2019 has been bigger and better than we ever could have imagined, especially as we celebrated Historic Springfield’s Sesquicentennial year. There have been an incredible amount of achievements, accomplishments, and all around wins for both Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council and the neighborhood as a whole.
SPAR Membership has continued to grow during 2019. The support of our members allows us to work on our mission of ensuring Historic Springfield is a preferred place to live and do business by leading programs that drive the preservation, revitalization, and balanced growth of our community. We revamped our membership model in 2019 to a new program that we’ve called #SPARPerks. With #SPARPerks, we’ve done away with the paper membership cards in favor of plastic key tags that allow our members to receive “perks” at over 20 local businesses throughout Historic Springfield. We look forward to growing the #SPARPerks program in 2020 with a goal of over 30 participating businesses.
Throughout 2019, SPAR hosted a myriad of programming with appeal to both our neighbors, as well as residents across the city. In grand total, SPAR held:
12 Community Clean Ups
10 Music on Main Events
8 Bike Socials
5 Historic Preservation Workshops
5 SesQ Saison Tasting Events
4 Quarterly Community Meetings
3 Residential Revival Work Days
2019 marked the sixth year of Jacksonville PorchFest and the event drew approximately 17,000 attendees to Springfield! This family-friendly, free music festival held on the front porches of the neighborhood and in Klutho Park embodies the welcoming spirit of the Springfield community.
In order to bring an event with the magnitude of PorchFest to fruition, it takes a village. Ours includes over 20 SPAR board and PF committee members, 50 Sponsors, 21 Bands, 18 Porch Hosts, 54 Vendors, and 180 volunteers. From year-round planning to beer pouring and set-up to breakdown, our whole team ensured it was a fantastic day. We hope you enjoyed this year’s festival, and we’ll be announcing preliminary details about the 2020 event soon.
SPAR continued the tradition of hosting the 41st Annual Historic Springfield Tour of Homes and Gardens. This signature event takes place over two days each May and showcases the unique character of the community. We were thrilled to have five private residences decorated with a mix of modern and vintage styling (with construction dates ranging from 1887 to 2018), and three beautiful gardens. As with previous years, e2ride bike tours hosted a bike social on Saturday and we also included a small vendor market in Sesquicentennial Park. This event wouldn’t be possible without the over 100 volunteers, 8 sets of trusting homeowners, and dozens of generous sponsors who continually help us make it a success.
During this Sesquicentennial year, SPAR, thanks to a partnership with the We’re For Jesus Center, activated a pocket park at the corner of Main Street and 6th Street that we named Sesquicentennial Park. This park, centered around a century-old Live Oak tree, became home for our ten Music on Main events from March until October of 2019. Music On Main drew an average of 400 of attendees for each event, and we partnered with local food trucks and breweries to make each event unique. Not only was Sesquicentennial Park available for SPAR use, it was also available for public use throughout its duration, hosting approximately ten additional community events. Currently there are no public spaces north of 1st Street on Main Street in Historic Springfield. SPAR is leading the way to change that by utilizing this place-making strategy that has seen success in many other urban areas. The goal is to create or enhance public spaces. This helps meet community needs and bring underused places to life.
One of many reasons that Springfield is a fantastic place to live is the bikeability of the neighborhood. Our Bike Socials have become a mainstay in our programming lineup. In 2018, we hosted a handful of bike rides throughout the neighborhood and to sports games in the Stadium District. In 2019, we grew that even further into our Explore the Core program and have provided suggested routes for how residents can bike to destinations throughout the Urban Core whether they start in Springfield or they are heading here as their destination. This year, we hosted eight bike socials which included visiting Riverside Arts Market, a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp Game, the Rail Yard District, the Eastside Murals, San Marco, a Jacksonville Icemen Game, SIAA’s Holiday Tour of Homes, and the Holiday Bike Ride. We led an average of 25 riders during each event of all ages and skill levels, including attendees from outside Jacksonville. A group came down from St. Simon’s Island twice to specifically join our rides.
We’re excited to share that through our positive outreach to other neighborhoods of the Urban Core that a number of Bike Socials from other locations have come to visit Historic Springfield. Bike Duval has coordinated bike rides that meet in Riverside and have cycled, via the S-Line, to our neighborhood, as well as the Memorial Park Association’s bike ride from Memorial Park during PorchFest. In April, Springfield was host to a sold out bike tour sponsored by the Urban Land Institute of North Florida. Most recently, a group of sixteen retirees drove down from South Carolina for a long weekend in Jax. This group utilized our Explore the Core map to ride their bikes throughout the area and explored several suggested routes starting in Springfield.
Throughout 2019, SPAR offered free Historic Preservation Workshops to our community. Five workshops were hosted at the Wells Fargo Community Center throughout the year 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.
