New Resident Interview
Name: Angie & Brent
Age: 25 & 27
Location: E. 4thStreet
Occupation: Children's Clinic community organizer & Financial performance reporter
Status: About 7 months of wedded bliss.
Fun Fact: Angie & Brent spent their honeymoon on a tropical island in the Caribbean. But instead of enjoying a typical paradise getaway, they traveled to Haiti to help with earthquake relief efforts.
What brought you to the Springfield Historic District?
Brent: I was working at Fidelity as a broker at the time, and had a friend that lived in the neighborhood. Both he and his wife were always super enthusiastic about their community. We weren't seriously thinking about buying a house at the time, but the idea peaked my interest. That's how I found about it.
Angie: I work downtown, so I had randomly gotten lost in the area a few times just by driving around. And I loved what I found. I lived in New Orleans for a while and enjoyed the originality and character of the houses, and the neighborhood reminded me of that. You don’t see very much of that in Jacksonville
Brent: One day I mentioned the idea of checking out houses in the Springfield Historic District to Angie, and to my surprise she said that she already thought about it and liked the idea. Then our friends invited us to a First Friday Party at their house and we loved it. We loved the people and the community. We didn't even really consider living anywhere else.
Angie: Right, we were living on the Southside of town near UNF, so we were used to very suburban, cookie-cutter developments and subdivisions. But we knew that wasn't what we wanted. When we found Springfield, researched it, spent time here, and found out about the tight knit community, it was everything we were looking for. One of the coolest things at least for me, was when our realtor, who also lives in the neighborhood, showed us houses and could literally point to all the homes on the block and say "so-and-so lives there, and so-and-so lives here". We didn't know hardly anyone where we were living at the time. And we wanted to live in a real community. I’d say that the architecture was the initial draw, but the people are what really sold us.
Did you buy a historic house or a new house, and why?
Angie: We bought a newer SRG house. It was the first house we were shown and we just fell in love with it. We looked at both new homes and old homes, and really didn't have a preference when we started looking, but this was the right price and location for us.
Brent: Originally, I was leaning towards an original, historic home. But this one worked out best for us.
What did your friends and family think of your big move?
Angie: Well, there was a lot going on in our lives at the time. We got married, bought our house, and Brent changed jobs all at about the same time. We got married and bought our house in October of 2010. Since there was so much going on in our lives at the time, most of our friends and family weren’t really focused on the move. It was a lot to process!
Brent: Everything happened so fast that there wasn't much time for discussion with our friends and family. But one of my friends did attempt an "intervention". He sat me down for talk about how bad the neighborhood was and that we shouldn't move here. But when we looked at the map, he thought the Springfield Historic District and the surrounding areas were all the same. He didn’t know where it was exactly, and didn't realize that the Historic District is very different other neighborhoods in the same general area.
Angie: Since we have moved in and have had a chance to invite friends over, I think they all fall in love with the charm and character of the area like I did.
Now that you've moved in, what do you enjoy about living in the neighborhood?
Angie: Umm . . . . probably everything. We're just so happy here. We've enjoyed getting to know our neighbors, and them getting to know us. The vibrance of the community is everything we thought it would be. We love walking to the dog park. We enjoy walking down the streets and noticing something new each time. And we love the overall diversity of the neighborhood: the people, the structures, and the community activities and events.
Oh, and Brent especially likes Shantytown Pub.
Brent: Yeah, I love that place. I prefer hole-in-the-wall bars.
Angie: And I can't forget Three Layers Coffee House. It reminds me of the cool cafes and coffee houses in Denver. You don't see many around Jacksonville, but I can walk to mine. How cool is that?
What do you hope to see change in the future?
Brent: Main Street, of course. It has the potential to be just like Five Points or San Marco Square; a walkable commercial district full of interesting shops and restaurants.
Angie: But even smaller projects, like filling the vacant lots with new homes and gardens. I'd like to see more of it. I would also like to see some kind of outdoor festival too, again, like the "Affair in the Square" in San Marco or the Riverside Arts Market. The outdoor First Friday parties are awesome, and I think they attract more people from outside the neighborhood than the indoor parties.
Do you plan on participating in any neighborhood events or organizations?
Angie: We've done First Friday parties, the Arts & Crafts Fair that was part of the last Holiday Home Tour, and the Dog Days in the Park festival in Confederate Park. I'd like to participate in some of the beautification projects in the neighborhood too, like what Preservation SOS organizes.
