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Miami-based Developer Future of Cities Receives Unanimous Approval of $5.5 Million Incentive Package and Multifamily Rezoning from Jacksonville City Council for Phoenix Arts & Innovation District

Completion grant will support adaptive re-purposing of warehouses and greenspace while the rezoning will allow for 830 multifamily units to be built over the span of 8.3 owned acres.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — June 27, 2024 — Miami-based real estate developer Future of Cities (FoC) announced today it received approval of an incentive package totaling $5.5 million from the City of Jacksonville’s Office of Economic Development, as well as the approval of rezoning of its planned unit development (PUD) to permit commercial and multifamily residential uses for the Phoenix Arts & Innovation District (PHXJAX). The package and rezoning, outlined in Ordinances 2024-0418 and 2024-0348, were approved by the Jacksonville City Council on June 25, 2024.

“Today is a pivotal milestone for Phoenix Arts & Innovation District and the city of Jacksonville. This incentive package is a testament to the collaborative outcomes possible through genuine public-private partnerships. This is a major win for all of Jacksonville including the local artists, small businesses, greater Downtown residents and overall community to demonstrate to the world that creativity and capital investments work best when they work together.”

Tony Cho | CEO and Founder of Future of Cities and Founding Managing Partner of PHXJAX

PHXJAX is a regenerative placemaking demonstration project comprising 10 separate properties across 8.3 acres located in a federally designated Opportunity Zone in the North Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida. The funds outlined in the Economic Development Agreement between Future of Cities and the City of Jacksonville will be provided in two phases as a Completion Grant in the amount of $2 million for each phase to support the
adaptive rehabilitation of four warehouses and green space, transforming it into event and gathering spaces, creative office space, artist studios, galleries, retail and restaurants. In addition, the City of Jacksonville has authorized a 50% 15-year recaptured enhanced value (REV) grant not to exceed $1.5 million. In the Emerald Station’s creative offices property located at 2320 N. Liberty Street, PHXJAX is also providing dedicated office space to the Jacksonville Small and Emerging Business (JSEB) organization, which is a small business incubator run by the City of Jacksonville. These grants, coupled with Future of Cities’ investment of nearly $38 million into the project, demonstrate the strength of a public/private partnership approach when developing a community-focused project.

“People always ask us, ‘Why Jacksonville?’ And we ask, ‘Why not Jacksonville?’ Jacksonville has all the fundamentals to compete with other major Florida metros and it has been a true pleasure to work in Jacksonville with the support of the Mayor’s Office, City Council and the City’s exceptional, dynamic and diverse communities.”

Michael Weil | Chief Operating Officer of FoC and PHXJAX.

The first phase of the PHXJAX development began in December 2023 with the commencement of construction of The Emerald Station, featuring creative offices, community gathering spaces and a warehouse event facility. Construction has also begun on the Liberty Building, which will house 17,850 square feet of office, studios, galleries, small-format retail and restaurants. Complementing these buildings is a property located at 2335 Market Street that will be an outdoor market space serving as a greenspace for community activity. The district also includes a hub of the Emerald Trail, a planned network of 30+ miles of trails, greenways and parks connecting the urban core neighborhoods of Jacksonville. The Emerald Station is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2024 while the Liberty Building is scheduled to be completed in
the second quarter of 2025.

“This support from the City of Jacksonville is essential to the PHXJAX vision to co-create with the community a space for catalyzing art, culture and innovation to serve the greater good. As a third generation Jacksonvillian, I am so excited to help bring this project to life for Jacksonville as the first demonstration project of Future of Cities.”

