(Originally published in 2010)
Meet Your Long-Time Neighbors
Name: Terrance & Family (Married with 2 children)
Location: Laura Street
Occupation: Firefighter for Station #50
Fun Fact: Terrance has served on the board of various community organizations through the years, and is presently on the Springfield Preservation And Revitalization (SPAR) Council board.
Q: What brought you to Springfield?
A: We bought our home in 1998 and 5 things attracted me more than any other: The people, proximity to Downtown, bang for your buck, proximity to the major highways, and the originality and character of each home.
The other pioneers of that time were as friendly and supportive as you could ever ask for, and you couldn’t find a larger home for a more reasonable price. You also couldn’t duplicate my house if you tried. It would be too time consuming & costly. The craftsmanship is amazing and there’s not another like it in the world. Those things brought me to the neighborhood.
Q: What were some of your challenges or concerns at that time?
A: Practical challenges at the time were simply finding home owner’s insurance and getting a loan from the bank. No one wanted to insure a house in the neighborhood, let alone lend money to renovate one. So everyone at that time had to have the cash upfront to spend.
In the bigger picture though, prostitution and drugs were everywhere. Pay phones were everywhere. In fact, we had 56 payphones in our 1x1 sq mile neighborhood. So the dealers and the prostitutes would hangout by the pay phones waiting for a call. Vacant lots full of rubbish, an abundance of nuisance businesses, like labor pools and pawn shops, bad schools, very few families or children in the neighborhood…..the list could go on and on. At that time you could have something stolen off your front porch in the morning and go buy it back at a local pawn shop that same afternoon. It was crazy.
Q: What kind of changes have you seen since 1998?
A: A personal focus of mine was getting rid of the payphones. We’ve had 50 of the 56 removed. Other than that, the changes are obvious: Main Street is finally done, SRG and other builders are building beautiful new homes on empty lots, there are families and children in the neighborhood now, houses have been restored, new businesses are opening, and, of course, crime is night and day. We still have some issues, but nothing out of the ordinary for typical, urban living.
Also, an important behind the scenes change was the consolidation of the major community organizations. Springfield Voice, SPAR, and HSCC were competing against each other and bickering amongst themselves. That kind of representation wasn’t effective when lobbying the City for resources. The three were eventually consolidated into what is now SPAR Council and the neighborhood has been better for it.
Q: What attracted you to the area in the first place?
A: A friend of mine lived in the neighborhood. He invited me to his house one today, I had never been, and was shocked - literally shocked, at what I found. At that time most of the houses in the neighborhood looked pretty ratty on the outside, including my friend’s. But when I stepped inside I had to do a double take. It was like stepping back in time. It had been gorgeously restored and the interior was immaculate, but you’d never know from the outside. It really opened my eyes to the hidden potential that each house had.
So my friend told us about SPAR’s Spring Home & Garden Tour, and my wife & I went. We were house hunting at the time, looking in different subdivisions, and I wanted to show her the potential of the neighborhood. Needless to say, she was impressed enough to consider it. Not long after, the City auctioned off a number of houses in the area, mostly in very bad shape. The auction was held in the ballroom of a Radisson Hotel and it was standing room only. Everyone obviously knew the potential of the neighborhood. And that’s where we bought our house, right there in the Radisson Hotel.
Our house was built in 1909 and it took two years to complete. It was in bad shape when we purchased it in 1998, so it took a good three years for us to fully renovate it. But it was worth it.
Q: Do you take part in any of the neighborhood events or organizations?
A: I’m currently serving on the board of SPAR Council, but I’ve been involved in other groups too, like Springfield Voice, which is no longer around, and Operation New Hope, which is still doing good things today. I’ve also lent my house to both the SPAR and Woman’s Club Home Tours. It’s been featured 3 times and they’re trying to talk me into a 4th tour. I got hooked on the neighborhood by someone inviting me into their home, so I’ve wanted to return the favor and let others see my home. Maybe they’ll get hooked as well.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the neighborhood now?
A: I love my house. I love my yard. I love the location of my neighborhood. Most of all, I love my neighbors. We actually know each other. We like each other. My friends who live elsewhere don’t get it – they don’t know who their neighbors are. Or if they do, just superficially. You can go into any number of restaurants in the Springfield and it’ll be like an episode of Cheers, where everyone knows your name. My friends who live elsewhere pretend that they don’t see their neighbors when they go out, so they think I’m crazy when I stop to have a conversation with mine.
Q: How do you see the neighborhood progressing in the future?
A: It’s hard to say because we’ve come so far. We have reached so many of the old goals and benchmarks. So we have to recreate ourselves now. And that’s the challenging part, to go from this plateau to the next. There’s still a stigma associated with the neighborhood. It’s out-of-date, but it’s still there to some degree. And it won’t go away by being satisfied by how far we’ve come.
