Community Meeting - September 2021

Date: 9/2/2021

Location: SPAR Office Virtual Meeting (1321 North Main Street)

Time: 6 pm

Kelly Rich, SPAR Executive Director, welcomed the approximate 35 guests online to the meeting. 

Kelly apologized for the last minute change of venue due to the weather, but informed attendees that there will be a rescheduled on-site meeting at the Main Street Food Park to be announced soon. This will be for members of the community to meet business owners, Hector and Cherron, and learn more about what they plan for this space, ask questions, and voice their concerns. 

Kelly discussed Groundwork Jacksonville’s continued work on envisioning what Hogans Creek will look like as part of the Emerald Trail. The goal of the Hogan’s Creek Task Force is to look for ways to reduce flooding, improve the water quality, provide better habitats for fish and wildlife, improve access, increase recreational opportunity, increase resiliency and look at the impact of sea level rise, using the natural channel design instead of restraining that is current in place, and maintaining historically significant features. There will be changes to the width of the creek, which means there is a possibility that the historic balustrades will be moved. The overall goal will be to repurpose, recreate, and keep the branding and design that is so instrumental to Hogans Creek and Klutho Park. 

Groundwork’s goal for a completed conceptual design of Hogans Creek is for the end of January 2022, and they hope to host a creek festival to share preliminary designs at the end of November 2021. So far, through Groundwork’s online survey for the Hogans Creek redesign, they have only received about 250 responses. They have also held multiple Hogans Creek Vision walks, as well as two visioning sessions during the last week of August. It is imperative that Historic Springfield stakeholders make their voices heard. Groundwork’s Executive Director, Kay Ehas, asked if members of the Springfield community could answer questions (provided here) and email responses to her at [email protected] as soon as possible. Community input provided from stakeholders will be shared with consultants who are working on the Hogans Creek redesign. Additionally, Kay and the Groundwork Jacksonville team will be attending the September 29th Music on Main for anyone who would like to have a conversation with them directly.

Kelly shared that Chip Kirkpatrick, of The Historical Recovery Association of North Florida, would love to share his metal detecting work with Historic Springfield residents. He and his group have joined SPAR on multiple occasions during Community Clean Ups and he would like to offer his services to residents who would like to have their own property searched. Please reach out to SPAR if you are interested in connecting with Chip. 

Kelly discussed the progress of moving back into the SPAR Building at 1321 North Main Street, as she was broadcasting from VyStar Community Collaboration Space. She shared that SPAR has been operating from the newly renovated building since just before Home Tour in May, and that it was all thanks to every single donor. SPAR kicked off the Building for the Future Capital Campaign in August of 2020 (in the midst of COVID) and have the finish line in sight. A majority of this is thanks to the amazing matching grant that SPAR received from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund of which SPAR. Kelly encouraged those who have not yet donated, or who may want to donate more, to do so now while the match is still available. If you are interested in donating, you may do so on our Building for the Future donation page

Upon the completion of the Building for the Future Capital Campaign, SPAR is proud to announce that plans for a ribbon cutting ceremony for 1321 North Main Street is in the works for the end of September or early October. Please stay tuned for information about this event, as SPAR would love to have our community here to celebrate with us. 

Kelly gave an update from SAMBA (Springfield Area Merchants and Business Association) and the Springfield Commercial Corridor. She informed attendees that there are currently 75 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.

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 $28,000 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 three businesses with the Marketing Grant in 2021 including Sweet Christi’s, Simply Ke’Say Boutique, and Dare2Hire Different. The Facade Grant program’s budget was doubled in 2021 and, thus far, three businesses (Hof’s Printing, Bishop Classic Motors, and RE/MAX Supreme) have received grants so far. Applications for both grant programs are available on the SPAR website.

Kelly announced new businesses that will be opening or in the process of opening to include: Reddi-Arts (in the next month or so), Stumpy’s Axe Throwing (November), and Main Street Food Park (in the next month or so). Kelly also shared that there will be significant activation in the Phoenix Arts District in 2022. SPAR is in conversation with developers and hope to be able to share news in regards to that project in the next few months.

Kelly shared an update about infrastructure work with the City of Jacksonville, JEA, and FDOT. SPAR is aware of the huge impact of Main Street being closed, but is happy to announce that Main Street has been reopened for now while JEA focuses on other work further down the line on 1st Street and eastward. The completion of the overall project isn’t until next year, but while there is no work being done on Main Street, JEA went ahead and opened the thoroughfare until they have to come back closer to the end of the project. Even though Main Street is open, expect more detours on 1st Street and into the Eastside neighborhood as contractors move further towards the river. Another project that SPAR is working with JEA on is 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 the next few months. 

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 shared that the West 4th Street brick project is coming close to the end. SPAR is aware of concerns from residents in regards to the use of historic versus reproduction brick. Conversations are ongoing and contractors are doing their best to accommodate the neighborhood’s wishes. The goal is to be complete by the end of 2021. Additionally, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority has been updating bus stops throughout the neighborhood with shade shelters, benches, and trash cans. 

