Meet Your Neighbors: Chris and Andrew

(Originally published in 2010)

Meet Your New Neighbor: Andrew

p23-X2.jpgLocation: E. 6th

Occupation: Naval Division Officer, stationed at Mayport aboard the USS PHILIPINE SEA.

Fun Fact: Andrew was Student Body President of his class at The University of Tampa, which he just graduated from this past May.

Q: What brought you to Springfield?

A. The Navy gave me a choice of bases to be stationed at, and being a Florida guy, I chose Mayport in Jacksonville. Once I knew my destination, I started to look at houses online. I’ve always lived in a typical, suburban house. I wanted something different. The houses in Springfield really stood out amongst the hundreds of others that all looked the same. Being close to Downtown and all the fun things it has to offer was a selling point too.

(continued)

Q: Did you purchase an old or new house, and why?

A: Old. Insanely old. It was built in 1909 and was in pretty bad shape. Apparently it was renovated about 10 years ago, but very cheaply.  Structurally it’s fine, and most of the major systems are ok, so in that sense the heavy lifting was already done. But it’s been sitting in foreclosure for the past 4 years so it definitely needs work. So far I’ve remodeled 1 bathroom and have done a lot of painting.

I chose to buy an older house because I wanted a home that I could improve. I wanted a good investment. I don’t plan on selling for a long time, but I wanted a house that I could work on to increase it’s value for whenever I do choose to sell. New houses are made for what’s popular at the moment, but old houses are timeless and can be molded into what you want them to be.

Q: How did you decide that this specific house was the one for you?

A: I looked at 60+ homes all over town and 20+ in Springfield alone. I actually made a couple of other offers before I found my house. One in particular was very promising and I was close to signing papers, but something told me to take one more look around. So I found the house online, liked what I saw, but didn’t have high hopes for it. I even told my realtor not to bother coming with me to view the house. Turns out it had all the charm and half the problems at the same price as the other.

Q: What did your family and friends think of your decision to move into the neighborhood?

A: Everyone, literally, hated it. The thing is, they didn’t put much effort or energy into the process. They didn’t do the research. I mean, if you drive through the neighborhood at the wrong moment you can get the wrong impression. All it takes is a couple of bums crossing the street in front of your car, while driving through, to give some people a bad first impression.

Crime statistics are another example. If you look at crime stats for the general Downtown area they appear quite high. However, once you zoom-in and take a closer look, there’s a lot of variation. In fact, there’s hole where Springfield is. You don’t see the serious crimes here like you do in the other areas. So it takes some research to get an accurate picture of a neighborhood.

Q: Since moving in, what have you enjoyed most about the neighborhood?

A: I bought my house on August 31st, 2009 and moved-in the day after. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to do a lot of the things that I had planned on doing. So far the best thing about the neighborhood has been meeting all my neighbors. A few weeks ago I spent an entire weekend painting my two front porches. People that just happened to walk by and see me stopped to say “hi” and introduce themselves. It was great.

Q: Do you plan on participating in any neighborhood events or organizations?

A: Absolutely. I’m open to everything. I’ve visited the SPAR office already and have my membership check written out, just haven’t had the time to drop it off yet. I’ve been busy!

Q: How do you see the neighborhood progressing into the future?

A: I just made a huge investment, the biggest of my life, and I wouldn’t have made that investment here if I wasn’t absolutely convinced that the neighborhood wasn’t on the right path. I considered buying in Avondale, which is what I hope Springfield will eventually develop into, but it just wasn’t the same. The people weren’t as outwardly friendly there; they didn’t have the same interactivity, like these helpful websites, or seem to care as much.

Here’s my view point on it: a lot more people care than don’t. When so many people are working so hard and want something so bad, it can’t possibly fail. And this economy has been a positive, overall, for the neighborhood in my opinion. Instead of speculative investors that often don’t live at, improve, or maintain their properties, you have people like me buying who plan on taking care of their investment and being an active resident.

Q: Anything that you specifically hope to see in the future?

A: Specifically, I think it goes without saying that more houses need to be renovated, and with that that comes more homeowners. Homeowner’s generally take care of their property.

