JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hemming Plaza could undergo huge changes if a newly formed nonprofit group is successful. The city is working to get a private entity to operate the downtown plaza.
The group Friends of Hemming Park wants to oversee a renaissance of Hemming Plaza. Wayne Wood, who was instrumental in starting the Riverside Arts Market, is heading up the group.
"We want to bring art, we want to bring food, we want to bring entertainment. We plan to do programming in the park seven days a week," Wood said. "There is going to be so much going on in downtown and Hemming Plaza in particular that people will come from all over the city, not just people who work downtown, to see what is going on."
Things like festivals, Shakespeare in the Park and ballet.
The budget for this non profit group would be $1.25 million and there would be a full time as staff of about eight.
As for the homeless at the park that keeps some people away, Wood said "our goal is to bring people down to the park, so those people who are there, we want them to behave, we don't want them to hassle people. We want people to feel safe when they come there so our job is not to displace anybody, but to bring more people into the park so those people won't really be an issue."
Terry Merritt grew up in Jacksonville and would love to see Hemming Plaza on the rebound.
"The park is really nice," Merritt said. "I would love to see it come back and revamp it and make it beautiful for everybody. Upgrade downtown a little bit. This is the eye of the city downtown here."
Without a resurrection of Hemming Plaza, Wood said it will be difficult for downtown to come back the way everyone wants it to.
Wayne Wood said it is not a done deal. His group is still negotiating a contract with the city. If all goes well, he hopes City Council would approve it in early summer and his group, Friends of Hemming Park, would be in business in late summer or early fall.