Emily Moody, Vice President and Chief Experience Officer of PHXJAX

Tony Cho’s previous projects include the Wynwood Arts District and the Magic City Innovation District Little Haiti, both located in Miami, Florida. Emily Pierce and Hayden Phillips from Rogers Towers led the rezoning efforts on behalf of
PHXJAX. The Emerald Station pre-leasing opportunities are available now. For more information, visit

About PHX JAX | The Phoenix Arts & Innovation District in Jacksonville, FL, is a regenerative placemaking project dedicated to building equity through community, arts, and culture, aiming to provide a global platform for artists and business incubation in Jacksonville’s North Springfield neighborhood. Collaborating with artists, residents, cultural instigators, and change makers in
Jacksonville, the initiative by the Future of Cities team focuses on creating a vibrant, diverse neighborhood. To learn more about upcoming events and opportunities to get involved, visit

About Friends of Phoenix | The non-profit arm of the PHXJAX project, Friends of Phoenix, is committed to fostering community engagement, enhancing educational opportunities and cultural experiences, by driving innovation. Aligning with the broader mission of the Phoenix Arts & Innovation District, Friends of Phoenix operates through four pillars: Arts and Culture, Sustainability, Technology, and Financial Stability.

About Future of Cities | Future of Cities was created to reimagine how we live, work, play and learn as a mission-driven platform invested in transforming the built environment. We take a holistic place-based approach to regenerative development to adopt environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies that improve the quality of urban living across the globe.

Co-Working. Podcast Studio. Events

The Climate & Innovation HUB Miami is designed to cultivate a symbiosis between our local & global ecosystem of innovators, change makers & tastemakers to lead the next generation of Regenerative Placemakers. 



We are extremely excited to introduce the newest addition to our ecosystem of innovators working on changing the future at the Climate & Innovation HUB – Miami as they prepare to deploy their underwater sculpture installations in Miami Beach this Fall! 

Art as a Tool For Change | The Reefline is a 7 mile underwater public sculpture park, snorkel trail and purpose-built reef +600ft off of Miami Beach ~ launching Fall 2024


Want to book co-working day pass at the Climate & Innovation HUB? Email


PODCAST STUDIO HIGHLIGHTS | Path of the Panther x Wildpath

The Path of the Panther team used our podcast studio at the Climate & Innovation HUB co-working space to record an educational podcast designed to foster human and natural systems learning in children. Through captivating place-based storytelling, interviews with ecologists, ranchers and tribal leaders, and immersive landscapes, young listeners will gain a deeper understanding of the role of the Florida panther as a cultural and ecological keystone species, an organism that helps define an entire ecosystem. Stay tuned for more coming Fall 2024 …


Want to book the podcast studio at the Climate & Innovation HUB? Email



TASTEMAKERS – Lengua Food Marketing Conference

The only place where food industry professionals, chefs, and executives come together to learn about food marketing, financing, and innovation.

MUSIC – UNSiN Music Conference & Festival 

A space carefully designed for creatives, artists, executives and entrepreneurs to know each other, connect, appreciate and grow as a community

Watch the Full event recap HERE

WELLNESSMindvalley Health & Body Summit (Virtual)

A 3-Day Deep Dive With the World’s Best Health, Wellness & Longevity Experts

Looking to book an event at our Regenerative Event Space at the HUB? Email



Demonstrating the value of art and innovation for neighborhood revitalization in the heart of Jacksonville, FL

Phoenix Arts & Innovation District is a pioneering organization dedicated to the practices of creative placemaking, regenerative development, and adaptive reuse of commercial real estate. We are passionate about transforming spaces into vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive environments that foster community and creativity.


Last week our Director of Community Engagement, Emily Moody and our Land Use attorney from Rogers Towers, Emily Pierce, successfully went in front of the City Planning Commission for unanimous approval of our PUD (Planned Unit Development) for the rezoning of our full 8.3 acre district. The final City Council vote will happen on June 18th. We have been diligently meeting with each and every council member on this and have been receiving positive feedback and support. 


