA Jacksonville Beach, acknowledged that the project was not limited to retailers.
She emphasized the need to take into account the concerns of residents, saying: “But the happy people who live here are also not heard.”
On the other hand, some residents, such as Lisa Kennedy, have expressed their support for the potential transformation of Latham Plaza.
Kennedy stated, “I think they did. It is a good idea to introduce new activities for children and attract more visitors to the beach.
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The proposals of the Latham Plaza project aim to turn the green space into an entertainment center with a fountain, playground and public Wi-Fi.
Mark Braddock, who hosts the 904 Pop Up event 10 times a year, expressed concern about the potential loss of green space. He noted: “When I lose green spaces, small businesses will suffer.”
Despite mixed views, CRA is determined to find a compromise and discuss the best way forward.
Vice Chair Frances Powlosky assured the community that the city has plans to speak with vendors one-on-one to help them plan their activities as the project progresses.
The next workshop is scheduled for July 24th with City Council, CRA and community participation providing an opportunity for further discussion and community engagement on Latham Plaza’s development plans.
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