Brent: Personally, I'm planning on getting involved in the Brew Crew and Block Captain activities. And we still haven't gone on a Home Tour yet, but hopefully we can make it to the Spring Home Tour . It’s coming up.
What advice would you have for someone considering a move to the Springfield Historic District?
Brent: Come over and see it. Spend time here. Drive through at night. Hang out. We happened to downtown at a Suns baseball game at the same time we were seriously considering putting in an offer on our house. After the game, around midnight, we drove over to the house and just sat on the porch. We sat for hours, just watching and listening. It was fine, and anyone interested should do the same thing to make sure they’re comfortable.
Angie: It's a neighborhood in transition, so there's still work to do. Bring patience and acceptance. And bring your passion. We love it, so I hope you do too.
Long-time Resident Interview
Name: John & Judy
Location: Market Street
Occupation: John is retired from real estate and trucking. Judy is a retirement specialist.
Status: Married 12 years
Fun Fact: John and Judy are accidental Jacksonville residents. In 1992, they planned to sail down from Boston to the Virgin Islands to open their own sailboat tour business. Hurricane Andrew had other plans, and made them seek refuge in the St. Johns River, eventually finding a marina in downtown Jacksonville. After 3 months of living in the marina, they decided they might as well settle here….and the rest is history
What brought you to the Springfield Historic District?
John: In 1998 we were renting in San Marco. We decided it was time to buy a house. A friend of ours was one of the early renovators in the neighborhood. He bought houses and renovated them one at a time. I told him we were looking for a house, and he suggested we look at one that he was already renovating in Springfield. He did a nice job and we could afford it, so we bought. The neighborhood, well, it wasn't what attracted us here.
Judy: To be honest, nothing about the neighborhood really appealed to us at the time. The only reason we moved here was because we found a good deal on a nicely renovated 1914 house. We both lived in the city of Boston, Mass for a long time. I had never lived anywhere else. We were sort of comfortable living in big cities with rougher areas. We both had our wits about us and weren't easily taken advantage of, so although the neighborhood didn't appeal to us, it didn't intimidate us either.
How did you feel about the neighborhood when you first moved in?
Judy: Like I said, I didn't think much of it much. The Westside of Main Street was the "nicer" side at the time, and only insane people lived on the Eastside of Main. So I guess we qualified.
I was on the phone everyday, literally everyday, with the police. And it wasn't 630-0500, it was 911. There were all kinds of wild craziness, something different each day. Springfield was the city's dumping ground. Every social service, rehab facility, offenders program, halfway house, homeless service, etc had a piece of the neighborhood. The city tried to keep all the bad stuff in one place: right here. It's funny, a few months ago I found an old "diary" I used to keep of all the illegal activity I observed. The police always did, and they still do, say "document, document, document". So that's what I did. I wrote down everything I saw and every phone call to law enforcement I made. I don't know how I had time to do it all. As I flip back through the pages now and it's amazing I had time to do anything else. That's what I think about. How hard it was to even try to live a semi-normal life.
What's changed about the Historic District since you moved in?
Judy: I sit on the front porch today and barely recognize the old neighborhood. There have been a lot of houses come down through the years by neglect, abuse, fire or demolition. Some beautiful and some that were being held up by spit and glue and needed to go. In that way, the landscape has changed. Of course things have gotten a lot better around here. Violent crime isn't so much an issue anymore so much as petty crimes, like theft. It's much better, but that element is still around, don't kid yourself. Certain pockets, like the BP on 8thStreet, are still active. People still need to be vigilant about the criminal element.
I think the biggest difference is probably just having real neighbors around now. In 1998, every other house around us was boarded up. There were maybe 1 or 2 actual homeowners around us. The rest were slum lords, rooming houses, or abandoned. Now when I spend time on my front porch, I have real neighbors I can have a conversation with. People are engaged and active our community now, whereas then everyone seemed to be here today and gone tomorrow.
Do you have any interesting stories about the neighborhood from your early years here?
John: Oh, we have some stories.
I'll give you one. Our neighbor and I had it out one day. He brought a knife and I brought a gun. It was that kind of a place back then. The funny thing is, he was so scared that he called the police on me...even though he had several warrants out for his arrest! Let's see, I had to introduce the bums and transients that lived in our alley to my shotgun, too. That's all they responded too. A few warning shots over their head eventually convinced them not to come back, you see. That's just what you had to do back then.