It’s almost time to start hard hat tours for the Emerald Station! The 100 year old Emerald Station building houses a mix of 25 creative office spaces, a community gathering space and a 500 person event venue. Our team is on track to open in early Fall 2024 and is pre-booking both the offices and event venue now. This will become the creative and innovative HUB of the district with The Emerald Trail passing directly behind, offering convenient and accessible public transportation to and from the Arts & Innovation District including a small business incubator & accelerator program powered by Future of Cities | PHXJAX. 



“The City of Jacksonville, Groundwork Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) are celebrating a ‘major victory’ in their commitment to delivering the Emerald Trail to the Jacksonville community.”

Read more

PHXJAX in the Press | Upcoming Events | Internship Opportunities

Interested in building with us? Email for more info.

James Brutus | Website | Instagram

”Delivrance” ~ Indoor mural for the Climate & Innovation HUB powered by Future of Cities in Ti Ayiti | Little Haiti.  Latex Paints on Walls | 20ft by 20ft (Stairway)

“In Haitian society, where formal job opportunities are scarce, women take on the role of primary caregivers and often rely on informal trade as their main source of employment. Referred to as the ‘Poto-mitan’ or ‘backbone’ of their communities, Haitian women bear the weight of family responsibilities, from nurturing children to providing economic support. Many, particularly those without access to education, turn to informal commerce, selling agricultural produce and other essentials. This mural pays tribute to the resilience and strength of Haitian women, depicting a central figure gracefully balancing a basket of fruits on her head, a skill that speaks volumes about her balance and expertise. Set against the backdrop of urban/rural Haiti, the artwork captures the vibrant tapestry of everyday life, steeped in a rich cultural heritage. Women are depicted navigating rugged landscapes with remarkable ease, embodying a spirit of determination as they fulfill their duties. The mural serves as a poignant reminder of an era when manual labor was indispensable for survival, showcasing the tenacity of Haitian women and their families as they traverse tropical terrain, hills and valleys. It stands as a testament to their invaluable contribution to society and their unwavering ability to surmount obstacles with grace and resilience. The title ‘Delivrance’ is in loving memory of my mother, Delivrance Brutus.”


Shot by VACO Studio

James Brutus is a Haitian-American artist hailing from the vibrant city of Miami, Florida whose artistic journey has been a lifelong adventure that began during the earliest days of wielding crayons. Learn more about James’ work, mission and inspirations HERE.

by Alexandra J Tohme and François Alexandre

With rapid growth happening in the urban cores of Jacksonville and Miami, local leaders highlight the need to bridge culture, arts, community knowledge and economic opportunities — for better outcomes for all, cultural celebration & thriving cities.

On Saturday, November 18, Future of Cities (FOC) in partnership with Stratosferica, held the first US edition of the city-making summit, Utopian Hours — hosted at our Climate + Innovation Hub. The “city-making festival” was dedicated to dynamic discussions and engaging debates on urban development, and strategies for cities and the built environment — gathering developers, placemakers, city officials, researchers and architects and more, from the United States, Italy and around the world.

Multiple panels were presented, ranging from the “feminist city” with urban anthropologist Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman, to placemaking and citizen making in Turin Italy, to “maximizing public space’s potential in New York City” with Ya-Ting Liu, to National Geographic Explorer Alize Carrere’s “introduction to climatopias.” 

FOC held the Regenerative Placemaking Panel, moderated by Alexandra J Tohme —which zoomed in on local approaches to community uplifting development, challenges from brain drain to displacement and economic exclusion, and presented strategies for equitable growth. The speakers bridged global perspectives from Haiti to the Arab World to South Florida. 

Panelists: François Alexandre, Founder & Director of Tapari1804; Emily Moody, Director of Community Engagement, Phoenix Jacksonville Arts + Innovation District (PHX-JAX); Tanya Watts Director of Neighborhood Affairs PHX-JAX moderated by Alexandra J Tohme Director of Regenerative Placemaking FOC.

