(Originally published 2010-2014)
Meet Your Long-Time Neighbors
Name: Barney & Darlene
Location: 6th & Silver
Occupation: Barney is a Vice President at Wells Fargo, and the couple are owners of Avela Day Spa on Main Street.
Fun Fact: Not only are Darlene & Barney small business entrepreneurs, but they also own an agricultural farm in South Georgia.
What brought you to the Springfield historic district?
Barney: In 1987, we were newly weds, had a two month old daughter, and were living in a one bedroom apartment in Riverside. So, we needed more space, affordable space, and Springfield had that. We looked all over town, and Springfield was centrally located between our families, which was important to us. Darlene’s family lived on Southside and mine on the Northside, so it made sense to be in the middle.
Beyond that, I could see the vision of what the neighborhood could be. There was early revitalization going on at that time, but it was still relatively sketchy. My wife was apprehensive, but we decided to jump in anyways.
How did you know that your house was “the one”?
Darlene: We had a young child at the time so we wanted a house that was already renovated, and had space for our family to grow into. There weren’t that many renovated houses available in the area at the time, and no new construction houses had been built yet. We ended up finding a nice 1908 home that fit all our criteria. Since then, about 26 years ago, we haven’t moved far – just across the street.
What are some of your memories of the neighborhood at that time?
Barney: The neighborhood was a little rougher than we initially thought, actually. Back then, the city housed many people with mental health and substance abuse issues here, so the concentration of that created a variety of issues. It was a forgotten neighborhood in many ways. Forgotten by the city, but it did make for a memorable environment.
Darlene: Let’s just say the neighborhood was very “entertaining”. There was an assortment of characters: street walkers, cross dressers, boarding houses, drug houses, etc. You never knew what you would see from the comfort of your front porch, or on your front porch for that matter. Occasionally you’d find someone relaxing on your front porch when you got home from work, or sleeping on there in the morning. Of course, you couldn’t leave anything on the front porch for longer than 5 minutes either. Nothing too crazy happened to us, but the neighborhood certainly kept you on your toes. There’s still remnants of these issues lingering here and there today, but they’re minor inconveniences compared to how it was in late 80’s and early 90’s.
What changes have you seen in the community over your two and half decades here?
Darlene: The main change I’ve seen is all the families and children in the neighborhood today. When we moved in, our kids didn’t have many other children to play with on our street. Today, you can send your child out to play with plenty of other families all around. There was so much illegal activity going on at the time back then, that it just wasn’t conducive to raising a family comfortably.
Barney: I think the spirit of the neighborhood has changed. The type of people moving here now are more professional. They care about their properties. You see fewer and fewer absentee landlords today, and more home owners.
What do you enjoy about living in the neighborhood now?
Barney: I enjoy walking the dog down the sidewalk and talking to neighbors. It may be a simple thing, but it’s a big deal for us. I enjoy seeing the organic growth of the neighborhood. The positivity and vision residents have now.
Darlene: I just enjoy living in a real community. For many years, it wasn’t a real community in my eyes. You didn’t see people exercising, people walking dogs, families enjoying the parks, genuine neighbors, etc. I enjoy the daily activity of living in Springfield.
Of course, Avela Day Spa is my new passion and investment in the neighborhood. This has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I want to be part of the commercial revitalization process in Springfield. We did our research and found a great location. So, we’re here for the long haul, as residents and business owners. Massage, manicures, pedicures, etc in a relaxing environment. Come by and see what we have to offer.
Moving forward, how would you like to see Springfield historic district develop?
Barney: Commerce. We need more commerce. That’s my priority. As more people move into the neighborhood, we hope to see more commerce develop along the way. And we need to better highlight the business that we do have. A hidden jewel, in my opinion, is Shanty Town Pub on W. 6th Street. Sure it’s a hole-in-the wall type of place, but it has character and clientele, and should be more known throughout the community. We need more small business like that to take root.
Darlene: I’d like to have more infill development on Main Street and 8th Street. There’s too many empty lots along our two busiest streets, and it creates a perception of blight. We need clusters of businesses feeding off on another. Specifically, I’d like to see a specialty grocer, a full gym, a dog groomer, etc. Just basic things like that, so residents don’t have to drive a few miles to reach them. We’d ideally like to keep our money in our specific neighborhood. We’re a big fan of keeping neighborhood money in our neighborhood.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about moving into the neighborhood?
Barney: My advice is to have patience with commercial development. It takes time, and it’s slowly growing. Also, don’t believe the out dated perceptions. City-wide, many people still have the old stereotype of Springfield, associating it with drugs and crime. There’s been a positive sea of change, and it’s important that people know that.
Darlene: You can’t put a price on original hardwood floors, crown molding, and fireplaces. They don’t make them like they used to, and the charm and richness of historic homes can’t be duplicated. But, they do come with maintenance and do have to be tended to. You should really love a historic home if you own one, because it will come with work. Today, I can honestly say I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Meet Your New Neighbors
Name: Brian & Amy
Location: 6th & Market
Occupation: Brian works in client sales for an athletics apparrel company, Amy works in medical staffing
Fun Fact: Sports have played a large role in both Brian & Amy's lives: Amy's father is pro-golfer, Brian played college basketball in the ACC.
What brought you to the Springfield Historic District?
Coincidence and convenience. We both recently moved to Jacksonville, relocating for here for jobs out of college, and had been living in parents' home temporarily. Another relative lives in Springfield and loves it. He sold us on the neighborhood as a place where we could find something affordable, with nice people. So, after looking around both online and in-person at our options all around the city for a few weeks, we decided to settle here.
Did you choose a new or old property, and why?
We're pretty lucky and found a newly renovated old property that's just beautiful, like new. No one else has lived here after the renovation, which was extensive from what we understand. Honestly it wasn't preference or priority for us, if we chose a new or old property, we just went what fit our criteria, our taste, and our budget.
What did your friends & family think about the big move?
They all like it. Family lives here in the neighborhood and other family isn't far away in Riverside. And it's in a central location in Jacksonville, so family visiting from out of town seem to approve so far, as well. The out-of-towners like the charm of the area too. We did have a few questions about safety at first, you know, because of what you hear about how it used to be, but it's turned out to be nothing too unusual.
What have you enjoyed about the neighborhood so far?
Walking the dog and noticing little features of homes and properties along the way. The variety and unique characteristics are really interesting, and similar to other better known historic neighborhoods in Jacksonville. We've developed a love for Uptown Market too, which we can walk to. The dog park looks nice, but we haven't had a chance to use it yet. And the close proximity to Downtown has been a positive, which is something we didn't even think about as a benefit. Close to the sports facilities, nightlife, and things like that.
Looking to the future, what kinds of things would you like to see happen?
That's easy: homes renovated and vacant commercial buildings open for business. It's pretty obvious those are the two biggest needs, so hopefully we'll see that happen. And fixing the sidewalk outside my front door too, selfishly speaking. It would be great to see the city fix some of the basic infrastructure needs here, like potholes, damaged sidewalks and drainage issues.
Is there anything you look forward to doing?
Just meeting more people. Exploring the area a little bit. Maybe we'll go to one of these First Friday parties we've heard about, an other social activities in Springfield. We work a lot, so probably won't be out and about as much as we'd like to be. We'll be there in spirit.
What advice would you have for someone thinking about moving to the Springfield Historic District?
There's an opportunity for you find something nice, at a relatively affordable price compared to other similar neighborhoods. Plus, it's not all the way out in the suburbs, which no one really prefers to be in these days. Once you've made the decision to move here, do your homework to find the right location, because each pocket is a different. And buy a bicycle if you don't have one already. Springfield is great for biking around.