Annual Meeting - December 2021

Date: 12/7/2021

Location: Hyperion Brewing Company (1740 North Main Street)

Time: 6 pm

Kelly Rich, SPAR Executive Director, welcomed the approximate 45 guests to the meeting. 

Kelly introduced Reggie Gaffney, Jr, who was representing Councilman Reggie Gaffney. Councilman Gaffney had a prior engagement with a City of Jacksonville LUZ meeting and could not attend.

Kelly introduced Greg McGarity, President of Gator Bowl Sports. Greg shared that the 77th Annual Gator Bowl is taking place on Saturday, December 31st, at 11 am and Jacksonville is hosting Wake Forest vs Texas A&M. Each team will arrive between December 26th and 27th, so there should be a noticeable uptick of fans in Historic Springfield and Jacksonville as a whole. The Gator Bowl Committee works to generate a lot of excitement for the game within the community, including encouraging companies and corporations to buy and donate tickets so local kids can attend the game.     

Kelly introduced Jeremy Smith of Patriot Services, a Jacksonville-based nonprofit that provides affordable housing and support services to low-income individuals and families, but also Veterans. Specifically, those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. As of 10:30 am on the day of the Community Meeting, Patriot Services closed on what is being referred to as The Springfield Initiative, five properties that contain a total of 68-units of which 20% will be designated for homeless Veterans and families. These affordable housing units will be renovated and rehabilitated over the next year. Patriot Services will be developing relationships with the local VA Clinic on Jefferson Street to assist in placing any homeless Veterans in need of housing. Included in the development is a Veterans Resource Center nearby to the VA Clinic, where VA caseworkers and others can work and meet one-on-one with Veteran residents. Additionally, two of the five properties will prioritize women Veterans and their children as they are an underserved population.  

Kelly introduced Jon and Wen Raiti who are expanding their business, House of Leaf and Bean, into Historic Springfield at East 4th Street and North Market Street. Their goal is to have both a commercial and retail space for House of Leaf and Bean, but there is also the potential for other tenants to share the storefront space, as well.   

SPAR Vice President Joey Marchy introduced the candidates for the open Board positions. Two candidates, Jason Hardwick and AJ Rodriguez, were presented for a first term. Christine Lane, Ryan McFarland, John Shermetaro, and Bryant Shumaker were presented and seeking reelection for a second and final term. All candidates spoke briefly, sharing a little about themselves, and about why they wished to join the Board. Ballots were distributed, filled out, collected, and tabulated. 

Kelly, and chairs from multiple SPAR committees, gave an overview of the purpose of a few committees. Design Review Committee reviews new construction and renovation projects to help ensure that they fit the historic fabric of our neighborhood, and are available to help neighbors navigate the Certificate of Appropriateness process. This committee is closed to new members, but will consider potential volunteers with knowledge of architecture, construction, or historic preservation on a case-by-case basis.

The Development Committee identifies diverse and sustainable funding sources, as well as focusing on a board culture of philanthropy to support the mission. This committee spearheaded the Capital Campaign for the SPAR Building, funding for Jacksonville PorchFest, and improvements to the Springfield Dog Park. Current funders include the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, City of Jacksonville, State of Florida, LISC Jacksonville, and the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund. The next project that is currently underway is the Technical Assistance Panel (TAP), which is a 1-2 day session to develop recommendations for our neighborhood as it continues to address growth, development, infrastructure, and future community needs. This committee is looking for volunteers who are interested in donor relations to help ensure that our sponsors are receiving the benefits in which they were promised. 

Kelly celebrated with the crowd that SPAR is officially back on Main Street thanks to over 200 donors to the year-long Building for the Future Capital Campaign. The $500,000 interior renovation of 1321 North Main Street was completed with SPAR moving from the Walnut Street location and back to the SPAR Building in May of 2021. SPAR held the official Ribbon Cutting during Jacksonville PorchFest Week. The conference room is available for use by the community, and the two office spaces downstairs are open and ready for tenants.  