Q: What advice would you give to people considering making a move to Springfield?

A: Make the effort to research. I had a realtor, different from the other one I mentioned earlier, who tried to talk me out of Springfield. He said I would be mugged the day I moved-in. Basically all of the old, out-of-date stereotypes. But I had already done my research and was adamant about considering the neighborhood. If I hadn’t educated myself than I wouldn’t be here today.

Opportunities like Springfield don’t come along very often. The window won’t be open forever, so get on the bus!

Q: Is there anything that you’d like to say to your new neighbors?

A: Besides that I am completely single and do not have a girlfriend, just that my door is always open to meet new people. Just knock, and there’s a decent chance we’ll end up having a beer.

 

Meet Your Long-Time Neighbor: Chris

Name: Chris & Family (Married, with 3 kids)

p29-X2.jpgLocation: East 7th

Occupation: Nurse Manager for Orthopedics at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Fun Fact: An avid reader, Chris especially enjoys religious and philosophical texts.

Q: What brought you to Springfield ?

A: Well, I’ve had family in the neighborhood since 1900. As a kid I used to visit relatives here all time, for Thanksgiving and other holidays. So I knew the neighborhood. I was comfortable with it. I’ve lived in urban Philly before as well…..Springfield was urban light.

Shortly after Sheryl and I got married, in the late 90’s, we went driving through the neighborhood so that I could show her my roots. Unexpectedly to me, she fell in love with place. Madly in love. Keep in mind at that time the neighborhood was still pretty rough. We went house hunting on the weekends and saw many homes in various states of disrepair. I still didn’t believe she was serious.

One day, we happened to find the house, our current house. Circa 1908. It had four kitchens, obviously used as rooming house, and was a total wreck. I mean really bad condition. We paid 45k for it in 1999…and we still overpaid. It needed 50k of work done right away before it was habitable. So after work was done to make it livable, we moved in early 2000.

Q: What were some of your challenges or concerns at that time?

A: We weren’t looking to change the neighborhood. We accepted it as it was. Of course there was a drug house around the corner, which was eventually shut down with the help of an Uncle on the police force. But overall, we were ok with that way it was.

Q: What kind of changes have you seen since 1999?

A: We have a kitchen now for one. When we moved in the kitchen wasn’t done yet. We were using an outdoor grill and hotplate to cook meals with. Boy was I pissed when someone stole the grill out of our lawn. That was half our kitchen!

Concerning the neighborhood, my wife was the one who had the vision. I had grown up visiting, so I didn’t have any thoughts that it could be anything more that what it was at the time. I didn’t think it could happen. My wife, though…..her vision has come true. I can walk down to a cool coffee shop. I can ride bikes my kids to go get ice cream at City Kidz. It’s happening. I shouldn’t doubt her. She turns out to be right most of the time.

Q: What attracted you to the area in the first place?

A: I mentioned that I had been around it for a long time because of family. But the people, the relationships in the community, was the thing that really drew me in. This is a Front-Porch neighborhood where people know their neighbors. They care about each other’s well-being and watch out for one another. We sit and visit and invite one another into our homes. That part of the neighborhood has never changed.

Q: Do you take part in any of the neighborhood events or organizations? 

A: Sure. The New Year’s Eve “wandering cocktail parties” have been fun. Last Halloween we closed down our street, everyone on our block, and had a huge costume party for kids and adults alike. My favorite event was when the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra performed in Klutho Park a few years ago. My family had a blast.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about the neighborhood now?

A: Probably the proximity to everything. Close to Downtown, centrally located, just a few miles from my job. I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the city. Really. I feel out of place in the suburbs. I find problems everywhere else I’ve looked, so I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Q: How do you see the neighborhood progressing in the future?

A: Like I said: I’ve never had a goal or vision for the neighborhood. My wife has, but I haven’t. I just look forward to the continued evolution. Positive evolution, what ever that may look like.

Q: Anything that you’d like to say to you someone thinking about moving into the neighborhood, or your current neighbors?

A: Yes. Anything can be fixed. These old houses are like Erector sets. If one part of it breaks, you just fix it. These houses have stood the test of time.

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