2021 SPAR Accomplishments
After a challenging, albeit rewarding year, for Springfield Preservation and Revitalization in 2020, the organization experienced a wonderful bounce back in 2021. There have been marvelous achievements, accomplishments, and wins for both SPAR Council and the neighborhood as a whole.
None more so than the conclusion of our Building for the Future Capital Campaign and turning the lights back on at 1321 North Main Street. Thanks to the generous donations of over 200 of our friends and neighbors, the year-long capital campaign to raise $500,000 to renovate the interior of the SPAR office building is complete. SPAR moved from the Walnut Street location and back to Main Street in May of 2021 and the official Ribbon Cutting was held during Jacksonville PorchFest week.
Throughout 2021, SPAR hosted programming with appeal to both our neighbors, as well as residents across the city. In grand total, SPAR held:
10 Community Clean Ups
10 Music on Main Events
8 Bike Socials
4 Quarterly Community Meetings
2 Historic Preservation Workshops
2 Beautification Projects
1 PorchFest Reimagined
1 Speaker Series Event
1 Community Theatre Performance
1 Local Vendor Market
SPAR continued the tradition of hosting the 42nd 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 nine properties on the tour and an added bonus of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of Jacksonville hosting an open house. Attendees walked, biked, and drove the footprint with e2ride bike tours returning to host a bike social on Saturday and EZEventride providing shuttles on both days of the Tour. This event wouldn’t be possible without the owners of each of the seven properties, 13 sponsors, 48 volunteers (many of which were UF Health employees), and over 700 attendees.
While 2020 was the year of the PorchFest That Never Was, 2021 was the year of PorchFest We’ll Never Forget marking the seventh Jacksonville PorchFest in Historic Springfield. A seasonally unusual Nor’easter shifted the all-day event into a weekend-long one, including a relocated performance at Underbelly on Saturday night, featuring headliners Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, and PorchFest Reimagined on Sunday. PorchFest Reimagined featured half of the original lineup, vendors, and food trucks in a limited footprint utilizing Sesquicentennial Park, the 100 block of East 5th Street, and 1400 block of Hubbard Street. Even with the last minute changes, we wouldn’t have been able to pivot as we were able without the support of our 35 sponsors, 100 volunteers, and several thousand attendees.
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 saw quite a bit of activity for our favorite pocket park. Not only is Ses-Q Park known as an outdoor live music venue, which hosted our ten Music on Main events featuring local music and food trucks, but it has become known as a coveted local community space. In 2021, Ses-Q Park accommodated YBK (Young Biz Kids) Day, two special needs talent shows, a weekly Fall farmers market, a plant exchange, multiple visits from the Tillamook Ice Cream truck, and served as a continued gathering space for a local fire spinning group.
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 and has seen considerable growth since its inception. This year, we received a $3,000 grant from New Belgium Brewing Company for our Explore the Core program and hosted eight coordinated Bike Socials in Historic Springfield and throughout the Urban Core, including RAM, Historic Eastside, Downtown Riverfront, Stadium District to see the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, and Evergreen Cemetery. Our Bike Socials continued the trend of hosting 50+ riders attending each Bike Social of all ages and skill levels. Favorites amongst Historic Springfield, our two holiday-themed bike rides aim to explore and enjoy our neighborhood’s seasonal decorations. We hosted our second Bike-A-Boo at one of our newest Springfield’s businesses, Main Street Food Park, and continued the yearly tradition of the Historic Springfield Holiday Bicycle Ride. We hit a milestone for our Holiday Ride with over 400 attendees riding through our historic streets. We’d like to extend a deep appreciation to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Bike Unit for keeping our cycling groups safe during our Bike Socials.
In 2021, SPAR offered two free Historic Preservation Workshops to our community, which were graciously sponsored by Southern Brothers Inspections. Both workshops were held in the brand new VyStar Community Collaboration Space at the SPAR Building with 15-20 current and potential Springfield residents at each event. SPAR partnered with the City of Jacksonville’s Planning and Development Department staff to administer an informative presentation about different aspects of what is expected when renovating historic properties. The presentation focused on guidelines for windows, doors, and fencing, as well as the COA Process for both residents and real estate agents. Guest speaking at both workshops was Mark Riccaboni of Southern Brothers Inspections. Mark identified and discussed the five most common issues found during inspections of historic district properties and how to solve them.
