(Originally published in 2010)
Meet Your New Neighbors
Name: Charles & Angie
Location: E. 5th Street
Occupation: Charles is a P-3 Naval flight officer and Angie is a Project Engineer
Fun Fact: Charles & Angie enjoy using their green thumbs in the diverse vegetable garden they’ve created in their back yard. Squash, onions, collared greens, cabbage, tomatoes, bell peppers, and herbs are on the menu.
Q: What brought you to Springfield?
Charles: I’ve lived here before, actually. The Navy stationed me here a couple times before, most recently in 2006-2007. I lived in an apartment in the neighborhood then, and liked it over all. So when I was stationed back to Jacksonville this time, and I knew that I’d be sticking around, I wanted to consider Springfield again. A lot has changed since just a few years ago. Lots of businesses have opened and the neighborhood has steadily improved, so I decided this was the place to be. We moved in December 2009.
I also like that it’s centrally located in the city, so we’re close to Downtown and not too far away from anything else.
Q: Did you purchase an old or new house, and why?
Charles: We purchased a new house from SRG. We’re both extremely busy people, so we wanted a low maintenance house. I didn’t want to facilitate restoring an older home, either. One day I might be interested, but not right now.
Angie: I just liked the style of the new construction homes. I like how they are blended in with the historic homes to keep the same charm in the neighborhood, but have a modern flair too.
Q: How did you decide that this was the one for you?
Angie: We looked at others houses first, all new construction, but narrowed it down to just a few.
Charles: When Angie walked into this house, she had an “ah ha” moment and started to envision what everything would look like aloud. I thought that was a good sign. Plus, the size of the lot was a great bonus. It’s rare to have a big yard so close to a city, so that was a selling point for us. Angie actually designed the yard layout and SRG worked with us to make it happen.
Q: How did you initially discover Historic Springfield?
Charles: Like I said, I was previously stationed here. The first stint was in 2001. At that time I just happened to drive through he neighborhood and I liked the look and feel of it. It reminded me a lot of home. A few years later when I returned, I investigated buying a property. At that time Riverside was the hot, up and coming neighborhood, but I decided to hold off purchasing. So when I was stationed here this time, I started to looking for houses online. The houses in Springfield stood out again, for their value and unique styles. The last step was having Angie visit to see if she liked the area, and she did.
Q: What do you enjoy about living in Historic Springfield now?
Charles: First of all, my neighbors are extremely helpful and pleasant. It’s nice to know you have people looking out for you and it feels good to reciprocate in return. I also like the walkability of the neighborhood. The streets are very walkable with sidewalks and shade, and there a number of venues to visit. I can walk to restaurants and nightlife like Three Layers CafÃ©, Uptown Market, City Kidz, and Fusion wine bar. I can walk to church and different parks. I can even walk to the Jaguar football games from here; it’s just over a mile away.
Q: Do you participate in any of the neighborhood events or organizations?
Angie: When we get settled in we’re going to get more involved in everything. Right now we’re still traveling a lot, which will be over with shortly. But we are interested in the Wine Society, the First Friday parties, and maybe SPAR Council.
Q: What did your family and friends think of your decision to move into the neighborhood?
Charles: We’ve only had a few visitors so far, but they’ve liked the neighborhood a lot. Everyone agreed that our house is good investment and, moreover, the neighborhood is a good investment. Most of my family and friends live in urban areas up North, so unlike someone who’s always lived in the suburbs, they’re used to urban living.
Q: How do you see the neighborhood evolving in the future?
Charles: A lot of it is tied into the economy, of course. It seems like California, Nevada, and Florida have been hit the hardest in terms of housing, so some difficulties are understandable.
With Main Street having been renovated now, I think there will be a slow shift from it being pawn shop and tax refund centered, to a more well-rounded Main Street. You’re already seeing that happen with the new restaurants at 3rd & Main. And our very own grocery store would be nice too.
But the biggest thing I hope to see come to fruition is the Hogans Creek park renovations that I’ve been reading about in paper. The Hogans Creek park system has the potential to be an important connect between Downtown and its closets neighborhood, Historic Springfield.
Angie: I agree with Charles, but I think small businesses will lead the way in changing the neighborhood for the better.
Q: Having just moved in, do you have anything to say to your new neighbors?
Charles: We’re planning on being active in the community once we get settled in, so come on by and say hello. Being from Milwaukee, I’ll have plenty of beer and bratwurst to share….the Radkte’s aren’t the only ones in the neighborhood who brew their own, ya know!
Angie: I’m looking forward to living in a neighborhood that has a true community feel. A lot of areas, no matter where you live, just don’t have that in their neighborhood.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering Historic Springfield?
Angie: I’d say that this is a neighborhood that’s still growing and developing, and it’s on the rise. So it’s a sound investment.
Charles: I’d have 2 things to say. First, I read a lot about how Duval County schools were awful, and how other counties schools were better overall. And it may be true that, overall, schools are better outside of Jacksonville. However there are still a lot of great schools in Jacksonville, including some in our neighborhood. So don’t let that scare you away.
Second, it’s not the crime-ridden Springfield of the 90’s that I’ve heard so much about. Huge changes since then. I mean, it’s not even the Springfield of 2007, when I last lived here. It’s better. It continues to develop for the better, so join us.
