Downtown Development, Peter Rummell & The Jacksonville Civic Council

Much is at stake in Downtown Jacksonville over the next several years  While many people want to see residential living downtown, the talk has turned to the failed panacea for all that ails Jacksonville -building a new convention center. We’ve all heard the same talk before-and the same mistakes seem to be on the verge of being made again.

The usual actors are taking their places on the stage. Among them is Peter Rummell, a developer who was one of the biggest contributors to Mayor Brown’s election campaign. He started as a developer in the 1970s for the Arvida Company. After working for the Disney Corporation where he conceived of the Planned Residential Development-Celebration, he moved on to being Chairman and CEO of the St. Joe Company-a land developing company.  While there he led the planning and development of various resorts and residential communities. He has promised to be a force in the upcoming local elections for school board and in a recent interview with the Jacksonville Business Journal, withheld judgment on Mayor Brown’s performance so far.

Many of Jacksonville’s elite-the “movers and shakers” have formed up into a nonprofit  group called the Jacksonville Civic Council. Peter Rummell, the first president of the Council is joined by such elitists as Carl N. Cannon, retired Publisher of the Florida Times Union, Preston Haskell, the Chairman of the Haskell Construction Company, and Herb Peyton, President of Gate Petroleum. The elite of the Jacksonville business world are given cover by a number of familiar names: Wayne Weaver, former Sheriff Nat Glover (now President of Edward Waters College), and former mayor John Delaney (now President of UNF).

With the group now all assembled and a passive City Council and Mayor lounging in their offices, the same cycle is set to repeat itself. The “Wise Men” of Jacksonville present the plan to save Jacksonville’s downtown. The plan is then ratified with the usual people making incredible profits to implement the kind of development which over the years has proven to be a failure for the city. The only losers are the over 800,000 citizens of Jacksonville who are left out in the cold. Jacksonville has a history of blindly following the blueprint of the Elites, only to regret it later.

One can only hope that possibly the people will find a way to break the cycle and foster a genuine community for downtown made up of permanent tax paying residents who can control the destiny of the riverfront-making it possible for all to enjoy-our greatest asset.

The Farrar Report is broadcast weekly on the George Farrar channel on YouTube.

George Farrar   October 8, 2012

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