SPAR hosted the Grow Your Own Food Panel in March of 2021 at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. The discussion focused on the how-to’s and strategies used in seasonal and small-scale food farming that neighbors can do right in their own backyard. Moderated by the founder and president of Sustainable Springfield Amanda Searle, the panel consisted of Nathan Ballentine (Man in Overalls), Laureen Husband (Feeding Northeast Florida), Beth Marlowe (UF/IFAS Duval County Extension), and Frank Wallmeyer (Standard Feed & Seed).
SPAR hosted ten Community Clean Ups during 2021. At the height of the pandemic, Block Captains focused on spotlighting each quadrant of the neighborhood throughout the year. Over 154 volunteers collected 300 bags of debris and trash. We were thrilled to expand our Residential Revival Project this year into a 9/11 Day of Service Alley Clean Up in partnership with the City of Jacksonville, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and JWB Real Estate Companies. Focusing on clean up and improving the alley way from 8th to 9th Street next to Liberty Express, 40 volunteers came together not only to beautify the area and improve visibility and safety, but to benefit the residents who live adjacently and prepare for its future as part of the Emerald Trail. SPAR also partnered with our local Springfield Rotary to purchase and install new mulch for Andrew Robinson Elementary and The Bridge.
Another special event that SPAR organized was the return of the 4th of July Throwback Baseball Game. This annual tradition featuring the rivalry between Historic Springfield’s West Side and East Side of Main Street had the distinct pleasure of playing at the storied J.P. Smalls Field in Historic Durkeeville due to significant rain damage in Klutho Park. Despite a competitive game, East Side won the 2022 match up. SPAR was also excited to partner up with Ponte Vedra’s Apex Theatre Studio to present the only performance in Duval County of The Lion King Jr in Klutho Park.
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 Springfield Rotary and Jacksonville Chamber Downtown Council. 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 COJ Homeless Task Force, the Gator Bowl Planning Committee, Jacksonville’s Historic Neighborhood Coalition, and the COJ’s Resiliency Subcommittee on Education and Historic Neighborhoods.
SPAR was instrumental in having the Florida Department of Transportation implement 2-hour parking along Main Street as well as the addition of two handicapped parking spots between 7th and 8th Street which will be coming in early 2022. Another win for Historic Springfield have been improvements by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority to install historic bus stops, which include adding trash receptacles, shade shelters, and bike racks. Three trash cans were added to residential streets recently that will be maintained by the City of Jacksonville. The West 4th Street brick project is finally complete after a year-long disruption of road closures and detours of that 3 block section.
There were some incredible wins in the realm of pedestrian safety in 2021. Monitored and coordinated by SPAR leadership, over the course of the last two years, we worked with the COJ’s Traffic Engineering Department to successfully reduce the speed limit on the residential streets from 30 mph to 25 mph. Although it is only 5 mph, this will give JSO a better opportunity to monitor and enforce by ticketing speeders.
Lastly, three brand new artistic bulb-outs and crosswalks located at the intersections of Hubbard St and East 7th Street, Hubbard Street and East 3rd Street, and North Market Street and East 3rd Street were installed in 2021. This was another project in which SPAR coordinated with COJ’s Traffic Engineering Department. In this case, a bulb-out is a visual “trick” used to slow down drivers on these roads and a reminder to slow down traffic in residential areas. The added muralistic crosswalks, designed and installed by local artist David Nackashi which were funded by Jacksonville PorchFest proceeds, help make them pop even more. The process to install several bulbouts throughout the neighborhood is continuing, including one at the intersection of North Pearl and West 9th Street.
SPAR would like to take this opportunity to thank LISC, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, and the State of Florida for their continued support, as well as our ardent sponsors, donors, and volunteers. SPAR is looking forward to 2022 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.