(Originally published in 2010)
Meet Your New Neighbor
Location: Hubbard Street
Occupation: Urban Planner / Commercial Revitalization Planner for SPAR Council
Fun Fact: Having snowboarded the mile-high Alps, surfed Hawaii’s infamous North Shore, and twice backpacked through Europe, Jeremy has an impressive resume of adventurous travel.
Q: What brought you to Springfield?
A: I grew up in suburban Jacksonville, but when I was younger I did a lot of traveling to large cities across the U.S. and Europe. New York, San Fran, Boston, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, etc. Those cities really captured my imagination. So I was always drawn to urban living, but lived in a very suburban neighborhood.
After grad school my fiance and I started to look into the more urban neighborhoods of Jacksonville: Riverside & Avondale, San Marco and Springfield. San Marco is nice, but lacks the energy we were looking for. It’s pricey too. Riverside & Avondale is a great area, but it’s not the best value anymore. Historic Springfield had the best combination of energy, value, and long-term potential, so it fit perfectly. We just moved in December 2009.
Q: Did you purchase an old or new house, and why?
A: We think our house was built in 1897, so it’s 113 years old! We looked at a lot of houses in the neighborhood, both new and old. But we found this one just by coincidence. It wasn’t even listed yet, but fell head over heels for it. It had too much character and potential to pass up.
Q: How did you decide that this specific house was the one for you?
A: Like I said, the house wasn’t on the market yet. But I heard through the grapevine that the owners were thinking about selling it. Working in the SPAR Council office, you hear about what’s going on in the neighborhood. So my fiancÃ©e and I took a look at it. We were so impressed by what we saw that we assumed it was out of our price range. But we looked at it several more times, and every visit we found some other small charming detail. Eventually we decided to go for it. Turns out we were able to negotiate a good deal, and here we are.
Q: What did your family and friends think of your decision to move into the neighborhood?
A: A lot of them weren’t particularly keen on the idea really, but some were excited. It seems like the people that know what’s been going on here over the past few years are enthusiastic about it, but people that haven’t been paying attention to the area still have a negative image of the neighborhood. So when my friends first came to visit, I made sure to give them a tour of neighborhood. I think it changed their opinion of the neighborhood. Some of them are even interested in purchasing in the area now.
Q: What do you most enjoy about living in the neighborhood?
A: That I can walk up the street to great restaurants like Uptown Market, City Kidz, and Fusion. I can jog on the sidewalks with my two dogs. I can walk to different parks. It’s a very walking-friendly neighborhood.
I also think it’s fantastic that the neighborhood is filled with passionate, involved residents. You rarely see that in other areas. This one takes the cake in that regard, hands down. People know what’s going on in the neighborhood and they want to get involved.
Q: Do you participate in any neighborhood events or organizations?
A: I attended my very first First Friday earlier this mont, which was really fun. Obviously I work for SPAR Council (Springfield Preservation And Revitalization) so I’m heavily involved with their commercial revitalization efforts. I also plan on being active with the Block Captains and SAMBA (Springfield Area Merchants and Business Association). My fiancÃ© has her eye on the Wine Society and Garden Club though. So I may join her on occasion.
Q: Is there anything that you hope to see in the future?
A: I’d like to see more mixed-use developments, dense infill, and work-force housing, particularly along the commercial corridors of Main and 8th Streets. Those types of developments attract young professionals, teachers, policeman, artists, and such. The younger generation across the country are embracing urban living more so than their predecessors. And Jacksonville is a little behind the curve in having those kinds of housing options right now. Once the economy recovers, Springfield should be a prime spot for a diverse array of such options.
Here’s the thing, certain prominent people in the city seem to think that building a few high rise condos on the river make a vibrant downtown. But it’s not a magic bullet. Jacksonville needs a belt of strong urban neighborhoods surrounding downtown before it will really take off. And I think we’ll see that sooner than later.
I'd also really like to see the Hogan's Creek Park renovations come to fruition. That has the potential to become Jacksonville's “Central Park” and is vital to bridge the gap between Springfield and Downtown, in my opinion at least.
Q: What advice would you give to people considering making a move to Historic Springfield?
A: Good question. Two tips. And I know you’ve heard this before, but do your homework. Talk to people in the community. Use a local realtor; we have some great ones. They know the in’s & out’s of the neighborhood, while those not familiar with the area can give you all kinds of wrong information.
Second, if you’re going to be scared off by a random homeless guy walking down the street, then this neighborhood probably isn’t for you. This is urban living. You’ll see those things now and again. Remember, this is a neighborhood on the way up, not at it’s ceiling. So there’s so much more to come.
Meet Your Long-Time Neighbor
Name: Ms. Miller
Location: East 7th
Occupation: Retired food service worker
Fun Fact: Ms. Miller enjoys carpentry and woodworking in her free time, which she learned from years of watching “This Old House”
Q: What brought you to Springfield ?
A: Cleveland, my husband of 42 years, and I moved to Jacksonville from Valdosta, Georgia in 1984. We had to move, you see. And at that time Springfield was the only neighborhood we could afford. We needed a decent size house, not a shack, and we couldn’t find that anywhere else.
We lived on the corner of 3rd and Laura Street for three years, and then moved here, to this house. We’ve lived in this house since that time, in 1987.
Q: What were some of your challenges or concerns at that time?
A: Let me tell you, it was bad. Real bad. The neighborhood was infested with drugs, drug dealers, prostitutes, and all kinds of crime. The streets looked like a garbage dump, with trash everywhere. Abandoned cars, tires, shopping carts were all around the neighborhood. Just trashy.
I was afraid to go out at night or early in the morning. Even just to walk around the outside my house. You never knew what was going to happen. It was bad.
Q: What kind of changes have you seen since 1984?
A: Goodness, I can’t even tell them all. So much, so much. The streets are clean. The drug dealers are gone. The crime is down, way down. I can go for walks without worrying about things now.
You couldn’t even believe the difference.
Q: When you look back, what memories of the neighborhood stick out in your mind?
A: I have both happy and sad memories.
On this block, about three houses down, two men were shot and killed. At the end of the block a baby was found dead in an apartment. The mother said someone climbed in the window and strangled her baby. Those happened the first year we moved in to this house, in 1987. Those are sad memories for me.
But I have happy memories too. I was excited when the houses started to be restored. It’s just made the neighborhood look so pretty. And the Christmas Home Tours are an always exciting times for me too. I like the lights, ribbons, and everything else; they always look so nice.
I can’t list all of them, you know, there are too many to name.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the neighborhood now?
A: Oh everything. The people. My neighbors are so loving, so caring and kind. I don’t know if I could live anywhere else and find neighbors like these. They have helped Cleveland and I with so much, I can’t even begin to thank them. I even have a neighbor, Annette, who I call my “adopted mother” because she watches over me so kindly.
I also like that it’s just a short drive to the hospital and the grocery store. So this location is very convenient for us.
Q: How do you see the neighborhood changing in the future?
A: Well, just more good things. More friendly neighbors and more positive things in the area.
Q: Anything that you’d like to say to you someone thinking about moving into the neighborhood, or your current neighbors?
A: I have the best neighbors and I can’t thank them enough. They know who they are. To someone new, I’d just like to welcome them into the community. This is a beautiful place. We have beautiful people here. We work together to accomplish our goals, as neighbors. That’s what I have to say.