2020 has been a challenging, albeit rewarding year, for Springfield Preservation and Revitalization. Despite the cancellation of our beloved PorchFest, there have been an incredible amount of achievements and accomplishments for both SPAR and the neighborhood as a whole.
During the COVID19 Pandemic, SPAR chose to put its attention on the Historic Springfield Small Business community when business owners needed the most support. SPAR successfully launched the SPAR Boost Gift Card Campaign, where gift card values were boosted $10 or $25 (depending on the starting value) thanks to a donation from a generous neighbor. This initiative alone invested $7500 in our small businesses. SPAR hosted some smaller promotions to honor local frontline workers with a free drink at Social Grounds Coffee and a free cookie at The Sweet Spot and Urban Lounge. During the month of May, SPAR put together a Mother’s Day Gift Basket which was filled with goodies from five different Historic Springfield small businesses, as well as highlighted our local Black-owned SAMBA members in June. At the height of the pandemic, Springfield didn’t lose a single business, rather quite a few opened over the course of 2020.
Throughout 2020, while respecting social distancing protocols, SPAR hosted programming with appeal to both our neighbors, as well as residents across the city. In grand total, SPAR held:
12 Community Clean Ups
7 Music on Main Events
6 Bike Socials
4 Quarterly Community Meetings
3 Historic Preservation Workshops
3 Holiday-Themed Porch Decorating Events
2 Springfield Sunday Events
6 weeks of Kickball in Klutho with JaxFray
2 Speaker Series Events
1 Local Vendor Market
The Holiday Society was incorporated into SPAR in 2020 and the already established group of volunteers was eager to get to work on making Springfield an even bigger holiday destination. They worked with Visit Jacksonville to create self-guided tours of decorated houses for Halloween and Christmas to be added to the Visit Jax website. These maps were used to incentivize people to walk, bike, or drive and enjoy the beauty of the neighborhood during the Holidays. This project was successful in bringing visitors from all over the City of Jacksonville and the NE Florida region to visit Springfield.
SPAR is grateful for the ongoing partnership with the We’re For Jesus Center which allows us to continue to activate Sesquicentennial Park at the corner of Main Street and 6th Street. This year, after conferring with representatives from Riverside Arts Market and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, SPAR adopted protocols to help with social distancing including drawing out social distancing squares before each performance to provide space between attendees. Sesquicentennial Park has become the place for outdoor live music on Main Street and hosted our seven Music on Main events, as well as our Holiday Market this year. We partnered with local food trucks and vendors to make each event unique.
One of many reasons that Springfield is a fantastic place to live is the bike-ability of the neighborhood. Our Bike Socials have become a mainstay in our programming lineup and has seen considerable growth since its inception. This year, we hosted six coordinated Bike Socials in Historic Springfield and throughout the Urban Core, including RAM, Evergreen Cemetery, and the Railyard District. We hosted our first Bike-A-Boo!, a brand new tradition to explore and enjoy Historic Springfield’s fall decorations. Our Bike Socials experienced a record-setting year with 50+ riders attending each Bike Social of all ages and skill levels.
In 2020, SPAR offered three free Historic Preservation Workshops to our community. One workshop was hosted at the Hyperion Brewing Company, while an additional two were held virtually on Zoom with 15-20 current and potential Springfield residents at each. We partnered with the City of Jacksonville’s Planning and Development Department staff to administer informative presentations about different aspects of what is expected when renovating historic properties. Presentations focused on guidelines for windows, doors, and fencing, as well as the COA Process for both residents and real estate agents. Through our promotion of these events, we’ve had other preservation-focused nonprofits from elsewhere in the country reach out to us for guidance on how to host their own workshops. The recorded webinar on the COA Process can be found on our YouTube Channel.
SPAR hosted two Speaker Series events in 2020 at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. The first took place in February and focused on the Lost Streetcars of Springfield and was hosted by Robert Mann, who took us back to a time when Jacksonville once had the largest streetcar system in Florida and chronicled their popularity until their eventual demise. The second took place in July, both in person and online, where we welcomed local author, Tim Gilmore, who shared the story of serial killer and Springfield resident, Ottis Toole.