Meet Your Long-Time Neighbors
Name: Kharis & Family
Location: E. 2nd Street
Occupation: Financial Planner & CEO Khajem Financial Group
Fun Fact: Kharis spends much of his free time serving the community, by co-directing his church choir and mentoring youth in the neighborhood.
Q: What brought you to Historic Springfield?
A: The unique look of the neighborhood more than anything else. I can remember driving through the neighborhood as a teenager and marveling at the houses. Each house seemed to have its own personality. So many undiscovered diamonds. Years later I got a job with Prudential, and my boss was interested in the neighborhood. His interest peaked my interest again. At the time I was living in Arlington, but was ready to move. So I had a realtor friend of mine look around and little, and this house is the result. I moved in October of 1998.
I also liked that it was close to Downtown, but had a big yard too. I always thought that was interesting. You don’t see that in other large cities. It didn’t hurt that the mortgage was the price of my previous rent either.
Q: What were some of your concerns at the time you moved in?
A: I was scared! I was scared because of what I had heard about the neighborhood. At that time it was still pretty sketchy, so before I bought the house I did some research. I talked to a developer who clued me in on the neighborhood’s promise, much of which we’re seeing realized today. I parked outside the house and just listened and observed. For whatever reason, this area of the neighborhood wasn’t as bad as other parts, so I bit the bullet and jumped in.
In terms of concerns about my house, it was structurally sound but needed a lot of work. New roof, new electrical, new plumbing, central hear & air, paint, etc. Thank goodness a 25k matching facade grant was available at the time. Because of that, I was able restore the front of the house to what you see today. But this house wasn’t in anywhere near as bad of shape as many of the others in the area. No gutting needed. In fact, these are the original plaster walls, plaster ceilings, windows, pocket doors, and the rest.
Q: What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had in the last 12 years here?
A: The first few years we lived here were pretty interesting. Things would get stolen off our front porch. Tools and food were stolen out of our garage. Pan handlers were everywhere, always asking if they could do some work. One time I had a guy wash my car for me. Well, another guy walked up to ask the same thing, and they got into an argument about who was the “real” car guy. That didn’t end well. Then there was the string of arsons in the neighborhood. The house across the street from us went up in a blaze like something you’d see in a movie. It was unforgettable. The owner died in the fire. Thankfully nothing too crazy happened to us, so I don’t have any page-turning stories.
Q: How have you seen the neighborhood change since 1998?
A: Obviously there are a lot of new houses in the area; SRG is responsible for most of that. I remember SPAR Council being more of a preservation organization originally, but they’ve evolved into an active revitalization and political force now too.
I think there’s a different caliber of individual moving in now, which brings different demographics. Professionals and families have moved in, as opposed to slum lords. I think the median income of the neighborhood when I moved in was 10k per year. That’s changed significantly, of course. You see kids playing, joggers, dogs walkers, and people just enjoying the neighborhood now. You didn’t see that very much in 1998.
Q: What do you most enjoy about living in the neighborhood now?
A: The people are second to none, first of all. There’s nothing like a diverse neighborhood of active, caring, and accepting residents. Everyone’s on a collective mission, or at least they should be, to finish what was started and fully revitalize and restore the neighborhood. I like seeing how much progress has been made, and enjoy living amongst people that are hungry for more.
I also enjoy the cool new venues that have opened in the neighborhood, like the Fusion Art, Jazz, and Wine bar. Places like that, that have character, that you can invite guests to and enjoy yourself at, are a welcome addition.
Q: Do you participate in any neighborhood events or organizations?
A: I’ve been attending neighborhood functions for a long time, before any of the neighborhood organizations were coordinating much of anything. Every July 4th we used to have a block party. We closed the streets, everyone brought a dish, and it was just quality time with your neighbors. These days, my wife & I attend the New Years Eve Wandering Cocktail Party, the July 4th Throwback Baseball game, and an occasional First Friday party.
I’m also the current Vice President of SPAR Council, and serve on their finance committee, which I consider a privilege.
Q: How do you see the neighborhood changing in the future?
A: I think we have a great opportunity to keep the momentum going. So much positive has happened that it might be easy to let compliancy set in. But it’s up to us and this next wave of new residents to preserve the historic integrity of the neighborhood and fully revitalize it. That means more businesses, developing the commercial corridors of Main Street and 8th Street, and pushing the Hogans Creek parks restoration through one way or another. All of which can happen if we keep the city’s ear, which can only be done with involved and vocal residents. We need to channel that into productive and positive results.
Eventually I see Historic Springfield and Downtown being connected, making it a destination similar to Savannah, GA. A place where everyone will want to be, or at least stop and visit.
Q: What advice would you give to people considering making a move into the neighborhood?
A: Three comments: First, if you choose to move into the neighborhood then you’re not just moving into a house to live. You’re joining a lively and interconnected community. A community on a mission to realize it’s full potential.
Second, you may see some thing that you don’t care for right now. There are still some issues, of course, but thankfully they’re relatively small compared to the past and continue to dwindle.
Third, as resources shrink, and the price of oil goes up, and efficiency becomes more important, lifestyles are changing. The emphasis is turning to living closer, away from sprawl. It’s the direction the world is moving. And undoubtedly, Historic Springfield stands to benefit from that.