Kelly gave an update from SAMBA (Springfield Area Merchants and Business Association) and the Springfield Commercial Corridor. She informed attendees that there are currently 82 members of SAMBA, who are represented by the SAMBA Advisory Committee within the Commercial Corridors discussions. SAMBA meetings are free to visit and open to anyone in Springfield or those who want to do business in Springfield. SAMBA membership levels include two tiers for returning members (General at $100 and Executive at $250). New members of SAMBA can join at $50 for the first year with an Introductory membership. SAMBA works to invite quality speakers and include resources beneficial to small businesses. Kelly invited new and returning SAMBA members to come to the next SAMBA meeting taking place on Monday, December 13th, at 6 pm. 

SAMBA sponsors two grant programs for its membership - the Quarterly Mini-Grant for members’ events and the Facade Grant. Since the inception of the Facade Grant matching program, SPAR and SAMBA have invested almost $30,000 in our local business community. The SAMBA Mini-Grant helps offset costs for members’ events and programs that are hosted within our Historic District. SAMBA has awarded four businesses with the Marketing Grant in 2021 including Sweet Christi’s, Simply Ke’say Boutique, Dare2Hire Different, and Tha Soulfood Smagicians. The Facade Grant program’s budget was doubled in 2021 and, thus far, four businesses (Hof’s Printing, Bishop Classic Motors, RE/MAX Supreme, and Plantaja) have received grants. Applications for both grant programs are available on the SPAR website.

Kelly announced new businesses that opened in 2021 to include: Reddi-Arts, Main Street Food Park, and Rethreaded. She shared that Historic Springfield will see new business openings in 2022, including House of Leaf and Bean, Bold City Yoga, Plantaja, Stumpy’s Hatchet House, and Camp Craft Cocktails. 

Kelly shared that the St. Patrick’s Day Block Party now falls under SAMBA’s umbrella and will be returning on March 12, 2022 and informed attendees to stay tuned for volunteer opportunities.

SAMBA is continuing its ongoing partnership with the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl for our local businesses to be highlighted to ticket holders as part of the Fan Experience. This will include Music on Main featuring the Bold City Classics on Wednesday, December 29th.  In May of 2021, SAMBA collaborated with UF Health Jacksonville to host UF Health Week which showed appreciation to UF Health employees by giving them discounts at participating Springfield businesses when they showed their employee badge. 

Kelly shared an update about infrastructure work with the City of Jacksonville, JEA, and FDOT. SPAR was instrumental in having the Florida Department of Transportation implement 2-hour parking along Main Street as well as the addition of two handicapped parking spots between 7th and 8th Street which will be coming in early 2022. The City of Jacksonville will be doing some major improvements to 8th Street including restriping all the bike lanes and crosswalks and repainting the signal poles. A major request from nearby residents has been to add two signaled crosswalks on 8th Street. Currently, 8th & Laura and 8th & Hubbard are being considered for this in 2022. Another win for Historic Springfield have been improvements by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority to install historic bus stops, which include adding trash receptacles, shade shelters, and bike racks. Three trash cans were added to residential streets recently that will be maintained by the City of Jacksonville. Lastly, SPAR is working with JEA to install historic light poles on Main Street from 1st Street to State & Union Streets, so that there is one connecting line from Downtown to Springfield. Installation to occur in early 2022. 

Kelly touched on the ongoing traffic engineering throughout the neighborhood with some big wins for the end of 2021. The West 4th Street brick project is coming close to the end and she informed residents to stay tuned for a completion date and celebration. A third bulbout and crosswalk mural installation has been completed and installed at the intersection of East 3rd and Market Street. This intersection was prioritized given a penchant for fender benders and near misses in this area. A fourth has also been added at 9th and Pearl Streets and David Nackashi will add a mural to it in early 2022. The 7th and Silver Street drainage project will be funded by newly passed citywide gas tax and has been prioritized to the year one CIP. A long time goal that has been achieved is the reduction of the speed limit in the residential parts of Springfield from 30 mph to 25 mph. While it may seem slight, this will help JSO enforce the speed limit throughout the neighborhood.    

