Friends of Hemming Park is proud to announce two new community partners that will bring major improvements to our citys central park in 2016. Community First Credit Union will work with Friends of Hemming Park on the development of a main stage near Hogan St., and Black Sheep Restaurant Group looks to open a kiosk in the parks caf? area near the corner of Laura St. and Monroe St.

There is so much momentum building behind Downtown Jacksonville, and Hemming Park is at the heart of it, said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. These announcements represent a significant investment in the future of this integral park, and will contribute to even more energy and activity for our urban core for years to come.

Hemming Park has once again become the focal point for special events downtown and a world-class stage is needed to facilitate not only current events such as One Spark, Art Walk, and Gastrofest, but also an array of amazing events that are yet to be announced. The Community First Stage, to be designed by Content Design Group, will serve as a one-of-a-kind space for outdoor live performances in the heart of our city.

Community First is excited about Friends of Hemming Parks inspiring ideas to create an iconic attraction in the downtown core, said John Hirabayashi, CEO and president of Community First. The revitalization and continued improvement of Hemming Park is so crucial to downtown development. We have a strong commitment to downtown as the longest continuously operating financial institution. While this is in the very early stages of due diligence and planning, we look forward to unveiling more details as we work with all of the stakeholders toward a solid, workable plan.

Black Sheep Restaurant Group in partnership with Design Cooperative, LLC will design a restaurant kiosk using re-purposed shipping containers donated by CSX Corporation and Crowley Marine. This project will be funded in part by the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community Grant Friends of Hemming Park received in April.

We are excited about the growth of downtown and have been watching it closely since closing Chew in hopes of finding the right project to return to the urban core, which we care about strongly, said Jonathan Insetta, owner of Black Sheep Restaurant Group. There are few projects that can truly be a force for positive change downtown and we believe the transformation of Hemming Park and this project in particular is one of them.

Our vision is to create a premiere destination that is fresh and vibrant, filled with community partners, cultural creatives, and family-friendly activities year-round, said Vince Cavin, CEO of Friends of Hemming Park. With these major improvements, we can bring new programming to the park that will move Jacksonville forward toward a more inclusive and accessible city.

We are extremely proud to have Community First Credit Union and Black Sheep Restaurant Group as partners in our commitment to revitalizing Hemming Park, said Wayne Wood, board president for Friends of Hemming Park. These key additions will impact not only the look and feel of the park, but also its sustainability and place in history as an important landmark our city can be proud of.