One thing that I’m specifically looking forward to is the Hogan’s Creek park system renovations that are being planned now.
Q: Anything that you’d like to say to someone thinking about moving into the neighborhood, or your current neighbors?
A: Get involved in the neighborhood. Make your voice be known. Historic Springfield is being molded as we speak, and this is the time where you can influence what it turns out to be.
Meet Your New Neighbors
Name: Jim & Megan
Location: Market Street
Occupation: Jim is a P-3 Naval pilot stationed at NAS Jax. Megan is in the Atmospheric Science and Emergency Management field.
Fun Facts: Megan is passionate about throwing herself out of perfectly good airplanes. Skydiving, that is. She’s made 13 jumps and is currently seeking her licensure.
Jim’s passion lies closer to home, in the kitchen specifically. Cooking? Not exactly. Jim is a home brewer and brews his own beer right there on the kitchen stove. The kitchen also features a keggerator and full-sized tap. Note: Beer and sky diving do not mix!
Q: What brought you to Springfield?
Jim: We came to Jacksonville through the Navy. Once I was stationed here, we began to look online for apartments or houses to rent. At that time we didn’t know how long I was going to be stationed here for, so we were going to the lease-to-own route. While looking online, the houses in Springfield really made an impression amongst the rest. Thankfully we found a great lease-to-own option, and once we found out that I would be stationed here for sometime we bought.
Q: Did you purchase an old or new house, and why?
Jim: We purchased a new SRG home, built in 2006. We had been leasing it since May 2009 and made the purchase in December 2009.
Megan: The house is really a compromise of sorts, but in a good way. I grew up in a similar neighborhood in Tulsa, OK. The house I grew up in was built in 1917 and had all sorts quarks and character. Jim grew up in the suburbs of Indianapolis. So while he loved the architecture of the older homes, he didn’t want the maintenance that comes with them. In this house, we have the striking look of an early 20th century home with a more modern interior. So we’re both happy.
Q: How did you decide that this specific house was the one for you?
Jim: We looked at two in ‘burbs, which we ruled out pretty quickly, and four in Historic Springfield. When we walked into our house for the first time we both knew that it was the one….. if we could afford it. But the deciding factor didn’t have anything to do with the house necessarily, but with the neighbors. We knew everyone on our block before we even moved in! Our realtor, Lisa Simon, introduced us to everyone when we were still looking. The sense of community was palpable. And that’s what really sold us.
Q: What did your family and friends think of your decision to move into the neighborhood?
Megan: My family was excited for us. My parents moved into a similar neighborhood when they were younger, and they got to see it evolve and grow first hand. So they are excited that we get to experience the same thing.
Jim: My family and friends were very skeptical when I first described it. Most have always lived in the suburbs, so it was hard for them to understand. When we first moved in, some of my Navy friends excitedly asked me where in Jacksonville we had settled on. When I told them, some of them said “You bought a house in the ghetto?”.
“Have you been there in the last 10 years”, I replied?
That was rhetorical, of course.
Q: What do you like most about living in Historic Springfield?
Megan: Our neighbors. The sense of interconnectivity runs deep here, and they introduced us to it. And the rich diversity of the neighborhood. You don’t see a diverse group of people like this living together in a community very often, and it’s a very positive thing.
Jim: The character of the neighborhood and the characters with in it. That sums it up for me.
Q: Do you participate in any neighborhood events or organizations?
Jim: We’re a big fan of the Wine Society and the First Fridays socials. But we enjoy working side by side with neighbors as well, like during neighborhood clean ups and in SACARC, the local animal rescue organization.
Q: How do you see the neighborhood changing in the future?
Jim: I see 8th Street getting the makeover that Main Street just received. 8h Street is the front door to the neighborhood in so many ways, because it’s our exit off the highway, and it really gives the wrong first impression. Like a battered front door on a beautiful home.
One thing that I hope does not change, is the neighborhood’s ‘melting pot’ status. I think that’s important to keep the unique flair of the neighborhood.
Q: Is there anything specific that you hope to see in the future?
Jim: Mixed-use along the commercial corridors, offices that attract young professionals, and a blend of unique boutiques, ethnic food restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. That sounds good to me.
Q: What would you say to people who are considering moving into the neighborhood?
Megan: Come and see it. Visit it in all parts of the day and night. Use a local agent that can show you all the Pro’s & Con’s of the area. And, if you’re able, talk to local law enforcement as well. They were very helpful in confirming that the neighborhood has been turned around.
Not everyone likes urban living. Being so close to downtown, there’s going to be homeless milling about here or there. And if that bothers you a lot, then look elsewhere. But if you do enjoy urban living, and the spice that comes with it, then Historic Springfield should be strongly considered.