Meet Your Neighbors: Nicole and Jim

(Originally published in 2011)

Meet Your New Neighbor

p40-XL.jpgName: Nicole

Location: 9th Street 

Occupation: Medical Sales Representative 

Fun Fact: Through traveling the world in the 1940’s, Nicole’s great uncle developed one of the world’s largest and most extensive collection of mounted animals, now displayed at museums in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

What brought you to the Springfield Historic District?

I first heard of the neighborhood a couple years ago when it was featured in Southern Living Magazine. Before that, I had no idea this community even existed.  I’ve always been drawn to old houses; each has a history unto itself and a story to tell. The front porches, character, and quarks. A few months ago, I was searching online for houses, looking in other historic neighborhoods in Jacksonville, and stumbled upon one in Springfield. I loved it, but wrote it off because of the perception I had of the area. After a couple months of searching, I just couldn’t let go of the Springfield house and decided to do some research. I spent a few days reading everything I could find about the neighborhood: the history, the fall from grace, the gentrification, and current events too. Pretty much everything I could find, I read. When I found all the information and stories in the Myspringfield.org site, it really sealed the deal for me. I finally decided to drive by the house and just see for myself. Luckily, someone was working outside the home and I was able to talk to them about it. I knew my search was over the minute I walked in the door! I moved in just a couple months ago.

Did you buy a historic or new house, and why?

I’m renting a new SRG house currently, but plan on restoring an old home eventually. At this point in my life, I’m not sure I’m ready to take that on. I want to spend a little more time here before I pick a house to restore.

What did your family & friends think of your move?

I was living in Tapestry Park apartments on Southside Boulevard, so it was a big change. My family was ok with it – my sister lives in New York City, so I didn’t really need to sell them on it. And boyfriend loves the area. When I told my Jacksonville friends I was moving to Springfield, I got one of two reactions:  “Ok, where is that?” and “YOU’RE MOVING WHERE!!??”  Once I took the time to explain everything to them, everyone was really eager to come see for themselves. 

My Grandmother, who lives at the beach, actually grew up in the area in the 1930’s. She was hesitant with the idea at first because she was familiar with the downfall, but not so much with the last decade. After visiting a couple times and going on the recent Holiday Home Tour, she’s comfortable with it now. 

What do you enjoy about living in the neighborhood?

I love that everyone says “Hi” to each other, as simple as that sounds. Like I mentioned, I lived in “luxury” apartments on Southside Blvd before I moved here. It was aesthetically nice, but after 2 years of living there I had never met my neighbors. People have gone out of their way to welcome me to the neighborhood. Plus, believe it or not, loud parties and police visits in the complex were a weekly nuisance. It’s quieter here. 

I also love that there always seems to be something going on, which keeps the neighborhood vibrant. And Uptown Market. I patronized it four times the first week I was here. Oh, and practically speaking, although they’re just a few miles away, it’s less expensive to live here than Riverside & Avondale or San Marco, yet still has a good quality of life and historic character. 

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

Absolutely. I went on the Holiday Home Tour and plan to help out with Neighborhood Clean Ups and other events once I’m a little more situated.

What do you hope to see change in the future?

I really hope more shops and restaurants move onto our commercial streets, like Main Street and 8th Street. Like San Marco, Avondale, and Riverside, we need that central inviting commercial core that makes people want spend their Saturday afternoon here. Plus, keeping money IN the neighborhood by shopping and doing business locally is very important to the health of the community. I’d also love to see the street cars reinstalled on Main Street eventually.

What advice would you have for someone considering a move to the Springfield Historic District?

I have a couple recommendations: When out looking for houses in the neighborhood, find someone outside and introduce yourself. Or knock on a neighbors door. Or go have breakfast at Uptown Market. I’ve found that residents love to talk to people about the neighborhood, answer questions, and are very accommodating. You’ll probably hear “I wouldn’t live anywhere else in Jacksonville” over and over again, because it has it’s own unique vibe and feel to it.

Read everything you can about the history of Springfield and how much has been done to revitalize it. There’s been such  huge improvements in the quality of person living here and crime reduction, and unfortunately that story doesn’t get told as much as it should. The neighborhood is an amazing success story. As with any downtown or urban living, you have to be a little more conscious of your surroundings, but the benefits far outweigh any concerns that I’ve had. I already love living here!

 

Meet Your Long-Time Neighbor

p37-XL.jpgName: Jim

Occupation: Jim is a firefighter at Station 34 and teaches EMT courses at FSCJ.

Location: Silver Street

Fun Fact:  Jim creates custom t-shirts, bags, banners, and pretty much anything else that can be screen printed as part of Springfield Ink, his creative outlet and hobby. Visit www.springfieldink.com to request an order.

What brought you to the Springfield Historic District?

Jim: The architecture, initially. I’m from New Hampshire and my parents used to restore old homes  up there. 100 + year homes. They bought and restored at least 10 of them, and we lived in them while they worked on them. So I have a natural affinity for the older, unique architecture and craftsmanship. The neighborhood was also extremely affordable at the time I moved in. That was…hmm…1997, I think. It’s been a while.