Judy: This is a story that I tell everybody. When we purchased our home, it was painted baby blue on the front, but only had a thin coat of white primer on the sides. As you might expect, painting our house was one of the first big projects we did. We purchased one of those tall aluminum ladders to reach the outside of our second floor. But where do you store a tall ladder? You couldn't leave anything – ANYTHING – on your front porch at the time. Anything you left would be gone by the next morning. Heck, maybe even just an hour. Tools, plants, furniture, wind chimes...anything. I had to figure out how I was going to stop my ladder from being stolen at night, so I got creative. Our bed was on the second floor near a window. I rested the ladder against the house near our bedroom window. Then I tied one end of a rope to the ladder and the other end of the rope to my wrist. If they were going to steal my ladder, they'd have to drag me out of the window with them!
The gas grill is another "interesting" story. We had just purchased a nice gas grill. We put it on our back porch and secured it with a chain. Shame on us, we thought that would do. It was chained to our back porch, so if they were going to take the grill, they were going to have to take the porch. Well, as I pulled in from work one afternoon I discovered our grill was gone, and a big chunk of our back porch along with it. They had torn it off the side of the porch to take the grill and took both with them. It's things like that that make you appreciate the relative tranquility today.
What do you enjoy about living in the Historic District now?
Judy: First of all, I enjoy not living in a sub-division cul-de-sac somewhere. We enjoy living in a diverse neighborhood where not everyone looks, acts, or thinks the same. The mixture of lifestyles, races, and ages is something we value. We like it. Then there's the proximity to everything. We're no more than 20 minutes away from anything worth going to, or less. It takes me 5 minutes to get to work.
John: I think we just enjoy living a city lifestyle.
Moving forward, how do you see the neighborhood evolving?
Judy: I have a couple thoughts on that. I think it's important that we don't repeat our mistakes of the past. SRG, the developer that built so many of the nice, new houses you see in the neighborhood today, did a great service by raising the profile of the neighborhood, building nice houses that people love, and raising the homes values in the neighborhood quite a bit. We owe them a debt of gratitude for that. But I feel that they also made some new home buyers false promises, and sort of sold them a bill of goods. They didn't really tell them that the neighborhood still had significant growing pains to go through. It was the at the top of the housing bubble though, and they were selling like hotcakes. No one took the time to explain that things don't change overnight, and that there is still work to be done. That's just the way I see it. There aren't very many early SRG homeowners left in the neighborhood, which speaks to this point I think.
But moving forward, I think we're seeing new homeowners now that get it. Of course things have progressed since then, but I think they want to be apart of the process and understand that it's not overnight transformation. People are laying down roots now. The worst is over. It was taken care of. And now the community is much more widely accessible. That’s how it is evolving, in my opinion.
John: I spend a lot of time on the front porch. I'm known as the cranky old man to some people, and that's ok. But the point is, I see a lot. It's the people that move here that make the biggest difference. The quality of neighbors is what I see continuing to rise in the future.
Do you take part in any neighborhood organizations or events?
John: I'm retired from most of that now, but I make it to a meeting every now and then. Judy is my eyes and ears for most of it now.
Judy: I've worked with SPAR (Springfield Preservation And Revitalization) and SHADCO (Sherriff's Advisory Council) for many years. I started with SHADCO even before I moved into the neighborhood. I'm the current Vice-Chair for the Springfield SHADCO now. It's is important because it connects you to the local police in your neighborhood. It opens lines of communication and produces positive results for the community. I joined SPAR a couple of years after we moved in, and although some like to stew on controversy, it's been the vital organization to the success of this neighborhood. Their connection to COJ, JSO, investors, and interested parties is invaluable. They're kind of the "catch all" for the neighborhood, and work with all sorts of people on different projects to improve the community. I'm also on the Weed & Seed committee, a federal law enforcement initiative that focuses on crime in ours and other communities around us. And of course we've done all the Home Tours, parties, and other events too through the years.
What advice would you have for someone considering a move to the Springfield Historic District?
Judy: Enjoy your home. Enjoy the neighborhood. But remember to keep vigilant. There's still a bad element out there that will take advantage of an opportunity if they see it. Get involved in making our community a better place.
John: Find a house you like and buy it. Keep it simple. Don't over think it, and for goodness sakes don't be afraid to talk to people. I see people driving around looking at houses all the time, but few actually make the effort to talk to residents already living there. If you see me sitting on the front porch, say "Hello". Everyone is happy to talk to visitors about the neighborhood.
And most importantly, Go Patriots!
http://www.myspringfield.org/New-Long-T ... -john.html