Laura Street: Jacksonville, Florida
Whether strolling around, grabbing a bite to eat on their lunch break, or attending the Art Walk on the first Wednesday of every month, at some point visitors to Downtown Jacksonville will find that exploring the Laura Street Corridor is inevitable. Situated in the historical and cultural epicenter of Jacksonville, Florida, Laura Street welcomes daytime and nighttime visitors alike, and brings dynamism to the heart of the city. Laura Street is always buzzing, and people of all ages find activities and events that they can attend and enjoy year round.
The hub of Laura Street is a five-block segment beginning at Hemming Park's northeastern corner at West Duval Street, and stretching to the Jacksonville Landing ending at East Independent Drive.
Pedestrians were central to the planning and development of Laura Street, which features demarcated crosswalks that enhance the safety and accessibility of the street. Visitors can hop off the Skyway automated monorail train at Hemming Park, the anchor of the northern section of Laura Street, and participate in daily events, dine al fresco, or just take in the sites and public art. Meander just four blocks south, towards the St. Johns River, and discover the Jacksonville Landing, a hotspot for nighttime activity and festivals.
In addition, the City of Jacksonville has actively worked to preserve a collection of historic buildings known as the Laura Trio — the Florida Life Building, the Bisbee Building, and the Marble Bank. The city is now working on plans for adapting the Trio in a way that compliments their historical importance and serves the needs of the city.
Defining Characteristics, Features
Clever planning features have made this downtown thoroughfare stand out as a place in and of itself. As a result, Laura Street has brought people back to Jacksonville's core in more ways than one.
- Laura Street benefitted from a $2.3 million improvement plan that was completed in 2011 to turn it into one of the most pedestrian-friendly corridors in Jacksonville. This streetscape included traffic calming features, narrowing the street to add sidewalk space, installing shade trees with colorful uplighting, Addapave surfaces to replace tree grates on Laura Street, and other hardscape features that helped to make it complete.
- The streetscape was supplemented by a program called the Laura Street Facade Grant Program, which gave financial assistance to owners and operators who upgraded their building facades and added landscaping, cafe seating, and murals.
- The street serves an important function as a main connector between many high-volume areas. Flanked by Jacksonville's oldest park, Hemming Park, and the popular Jacksonville Landing entertainment area with a riverfront stage and boat slips, the five-block stretch from Duval Street to East Independence Drive, offers visitors a four-story public library, the Museum of Contemporary Art, a large number of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, shopping, gyms and salons, and a visitors center. The street is central to high-rise offices, and near apartments and two of Downtown's leading hotels. Laura is undoubtedly one of the busiest streets in Jacksonville.
- The improvements made to Laura Street have turned it into much more of a 24/7 place. Laura Street hosts a number of events throughout the year, including the First Wednesday Art Walk, Jaxson's Night Market, the Vagabond Flea, and One Spark festival. There are many daily users, ranging from students at the Florida State downtown campus to the office workers and residents in the skyscrapers of the urban core who frequent the shops and restaurants that call Laura Street home.
- Art Walk, on the first Wednesday of the month, brings people to the historical and cultural center of Jacksonville. Around 8,000 people attend each month, and more than 200 artists are exhibited on the Art Walk, portions of which occur on Laura Street.
- The monthly Jaxson's Night Market offers artisan food vendors, local farmers, fashion trucks, craft beer, food trucks, and more.
- Blanket Bingo is a monthly event under the stars that features a new celebrity each month.
- Vagabond Flea offers vintage finds and handsome goods from local craftsmen and collectors.
- One Spark, the World's Crowdfunding Festival, is an annual five-day event that that takes place throughout 20 blocks in downtown Jacksonville, and parts take place on Laura Street. Creators across six categories (Art, Education, Health & Science, Music, Social Good, and Technology) showcase their projects to over 250,000 people and experience live crowd-funding. Attendees contribute to crowdfunding campaigns and vote to distribute awards.
- GastroFest celebrates the culinary creativity found in downtown Jacksonville. Tastes, talks, films, and workshops take place throughout the day in Hemming Park.
- Yoga 4 Change is a lunchtime yoga class that takes place every Tuesday and Thursday in Hemming Park at the corner of Lara and Duval Streets.
Pertinent Plans and Documents
Laura Street Facade Grant Program
Laura Street streetscape summary from RAM Professional Group
Upcoming/Planned Planning Activities
- The Downtown Investment Authority is currently leading an effort to reimagine the Jacksonville Landing as a mixed-use development with enhanced open space along the riverfront.
- There is an active proposal for redeveloping the Jacksonville Trio to include a hotel and restaurants.