From left to right: François Alexandre, TAPARI 1804, Alexandra Tohme (FOC), Ya-Ting Liu (Chief Public Realm Officer, NYC), Tony Cho (FOC), Tanya Watts (PHX-JAX & FOC), Suzanne Picket (Eastside CDC) and Emily Moody (PHX-JAX FOC) Photo: VACO Studio

Overall, the community leaders stressed the importance of preserving the dignity of communities undergoing change: “the most important ingredient, to all our efforts is: dignity” said Alexandra. Dignity for the development of the project and its lasting impact, and for all those involved and at stake. This involves uplifting community members with decent services and decent housing. Projects should not jeopardize urban living and livelihood for local residents, but rather should provide, in the words of François Alexandre: “A hand-up, not a hand-out.”

Alexandra spoke to her experiences listening to local communities facing extreme hardship when she worked in refugee camps, and the humility required in this approach — as some of the brightest ideas and most innovative strategies are found within the community members and youth themselves. This extends to the local experiences of our Florida based panelists — with the community leadership of François Alexandre, representing Little Haiti, Miami and Tanya Watts and Emily Moody representing Jacksonville’s neighborhoods of North Springfield and the Eastside.

The Regenerative Placemaking Panel during Utopian Hours
Zulu Painter completing his final piece during the 48 Hour Mural Festival in Jacksonville, FL with PHX-JAX Arts + Innovation District

Emily Moody, third generation Jacksonville resident and Director of Community Engagement with PHX-JAX, has been a cultural pioneer and supporting the arts movement to gain traction and momentum by working with local artists, including through activations such as mural festivals and creating outdoor art galleries. Emily also highlighted the need for rent control of art studios to prevent the displacement of artists as property values rise — a point to which Alexandra emphasized that the attraction of new residents and visitors to Jacksonville should be coupled with supporting the existing arts scenes to flourish during this growth.

Among other initiatives by the PHX-JAX District, Tanya Watts discussed how property trainings and tax assistance help residents remain in their neighborhoods amid development.

Tanya Watts speaking on the Regenerative Placemaking Panel

Tanya Watts, Director of Neighborhood Affairs for PHX-JAX, echoed a sentiment raised by François Alexandre on the importance of the culture and the community of the neighborhood, “to make sure they are bridged together and not overlooked — partnering with existing community leaders doing important work, such as Suzanne Pickett of the Historic Eastside CDC — one of oldest historic black neighborhoods in Jacksonville, FL.” 

Tanya highlighted many important points including the need to be cognizant of which communities are affected by projects, and how to make sure growth is happening “not to the community, but with the community,’ a point emphasized by François in describing the needed shift in perspective to uplifting communities instead of imposing changes upon them.

We look forward to ensuring that our programming can then take off to build our arts & culture, youth job creation & food security and community initiatives. 

“Friends of Phoenix is a new non-profit we have launched,” announced Emily, and one of the pillars to support the mission is “to keep artists in the neighborhood, keep them working and hopefully provide a livable wage to support the flourishment of the neighborhood, and wider city of Jacksonville.”

FOC’s new nonprofit endeavors in Little Haiti and Jacksonville are currently raising funds to support the programming that these community leaders have developed thoughtfully and after deep engagements, consultations, and shared activations in the neighborhoods with local residents, artists, entrepreneurs, and youth.

The Phoenix Arts + Innovation District sponsored a neighborhood camp program in the summer of 2023. The team provided lunches and activities for youth once a week and also served as a water stop on their neighborhood wellness walks.
Outdoor art murals bring color and vibrancy to Jacksonville’s streets

François Alexandre drew attention to the 50th anniversary of the boat people’s migration from Haiti, and that the community takes pride in commemorating its resilience in its historical journey. François expressed his commitment to fostering positive change, understanding the needs of the community, and bridging gaps between various sectors.

Born in Haiti and raised in South Florida, he shared insights into the transformation witnessed in Little Haiti, Miami. The time has never been more crucial than now for co-creation of projects with and by people and groups within the neighborhood. He envisions a collective effort to create a future that caters to the well-being of everyone involved.