SPAR hosted a Community Clean Up during each month of 2019 for a total of twelve. The Block Captains focused on making sure that each quadrant of the neighborhood was spotlighted throughout the year. Over 180 volunteers collected 480 bags of debris and trash. Thanks to these volunteers there is less waste on our streets and in our waterways.
Due to the success of PorchFest, SPAR is continually able to provide and install public art in the Springfield Historic District. In previous years, SPAR has purchased and installed sculptures in Klutho Park and funded the “Welcome to Springfield” landmark mural at the intersection of 1st and Main Streets. In 2019, SPAR partnered with Springfield based artists, Kate and Kenny Rouh of RouxArt, on the Sesquicentennial Mosaic to commemorate the history of Springfield and the 150th anniversary of its establishment. Kate and Kenny designed the mosaic to highlight historically significant landmarks and events in Springfield, and invited the community to have a hand in its production during workshops through the summer of 2019. At least a hundred people had their hands on the mosaic as it was being made. Imagery depicted in the mosaic includes the Trolley on Main Street, Big Jim Whistle, the Bucket Brigade, the Mary Dillon Fountain, a Rose, the Water Tower, and the SPAR Sesquicentennial logo.
Other special events that were held throughout 2019 included Mosaic Workshops (featured above), the Throwback Baseball Game, and the dedication of the Sesquicentennial Mosaic.
SPAR has taken the lead of promoting Historic Springfield beyond the neighborhood’s borders. Whether it’s a Bike Social that heads to San Marco, a sports game in the Stadium District, or the Riverside Arts Market to the SesQ Saison tastings that took place right here in the neighborhood to as far away as Jacksonville Beach, SPAR Staff and Board Members were advocating for Springfield all throughout the city in 2019. We are always excited to share the happenings of our neighborhood during Springfield-themed events. Some of this year’s events were hosted at Kanine Social, Posting House, and Mellow Mushroom Jax Beach.
Our Executive Director, Kelly Rich, has been a guest speaker at events throughout the city to promote SPAR and Historic Springfield. Kelly has spoken for events with ImpactJAX, Jacksonville Business Journal, the Jax Chamber, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, among others. Kelly has given tours of Springfield to highlight the neighborhood’s revitalization with a focus on the Commercial Corridor. Kelly, on behalf of SPAR, has been involved with conversations surrounding business and growth of Springfield’s Commercial Corridor to include the Jacksonville Economic Development Forum organized by LISC. This forum includes seven community representatives from different Urban Core neighborhoods and focuses on creative approaches to economic development from Jacksonville and around the country. It’s goal is to help form practical strategies to stimulate economic development, job growth, and investment in our communities.
We were thrilled to grow our Residential Revival Project this year and give back to a long-term Springfield couple on a small-scale exterior renovation. With $5,000 for materials and the help of donations and volunteer work, SPAR was able to do the equivalent of over $20,000 worth of repairs over three work days in the Spring of 2019. The neighborhood residents and businesses truly came together to help protect a truly historic piece of our community known fondly as the Butterfly House, due to its noteworthy porch. Because of the success and continued need in the neighborhood for similar projects, SPAR will continue the program to assist a minimum of one low-to-moderate income resident each year with the costs of exterior maintenance and restoration of their historic homes.
SPAR continually works with local governmental agencies to enhance the neighborhood. Progress can be seen along Main Street in the form of plantings in tree wells and on medians, more trash cans, and electrical improvements. Thanks to many conversations with FDOT and the City of Jacksonville’s Traffic Engineering Office, we’ve been able to move forward on quite a few topics to include discussions of adding Historic Springfield signage on I-95 and Downtown (which will replace outdated Landing signage), continued conversations about a road diet on Main Street and (at the minimum) opening the medians at each intersection again, as well as traffic calming measures such as more 4-way stops throughout the neighborhood. In 2019, SPAR spearheaded the successful addition of adding pedestrian crossing signs at 3rd, 7th, and 9th Streets, as well as increasing time at lighted crosswalks.
SPAR works closely with the City of Jacksonville on issues that concern our membership and local residents. SPAR has been included in several meetings with the City of Jacksonville’s Homeless Task Force to discuss the issues of homelessness in Springfield. SPAR leadership has met with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on average of once a month in 2019 to discuss strategies that are critical to maintaining public safety both in and around the footprint of Historic Springfield. This year, SPAR has had several meetings with the City of Jacksonville Parks Department to discuss upgrades to our public spaces, especially at the Confederate Park Dog Park to reduce flooding, increase drainage, and to add more amenities. Lastly, SPAR has continued discussions with the Public Works Department to create a plan to fix flooding throughout the neighborhood in major areas, such as 7th and Silver Street.
In June of 2019, SPAR was recognized with a resolution from City Council Member, Reggie Gaffney, to honor the Springfield neighborhood for its Sesquicentennial and commending SPAR for decades of neighborhood advocacy and success.
With all of the success of Springfield’s Sesquicentennial, we expect 2020 to be another impactful year. 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.