I was 21, living on he Southside of town, and interested in buying in the Springfield area. I would drive my little convertible through the neighborhood with the top down, looking at potential properties and just checking out what was going on in general. After a short time looking, I would get spooked and drive off in a hurry. I did this a for a while then decided it was too rough for me to buy.

I came back 5 years later and it wasn’t as bad. It wasn’t great, but it was obviously on the right track. That’s when I decided to come here.

What comes to mind when thinking about your first few years here in the neighborhood?

Well it was very different back then. I’m sure you hear that all the time, but it’s true. All the stories people tell about the neighborhood back in the day are all true.

Crack heads and prostitutes were everywhere, day and night. Boarding houses were everywhere. Drug dealers threatened to kill me. It was really, really bad.

Believe it or not, there were only two homeowners on my block for the first year I lived here. The rest were boarding houses or abandoned. And only two cars too, mine and the other homeowner’s. He and I had a system in place where I would call COJ three times a day, and he would all JSO two times a day to report all of blatant illegal stuff that was going on.

But there were some really cool memories made too.

I bought a house at 6th & Liberty to restore. The white Victorian on the NE corner that’s sitting vacant now. I was still living on the Southside of town at the time and bought it as a total renovation project. SPAR (Springfield Preservation And Revitalization) asked me if they could use it to host a haunted house event for Halloween. The house was a mess and not livable, and I was just in the beginning stages of the attempted rehab ( I was in way over my head though, and eventually had to sell it ) so I strung up some temporary lights and we turned it into a storybook haunted house. Really creepy. We nailed it. Anyways, SPAR used a promotion like “If you think you’re scared to visit Springfield during the day, wait until you visit the haunted house at night!”

It was a big hit and a ton of people came. We tried to do it again the next year, but the city got wind of it before hand and shut it down. We never pulled any permits to host the event the first year, and they weren’t going to let it happen again. It was a great time, even though it lasted just one year.

What did your family and friends think about the move into the neighborhood?

Of course they thought I was nuts. Well, my parents actually appreciated it because they used to restore historic houses themselves, but most of my other family and friends really thought that I had lost my mind. My wife was nervous too, even though she liked the idea. Even before we got married, she was thinking about moving here, actually.

In your 13 years in the Springfield Historic District, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?

Well, obviously the property values have gone way up. The city accomplished what they were trying to do on that front. Values have come back down again because of the overall market conditions, but they’ll level off sooner than later I think.

There’s a lot of kids and families in the neighborhood now too. Thirteen years ago it was almost unheard of to raise a family here. Now it’s not anything unusual. In fact, we’re swamped with at least 200 kids every Halloween. I’ve contributed to that, having two wonderful kids myself.

And our block has turned around 180 degrees. It used to be one of the worst in the area, now I like to think it’s one of the best. I mentioned before how there were only 2 cars on our block when I first moved in here….now it’s tough to find a space.

How did you know this house was “the one” for you?

I used to have a couple restaurants on Main Street, and this house was owned by one of my good customers at the time. She owned a lot of houses in the Historic District, but lived in a condo up in Fernandina Beach. One day we were talking, and she mentioned that she wanted to get a few properties off her hands. I jumped at the opportunity to buy this one, and took it off her hands for $36k as an investment property. As it turned out, here I am all these years later.

What do you enjoy about living in the Springfield Historic District now?

It’s not like anywhere else. I mentioned I lived on the Southside of town for 7 years, and during that time I didn’t get to know even one of my neighbors very well. I couldn’t have told you what their last names were. It was sad.

Now, I’m not a huge people person. My wife is the social one. But I do like the sense of community here and that so many people are involved in different things.

I like that my neighbors know my dog and I know theirs, so when one gets out we know who to call. I like that while I’m out of town, my neighbors watch after my house for me. I like that we know so many people here by name and address, and can call on them if we need anything at all. I like all the events and things to do.

Do you participate in any of the neighborhood organizations or events?

My wife does a lot of that stuff. She’s part of the Springfield Mommies Group, I think, even though our kids are getting older now. I did my run on SPAR for a few years when I first moved in. I’m a pretty low key person though, so I like that there are so many options and things going on to participate in, but I don’t necessarily want to do them all myself. I've played for the Springfield Hoodies for a few years as well; it's part of the city's adult kickball league.

Moving forward, how do you see the neighborhood evolving?

Even though the real estate market has caused major problems, I still see the neighborhood becoming that artsy and eclectic draw that most everyone wants. I think that’s what a lot of people envision. Mixed use buildings, art galleries, mom & pop businesses, etc. I see it coming.

The thing is, during the boom we priced ourselves out of all that. Asking prices for most of the commercial properties were astronomical, because everyone thought the values would just keep climbing. And small businesses just couldn’t afford those prices. So here we are with bunch of vacant storefronts on Main Street as a result. But I think it’s leveling out now and we will see what most people wanted in the first place: unique, locally owned businesses.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about moving into the Springfield Historic District?

If you’re buying an older house in need of a lot of work, bring your tools and your money! If you buy recently renovated or new, you should be ok. Luckily I’m pretty handy. 

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