The reasons residents love living in Springfield are as diverse as the residents themselves. Diversity happens to be one of the many features of our great community, and most people don’t choose to live here unless they appreciate it. I love Springfield because our quiet streets overlooking the city skyline are filled with potential. I see what Hogans Creek can become and love watching 100-year-old homes go through the restoration transition.
Springfield Preservation & Restoration
With the mission to “Preserve and Build Community,” the greatest asset any historic neighborhood can have is an active preservation society. Working to maintain a strong historic character through architectural preservation and community engagement in neighborhood issues is at the heart of Springfield Preservation and Restoration.
Springfield is known for unique events, including opportunities to see some of the historically maintained homes via home tours. Each spring residents are able to enjoy the Home and Garden Tour, a walking tour of 4-6 homes with information on each featured property. Neighbors can learn about their neighborhood and also gain valuable insight into preservation techniques and historic décor. There is also a Holiday Home Tour, which includes a special feature on the many light displays and traditions throughout the neighborhood.
Springfield loves to make fun use of the great divider in our community: Main Street. Splitting our neighborhood into “Eastside” and “Westside” teams, several annual sporting events have popped up including the throwback baseball game held on the 4th of July and the Thanksgiving Turkey bowl, played with an “old school” pigskin and 1902 rules. Learn more at www.sparcouncil.org.
Further, preservation of our historic homes is absolutely essential. Preservation SOS is an organization that formed after a community meeting where residents, homeowners, business owners, city officials and friends came together to brainstorm what could be done to save homes being demolished by developers and the city itself. The group largely communicates through online forums which can be found through www.preservationsos.org.
Operation New Hope
One of the coolest projects transforming Historic Springfield is Operation New Hope. ONH works to restore and build affordable housing for those that need it. They are also assisting ex-offenders with re-entry into the workforce. If that isn’t enough, their “Breaking the Cycle” campaign is a full-scale economic development initiative aimed at the reunification of families for children of ex-offenders.
As of 2014, ONH has built or restored more than 80 homes in Springfield and East Jacksonville, maintaining historic architectural characteristics, and is responsible for five of the seven LEED green certified homes. Helping families through the difficult home-buying process, providing subsidies and creating a home buyer course for ongoing information on home ownership is just a part of their work. As a part of the Ready2Work program, ONH works with ex-offenders to provide workforce skills and job placement. After an ex-offender is hired, ONH follows them for three months, even going to their job to check on them. The job placement is 70% with a 65% retention rate.
In addition, the Breaking the Cycle program recognizes that children of criminal offenders are more likely to become offenders themselves. The program provides parenting and life skills training, family counseling, and helps parents to find jobs that pay a living wage in order to maintain a stable home. ONH has successfully helped over 2,500 ex-offenders reenter the workforce and indirectly served their 7,200 children by improving the child support statistics by 70%. Learn more about the great work Operation New Hope is working on in Historic Springfield at www.operationnewhope.com.
Springfield boasts several community spaces within our neighborhood, including the Laura Street Community Garden that was built entirely on donated funds and serves 20 plots for community gardeners. Many of these are facilitated through Sustainable Springfield, a local organization working to turn liabilities into assets and transform vacant, blighted lots into vibrant community gardens. Community gardens help with family interaction, community beautification, provide fresh organic produce, and improved nutrition. They are therapeutic, educational, and bring a sense of community pride. In keeping with all of these benefits, Sustainable Springfield has also built a community orchard as a long term food source that includes several trees: peach, fig, persimmon, apple, and plum. The Kids Garden has developed monthly programming that includes sustainable living classes, cooking in season classes, and quarterly food swaps. Youths aged 5-10 will have the opportunity to learn about gardening and all the things that go along with growing their own food!
Recently, Springfield held its first Farm to Table event featuring locally produced foods for the community served al fresco in the Laura Street Community Garden. The three course meal was prepared by local chefs and helped bring even more attention to the value in these local assets. The Bridge Community Garden serves as an outdoor classroom for students attending The Bridge of Northeast Florida, a unique school working to provide the children that live in some of Jacksonville’s most crime-infested, impoverished neighborhoods with the opportunities they need to overcome barriers and to support them as they aspire to better their lives. While there are other neighborhood programs providing after-school activities, only The Bridge operates a holistic model that addresses academics, health, social enrichment, mentoring, job skills training and job opportunities. Learn more about the various community gardens and initiatives in Springfield at www.sustainablespringfield.net or through schools like The Bridge of Northeast Florida www.bridgejax.com.
Springfield Confederate Dog Park
As former Tampa mayor Rick Baker would say, if you want to improve your city’s quality of life, build a dog park. Located in the heart of Confederate Park just outside of downtown, this is the only city owned off leash dog park. The 2.87-acre fenced green space features two separate dog areas, pavilions and plenty of space for dog exercise. A dog park is a great place to meet your neighbors and talk about new community initiatives. It makes the neighborhood a great place for pets and adults.
The Jacksonville Zoo opened in Springfield, on the banks of Hogans Creek, in 1914. A red deer fawn was the sole star of the show in the beginning. Historic Springfield was home to the zoo for nearly a decade before moving to its current location on Hecksher Drive. As the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens finishes celebrating 100 years in Jacksonville, Springfield is looking to showcase the vital role it played in the zoo’s history through sculpture.
Local sculptor Melissa Russel has created a 12-foot-tall giraffe, currently one of 10 sculptures located in Main Street Park between Duval and Monroe streets behind Jacksonville’s Main Library. The sculptures, which will remain in the park until next September, are part of Sculpture Walk, a project conceived by University of North Florida professor Jenny Hager and funded in part by a Spark Grant from the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.
A local fundraising effort just brought in nearly $5,000 to acquire, install and create a dedication plaque to permanently display the giraffe on the northern bank of Hogans Creek by the end of 2015. The sculpture would be purchased and donated to the City of Jacksonville for inclusion in its Art in Public Places portfolio.