Kelly talked about the Main Street resurfacing project scheduled for 2023. Resurfacing will take place from State and Union and all the way to Trout River. The whole of Main Street should not be closed during this project with, at least, one lane remaining open at all times with contractors working in small sections. The benefit of the repaving is that as that work is being done, some long time wish list items for the neighborhood will be able to occur at the same time with some of those funded by the newly passed Gas Tax. Tentatively, there is approval for the reopening of several intersections for left turns from Main Street from North or South onto side streets. Additionally, RFBs will be added at every crosswalk without traffic signals, travel lane width will be reduced from 11 feet to 10 feet, and parallel parking width will widen from 8 feet to 10 feet. A new crosswalk will be added at Springfield Park to connect it and the walkway behind JEA. These measures will help slow traffic down, make it easier for drivers to stop and shop at our businesses, and protect pedestrians. 

Kelly gave an update about the public parks throughout Historic Springfield. Klutho Park’s amenities just keep growing - murals are in discussion for the bridges/overpasses, new tee boxes for the Disc Golf course to be installed in early 2022, and JaxFray is bringing Kickball back to Klutho from January to March of 2022. The underutilized tennis courts at the Kennedy Center, at 1st and Ionia Streets, will be restriped for Pickleball giving Pickleball players their own place to play in the neighborhood. Schell Park and Liberty Park will see upgraded and/or brand new playgrounds this year. 

The Springfield Dog Park has been approved for a temporary reduction of its footprint while Springfield waits for the Hogans Creek Restoration. The fence line and walking path will be moved north about 10-15 feet from the southern border of the park, and the City of Jacksonville will build a bioswale to hold and absorb the water to keep it from entering the dog park and alleviate flooding. Alongside these upgrades, SPAR looks to upgrade the gates, lighting, and bring in agility equipment created out of repurposed concrete structures. Once installed, the agility equipment will have mosaic artwork added to it by local artists, RouxArt. 

Kelly reminded residents about the importance of Neighborhood Community Clean-ups and Residential Revival Project. In 2022, SPAR hosted 10 cleanups with an overall attendance of 154 volunteers who collected over 300 bags of trash. For SPAR’s Residential Revival project/ 9/11 Day of Service, the organization focused on an alley cleanup between 8th and 9th Streets next to Liberty Express. Forty volunteers joined to help clear the vegetation to not only beautify the area and improve visibility and safety, but to benefit the residents who live adjacently and prepare for its future as part of the Emerald Trail.⁠

Todd Hollinghead, Past SPAR President, talked about the importance of alleys, the alley survey, and the work being done to preserve them. There are an estimated 300 alleys in Historic Springfield. Volunteers helped with the survey by walking every alley, taking pictures, and annotating everything such as surfaces and condition. SPAR has been working with past Americorps volunteer, Kevin O’Halloran, to log all of the information into ArtGIS. There is now a full ArtGIS map of Springfield’s alleys that will be vital to help preserve the alleys throughout the neighborhood. 

Kelly presented a Year-In-Review of SPAR activities touching on a wide variety of on-going work, projects, and events in the community to include the Historic Springfield Tour of Homes and Gardens, Explore the Core bike socials, Music on Main concert series, PorchFest Reimagined, Lion King Jr Community Theatre, 4th of July Throwback Baseball Game, and the purchase/installation of the brand new SPAR Holiday Tree. In 2021, SPAR spent over $30,000 at our local businesses, the organization was nominated for two awards (Organization of Influence for Urban Land Institute and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville Art Awards), and were awarded a grant from New Belgium Brewing Company for the Explore the Core bike program.     

Kelly shared information about what’s coming in 2022. Save the Date for the Hogans Creek Restoration Springfield Community Meeting to take place on January 11th, the Emerald Trail continues to move forward, COJ has agreed to acquire Sesquicentennial Park as part of the JaxParks system, and 8th Street beautification and improvements. SPAR Programming for 2022 will be announced towards the end of December/early January. 

Kelly reminded residents to continue to support SPAR and the many ways in which to do so. This includes becoming a SPAR member, joining a committee, volunteering at an event, donating to a project, buying merchandise, and sharing about the positive things happening in SPR. Kelly asked all attendees to make sure that their SPAR membership is current. Make sure to get your membership key tag. The key tags are how members can receive their benefits from the #SPARPerks program, where participating businesses give discounts to our local residents and members.

Kelly thanked all for attending the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:30 pm.

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