SPAR hosted a Community Clean Up during each month of 2020. At the height of the pandemic, Block Captains focused on encouraging the Adopt-Your-Block dynamic so that neighbors could focus on the areas around their residences, rather than getting together as a large group. Block Captains also made sure that each quadrant of the neighborhood was spotlighted throughout the year. Over 91 volunteers collected 182 bags of debris and trash. Thanks to these volunteers there is less waste on our streets and in our waterways.
In the Fall of 2020, SPAR launched our Building for the Future Capital Campaign to raise $500,000 in order to renovate the SPAR office building at 1321 North Main Street. Thanks to the generous donations of our friends and neighbors, we have reached the halfway point of this integral fundraising campaign. Throughout the first half of the campaign, we have had a number of great partnerships to help us along the way. A friend of Springfield approached us with a $50,000 matching grant which specifically targeted the donations of SPAR members. Through this matching program, SPAR members could have any donation given to Building for the Future matched, as well as the value of any new or renewed membership. Historic Springfield’s small businesses stood up to the task by offering small fundraisers, including a jello shot fundraiser at Crispy’s in September, 5% of beer sales at Strings Sports Brewery or $2 off every breakfast sandwich at 1748 Bakehouse in October, Hyperion Brewing's PatioFest, or the current promotion of 10% from each booking offered by Pedal Pub Jax. SPAR is working with local construction company Auld & White, with a goal to have the lights turned back on along Main Street in February 2021.
Due to the success of PorchFest, SPAR is continually able to provide and install public art in the Springfield Historic District. In 2020, SPAR partnered with local Springfield artist, David Nackashi, on a set of murals which were installed on three pump station buildings in two sections of Klutho Park with a third being installed in the Springfield Dog Park. This project was a partnership between JEA, JaxParks, and SPAR titled “Klutho Corners,” which was designed to highlight Henry Klutho’s distinct architectural detail and iconic Springfield symbol, the Prairie Cross.
Our Executive Director, Kelly Rich, has been a guest speaker at events throughout the city to promote SPAR and Historic Springfield. Kelly was invited to speak at the AARP and Florida Council on Aging’s Virtual Conference, alongside Suzanne Pickett from Eastside CDC, who both spoke on Racial Equity in Historic Neighborhoods. Kelly led tours of Historic Springfield to multiple organizations and potential investors throughout the year to highlight the neighborhood’s revitalization with a focus on the Commercial Corridor. Kelly, on behalf of SPAR, has been involved with conversations and serves on city-wide committees surrounding business, growth, and quality of life to include the Jacksonville Economic Development Forum organized by LISC, the COJ Homeless Task Force, the Gator Bowl Planning Committee, ULI North Florida, Jax Chamber Downtown Council, Jacksonville’s Historic Neighborhood Coalition, and the COJ’s Resiliency Subcommittee on Education and Historic Neighborhoods. She also is one of Visit Jacksonville's local Ambassadors promoting all of our local historic neighborhoods but with an obvious focus on Springfield. In efforts of her continuing her professional development, Kelly attended the VIRTUAL Southwest Greenways and Trails Summit as well as three webinars (Using Parks to Increase Connectivity, COVID-Safe Streets NOW, and Telling the Story of Place: Branding for Public Spaces).
Our Community Coordinator, Mandie Marron, recently completed the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida’s LGBTQIA+ Emerging Leaders program. This was the first time that the Nonprofit Center held this program with a sole focus on LGBTQIA+ and Mandie was one of ten selected for this inaugural cohort. The program designed to provide outstanding LGBTQIA+ individuals working in the nonprofit sector with access to social capital, leadership development, and network building to advance their careers.
Springfield (and SPAR!) has had lots of positive media exposure throughout the year. Head over to our Media link for the complete list. Our organization even received two awards in 2020! SPAR Council was given one of the Jacksonville Business Journal's 'Community Impact Awards' for our Small Business Support during the Pandemic. The City of Jacksonville also highlighted SPAR's impact in the community by choosing our installation of the Sesquicentennial Mosaic for their official 2020 Neighborhood Award.
SPAR would like to take this opportunity to thank LISC and the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville for their continued support, as well as our ardent sponsors, donors, and volunteers. SPAR is looking forward to 2021 and we hope you will continue to support, not only SPAR’s energies and efforts, but to help us vocally advocate to everyone in Jacksonville about our beloved one square mile historic community of Springfield.