Kelly touched on the ongoing traffic engineering throughout the neighborhood. Residential traffic calming measures are already installed or in discussion. Bulbouts have been installed at the corners of East 3rd & Hubbard and East 7th & Hubbard and now have added murals (by local artist, David Nackashi) to make them pop even more. This is a visual “trick” used to slow down drivers on these roads and a reminder to slow down traffic on the residential streets. The process to install several bulbouts throughout the neighborhood is continuing, including the next at East 3rd & Market in the next few months. In addition, conversations continue to reduce the speed limit in the residential parts of Springfield from 30 mph to 25 mph by the end of 2021. This would not include Main or 8th Streets. While it may seem slight, this will help JSO enforce the speed limit throughout the neighborhood.

Kelly announced that SPAR and the City of Jacksonville have been working together on improvements to the 8th Street corridor. Items such as median and sidewalk improvements, another entrance style mural to the neighborhood from the westside of 8th Street, as well as the possibility of new crosswalks at 8th and Laura and 8th and Hubbard. All of this will also include restriping across the board. 

Kelly gave an update about the public parks throughout Historic Springfield. Thanks to the $100 million approved by the City, Springfield will see some funding on deferred maintenance items within our local parks. SPAR will be in conversation with JaxParks to see if any of the neighborhood’s wants align with what is already planned, and go from there. Some items on the deferred maintenance list that already have approval include new playground equipment, fencing, and lighting for Liberty Park and a new playground at Schell Park. Klutho Park’s amenities just keep growing - murals by both David Nackashi and ArtRepublic, StoryWalk, and maintenance for Disc Golf. Springfield Park’s updates are still at the committee stage, McPherson Park is looking to become a Food Truck activated park for UF Health and the nearby residents, and the Kennedy Center’s tennis courts (which are underutilized) will be restriped to become Pickleball Courts.   

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.      

Kelly shared that Sheriff’s Watch will continue to meet virtually for the near future. Sheriff’s Watch meets on the 4th Tuesday of each month at 6 pm and attendees can find the ZOOM link within the Facebook event. SPAR’s Off Duty Officer Fund pays for officers to patrol the hot spots in the neighborhood during peak crime seasons. This is funded by community donations and you can set up a recurring or one-time payment through SPAR

Kelly reminded residents that the Certificate of Appropriateness process is under the jurisdiction of the City of Jacksonville. SPAR receives calls and emails weekly about needing permission from the organization for exterior restoration work, which is not accurate. SPAR helps facilitate and can give input on a resident’s project via the Design Review Committee, but the permission ultimately goes through the Historic Preservation Office via COJ’s Planning and Zoning Department. For more information about the COA process and frequently asked questions, you can watch our video on the process here

SPAR is always looking for volunteers and for residents to be engaged within our community. The number one way to do this is to join a SPAR committee of which there are plenty, including PorchFest, Commercial Corridor, Design Review, Community Engagement, and more. Another way to get involved is to join us for Day Of activities such as our monthly Community Clean Ups, including this month’s International Coastal Clean Up Day on September 18th from 9 am to 11 am focusing on Hogans Creek in Klutho Park and our 9/11 Day of Service - Residential Revival Project which will be focusing on cleaning up the alley between 8th and 9th Street near Liberty Express.  This will be 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. 

Another great way to get involved with SPAR is to become a Board Member. Applications are open now until September 24th. If you are interested or have any questions, please reach out to [email protected]

Kelly announced SPAR’s Fall programming lineup to include the return of Music on Main in Sesquicentennial Park with Junco Royals on September 29th, as well as dates for October, November, and December. Bike Socials will return with the Bike-A-Boo on October 29th to enjoy the Fall decorations throughout the neighborhood and the Holiday Ride is tentatively scheduled for December 14th. 

Last, but not least, mark your calendars for Saturday, November 6th from 12 pm to 8 pm is Jacksonville PorchFest and it will be returning to the east side of Main Street. There will be three headliner porches in addition to all the food trucks, vendors, beer, and PoochFest sponsored by Walk Wag Pet Purr. Parking will be available at FSCJ with a shuttle available, as well as other options closer to the event for residents. The volunteer link is up! Day of PorchFest logistics couldn’t be accomplished without our amazing volunteers. 

Kelly gave an update on the Demolition Appeals . SPAR has been working with COJ to find alternatives to demolition for two contributing structures in the neighborhood. What the community can help with is finding potential interested buyers for both properties - new owners who are willing to take on either property and bring them back to their former glory. SPAR asks residents to send interested parties to the organization, so they can be networked with the current owners and work towards a solution. 

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. 2021 Key Tags are available, please pick up yours at any SPAR event or by visiting the office at 1321 North Main Street. 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 virtual meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:10 pm. 

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