François gave a shout out to another speaker and legendary place-maker, systems thinker and practitioner, Scott Francisco, who spoke later that day on his own panel (check out our interview piece with him here about tropical timber harvesting.) What Scott is doing, François emphasized, is a tangible example of the efforts needed: 

“He is putting value into communities, indigenous and local family livelihoods, and then that values goes back into the market.

If we could do that in every area, in every neighborhood, then its not just putting value into a coin and turning it into a dollar, but putting value into people, into local businesses, and transforming that into equitable and sustainable lasting economic growth, growth that has resiliency built in and can better withstand shocks, because it puts people, residents and communities at the core.”

Events such as Utopian Hours are important, as François emphasized that gatherings such as this summit bring together “thinkers that envision and work towards what the future looks like for all of us, not just the haves or have-nots, but for all people to move forward. What does it look like collectively, to regenerate a society that we are all part of and cares for all of us?”


Become a Regenerative Placemaker and join us in co-creating the future of cities with us as we work together towards a more regenerative future.

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Future Of Cities Medium Blog. Learn more about the Tapari + Future of Cities Collaboration Project on youth empowerment, storytelling and Haitian culture.

To see the photo album from the Utopian Hours City-Making event, see the VACO Studio album here!
One of the initiatives TAPARI implements is a monthly food distribution to support 200–300 families in the most economically underserved neighborhoods of Miami
Tanya Watts, Director of Neighborhood Affairs, Photo: VACO Studio
Regenerative Placemaking Panel at Utopian Hours: From Left to right: Alexandra J Tohme Director of Regenerative Placemaking FOC; François Alexandre, Founder & Director of Tapari1804; Emily Moody, Director of Community Engagement PHX-JAX; Tanya Watts Director of Neighborhood Affairs PHX-JAX; Tony Cho FOC. Photo: VACO Studio
François Alexandre — Haitian-American social entrepreneur and international & community leader in South Florida with a focus on the black diaspora, rooted in his mission of “bridging community to better government.” He is founder of Konscious Kontractors, KLOTA (meaning “Conscious Leaders of Little Haiti”), & TAPARI non-profit working to empower and transform youth & scholars into future trailblazers and leaders of their community.
Jacksonville Arts & Music School (JAMS) students celebrating art and community — one of the community youth groups Emily engages with when developing and implementing the arts initiatives for PHX-JAX.
Alexandra J Tohme volunteering to support “Hoops4Unity” event which brings together foster children, adopted youth and children of law enforcement and the military together for physical and mental health programs. 
The PHX-JAX Team in front of one of the murals after the 48-Hour Mural Festival
From Left to Right: Suzanne Pickett (HECDC), François Alexandre (Tapari1804 and KLOTA), Reginald Charles (Tapari1804), Stervens Pauleus (Tapari1804)and Tanya Watts (PHX-JAX)

Podcast with Dr. Weiselande “Yanui” Cesar of Tradiyson Lakou Lakay Dance & Alexandra J Tohme, Future of Cities

by Alexandra J Tohme

The water movement of our bodies — as we express it in the dance — is reflective of the water on the journey from homeland to refuge — represents the trauma experienced in that journey — and also, leads us to healing, as water is life.

This is one of the essences of Haitian Folkloric Dance, rooted in the West African traditions from the ancient empires of Dahomey, Oyó, and Kingdom of Kongo (modern day Bénin, Nigeria, Congo and Angola.)

On a Wednesday evening, colleagues at the Future of Cities Climate + Innovation HUB, with Haitian neighbors, women and non-Haitian Miami folks, came together to share this dance form and were encouraged to fully release ourselves in the dramatic movements: from feeding-the-earth hands and sweep-floor arm gestures, to warrior leaps and jumps, to throws of celebration and prayer to the moons. Reverberations boomed through the room with six live conga drummers igniting our movement.

