The Jaguars’ plans to transform TIAA Bank Field — and its adjacent neighborhoods — may be getting all the attention lately. But local stakeholders with a vision for downtown’s growth are already hard at work strengthening our city’s center. TEDxJacksonville invites you to join us Monday, August 14 at the Jessie Ball duPont Center for an informed analysis on the future of downtown, featuring the civic and business leaders dedicated to seeing it grow.

Our panel of experts will discuss how this era may be a defining one for the city’s downtown core — as well as the challenges and opportunities that are ahead.

Our panel will include:

  • Laura Phillips Edgecombe, Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships, Build Up Downtown (moderator)
  • Ennis Davis, Principal, Community Planning Collaborative
  • Sondra Fetner, Director of Placemaking, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund
  • Alex Sifakis, President, JWB Real Estate Capital
  • Kady Yellow, Senior Director of Placemaking, Downtown Vision, Inc.

“The program will begin at 6:00 p.m. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. The event is sold out.” 

Laura Phillips Edgecombe (moderator)  is the Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships for Build Up Downtown (BUD), a privately funded nonprofit that facilitates and advocates for preservation, smart development and great public spaces in Downtown Jacksonville through communicating, connecting and informing current and future businesses and stakeholders. She also currently serves as Co-Chair of Mayor Deegan’s Infrastructure Transition Committee’s Parks and Recreation Subcommittee.

With a degree from The University of Florida, her career in community development, event production and fundraising spans over a decade. As a creative and versatile leader, her success is directly attributable to her ability to conceptualize the “big picture.” She brings a wide range of professional and community experience, and takes pride in delivering the intended results to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

The Jacksonville business community is a very important focus for Laura, and she serves as a JAX Chamber Downtown Council Board Member and as the organization’s Speaker Programming & Engagement Liaison. Laura is in the Leadership Jacksonville Class of 2024, a JAX Chamber Hightower Emerging Leaders Fellow Class V (2021), a member of the Jacksonville Women’s Network, an Urban Land Institute UrbanPlan Facilitator and a UNF Taylor Institute of Leadership Mentor. Laura is also an active and engaged member of NEFBA, ULI and Gator Bowl Sports.

A third generation Jaxson, the community overall is an equally important priority. Laura donates her time and expertise to local organizations such as Riverfront Parks Now, James Weldon Johnson Park, Painting of the Pawprints, United Way of Northeast Florida, Historic Stanton, The Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, The Florida Theatre, The American Cancer Society, UF Health, READ USA, Inc.,The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, Pink Ribbon Jax and Downtown Vision, Inc. She has an equally community-active husband and a sixteen-year-old son, both her biggest cheerleaders and foundation of support.

Sondra Fetner is Director of Placemaking for the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. In this role, she manages the process for activating public spaces equitably and inclusively in Jacksonville and other core communities of the duPont Fund, navigating, and where possible, reducing barriers to activation, and identifying and implementing  redevelopment activities and strategic partnerships focused on equitable access to opportunity. She analyzes legal, land use and zoning codes and public policies to recommend how public spaces and real estate opportunities might be made more equitable and accessible.

Sondra, a respected land use lawyer and urbanist, joins the duPont Fund after running an urban development consulting firm for the past three years. Sondra primarily worked with the Downtown Investment Authority on numerous Downtown redevelopment projects and initiatives including redeveloping the Jacksonville Shipyards, activating the Downtown Riverfront, and updating the DIA’s Community Redevelopment and Business Investment & Development Plans in 2022. Sondra also serves on the Taskforce for the Activating Jacksonville’s Riverfront initiative.

Prior to founding her consulting business, Sondra served as an Assistant General Counsel for the City of Jacksonville with a focus on land use, real estate development and legislative affairs. She served as the staff attorney for numerous City boards and commissions including the Historic Preservation Commission, Tree Commission, Comprehensive Plan Major Issues Committee, Environmental Protection Board, and the Joint Planning Committee. She began her legal career at Folds & Walker, a private firm in Gainesville, Florida, where she represented several municipalities as an assistant city attorney and discovered her passion for local government affairs, land use law, and urban planning.

Co-founder of Community Planning Collaborative, Ennis Davis is a planner with a passion for cultural heritage preservation and urban planning that dates to a childhood of listening to his ancestors pass down family history and stories of African American life in the racially segregated south. A sixth generation Floridian, his desire for equitable community development and opportunity led him to pursue a Bachelor of Architecture degree at Florida A&M University.

A Gullah Geechee descendant with 22 years experience in the fields of urban planning, transportation planning, historic preservation, architecture and real estate development, Ennis is a public historian dedicated to inclusively uplifting people, communities and protecting their culture, heritage and sense of place. In addition, he is the Vice President of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Trustee, Vice President of Membership and Outreach for the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA), Groundwork Jacksonville Board member, author of the award-winning books Reclaiming Jacksonville, Cohen Brothers: The Big Store and Images of Modern America: Jacksonville, and co-founder of online media publications and

Alex Sifakis is the founder and president of JWB Real Estate Companies, the top residential homebuyer and infill builder in Northeast Florida that purchased more than 2,000 properties since 2016 and generated over $100 million in revenue. JWB has been named a top 50 fastest growing company in Jacksonville 10 times and the Best Place to Work 7 times.

From its inception, the company has been invested in the community, which resulted in it being named a Company with Heart by 904 Magazine on multiple occasions for its commitment to community service. In 2022, Alex won the Klechak Award, presented by the DIA through NAIOP, which is given in recognition of outstanding leadership and advocacy in promoting economic growth and vitality of Downtown Jacksonville. Alex was named to the 2014 class of Leadership Jacksonville and the 2018-2019 class of Leadership Florida Connect. Utilizing his affordable housing expertise, Alex has led JWB to win the 2017 Affordable Housing Award from NEFBA. He currently serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity Jacksonville, Downtown Vision, The First Coast YMCA, and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

A proven real estate visionary, Alex created and implemented JWB’s “Build to Rent” model, which earned JWB a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal in 2013. He also led JWB’s crowdfunding efforts, which have raised more than $40 million to date, and spearheaded JWB’s successful investments in the areas of Downtown, Springfield, Brooklyn, and Murray Hill, years before their recent resurgence. Alex is a respected real estate voice in Jacksonville and across Florida, serving as a speaker at various real estate conferences and being quoted by media outlets that include The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Florida Trend, CNN Money, RealtyTrac, Jacksonville Business Journal, and The Daily Record.

Kady Yellow is the Senior Director of Placemaking and Events for Downtown Vision, tasked with overseeing event programming, public space activations, and beautification projects in the business improvement district. Kady comes to Jacksonville from Michigan where she hosted a national conference as part of the global Placemaking Week series and implemented 120 pop-up projects that prioritized the riverfront, public parks, sidewalks, streets and alleys. Yellow brings a decade of creative placemaking and event expertise from her work in New Orleans, California, Alaska, New York, and Western Europe where she conducted her graduate school coursework. Her writing has been featured in FlintBeat and My City Magazine (Michigan), Street Art United States (Boston), CURBED (New Orleans), and she published her first book on urban art in 2019. Today she has spoken in three countries and is known throughout the United States for her equitable placemaking process and resident-led economic development model.

Kady has also received special training in Federal Resources for Creative Community Development, and from City Repair Project, National Endowment for the Arts and Project for Public Spaces. She earned her master’s degree in Arts Administration from the University of New Orleans in 2018 and dual bachelor’s degrees in Graphic Design and Mathematical Science from Binghamton University in 2012.