Culture is at the heart of regenerative placemaking — to deeply engage in “place” and co-create experiences and projects that uplift and empower communities, attract impact investment, and regenerate the natural environment.

Dr. Cesar demonstrating the intense body movements for the group to follow, with spiritual meaning and expression. Photo: Raphael Jean

Dr. Weiselande “Yanui” Cesar, who completed her PhD in human services & public health, explains that Haitian Folkloric Dance first sets itself apart with live drumming, and begins with an understanding within yourself of the struggles that can be released and let go of — and joy takes over.

It is precisely this dance form that Yanui harnessed when deciding to work with children with disabilities, upon founding her non-profit Tradiyson Lakou Lakay, loosely translated into “hometown traditions.” “Sometimes in order to serve those in need” she told us, “ you must tap into your own skill and passion.” That is what she’s done with folkloric dance. To reach and engage these children, and give them expression and outlet from societal barriers, she catalyzed this unique art form that is as much spiritual health as it is mental and physical. This proved to be well received by the children facing the daily issues and stigmatizations from their community — it was the parents who were more resistant at first to accept it. She said that some members of the Haitian community were not too thrilled to see representations of their more traditional culture while trying to assimilate into a new society and modern country. Later, upon seeing their children perform with such joy, their mindset changed.

Unfortunately — these are not feelings unique to Haitian but rather many immigrant societies that feel a pressure to negate their homeland cultures, in order to survive and succeed. But is that true, or necessary?

We at Future of Cities believe in “community ● nature ● culture” as the keys to successful and equitable economic growth and as the vanguard of development. “Regenerative placemaking” involves looking at the vast and wonderful opportunities within local communities, natural ecosystems, and cultural vibrancy that unlock economic empowerment. Tradiyson Lakou Lakay is an excellent example of that — providing jobs to drummers and dancers and integrating into local schools to fill the educational gap for children with special needs. Beyond what is in front of a developer, regenerative placemaking encourages urban practitioners to look for the lesser known or “unseen” treasures; and offering a hand-up, not a hand-out, is exactly what is needed today. All stakeholders would be set to benefit, a win-win-win.

Oba, oba lémiye

Sa nou te pédi a se li nape chéche

Oba, oba lémiye

Live Drumming is what sets this dance form apart, among other elements. The bombastic sounds and beats ignite each movement and like a conductor to an orchestra, give direction and transition to the dancers. Photo: Ralph Jean

Back at our dance class event at the Climate + Innovation HUB, some twenty women of various backgrounds, American, Haitian, Latina, Arab, sit in a circle singing those poems and drinking fresh juices catered by the local family Haitian restaurant Cecibon, while a local videographer captures the scene. Circular economy can be achieved in every effort. Each time we put together an event or activity, we make sure to source from small local businesses. From the videographer, photographer, DJ, food caterers, and more, we focus on supporting local economic growth and jobs.

The twenty women sat and sipped juices and repeated those poetic songs together in celebration, laughing and sharing a tradition dating back four centuries.

While embracing heritage, we also recognize the importance of modernity. “Assimilation is critical, without losing our identity” emphasizes Dr. Cesar. It is empowering to learn new languages, technical skills, study in higher education — and connect with people of all backgrounds — that is the magic and beauty of diverse cities. Opportunities can be created for children and youth to thrive by mixing the old and the new. As Future of Cities continues our programs and efforts, it is resilient stories like Yanui’s — of overcoming struggle to celebration — that we will continue to share with the world as we co-create our common future on this planet.

The group of dancers and drummers, physically exhausted and mentally uplifted! At the FOC Climate + Innovation Hub
Women participating support and cheer each other on while going through the intense body movements, demanding much force and focus physically & spiritually.
Grandiose and expressive movements represent human relationships with the earth, water, sun and other elements, while also embodying resiliency & strength and channeling both trauma and joy.