There’s a renaissance brewing in Springfield.
The historical neighborhood occupying Jacksonville’s urban core has long been in need of new development. While the area is home to many beautiful, historic houses and buildings, it hasn’t gained any attention from commercial developers in quite some time.
As a result, many storefronts along Main St. and the neighborhood’s other busy streets have sat vacant for years – some for decades.
Part of the issue is how dense the area already is. Springfield experienced a huge construction boom following the Great Fire of 1901, when many downtown residents and businesses opted to relocate to the then-small neighborhood. The urban core became densely packed, and new development moved back to downtown and further south. The answer to this dilemma, ideally, is to redevelop historic property to fit modern uses.
Recent surge of projects
The Springfield area has recently enjoyed a renewed interest among local developers.
Back in May, Bono’s Bar-B-Q announced their intention to convert the 9th and Main building into a restaurant, bar, and entertainment center. Crispy’s, a project by Springfield resident John Crispens, had previously announced its plans to open at 1735 N. Main St.
In July, plans were announced to convert property at 1731 N. Main St. into retail space. Last month, two breweries were added to the development slate: Hyperion Brewing Company (1740 N. Main St.), and Main and Six Brewing Company (1636 N. Main St.)
Altogether, these projects would certainly be enough to kickstart activity on the neighborhood’s main corridor.
Trouble from the neighbors
Unfortunately, not everyone was excited about the renewed interest.
Specifically, the Main and Six project drew criticism from church leaders because of its proximity to multiple churches and a school. They believe that the presence of a craft brewery joint would contribute to crime and underage drinking – presumably more than the full-service liquor bar right down the street.
It also drew criticism from city council member Reginald Gaffney. Gaffney, who represents Springfield on the council, echoed the church leaders’ sentiments. He and the church community claimed to be caught off-guard by the development. He also attempted to delay a zoning hearing on the project, likely knowing it would gain approval.
In a strange move, Gaffney also requested that the city’s planning division put a hold on any projects in his district so he would be able to review them first, which would effectively grind development to a halt in the Springfield area.
On Tuesday, the zoning hearing went forward despite Gaffney’s objections. The vast majority of voices at the hearing spoke out in approval of Main and Six Brewing Company.
As a result, the proposal will now go to a city council vote, having cleared one early hurdle on its way to approval. It seems almost certain that Springfield is on its way to seeing a nice boost in activity and walkability in the near future.
A few issues remain, though. As these vacancies are eliminated, many storefronts, buildings, and houses will continue to be unoccupied and dilapidated. The area also must grow in terms of multi-family housing. Converting old buildings or houses into lofts or apartments could provide a method of killing two birds with one stone, but the developer interest has to be there before this can happen.
Hopefully a revitalized N. Main St. corridor will spark even bigger plans for Springfield.
What do you think of the debate over Main and Six in Springfield?
What do you think the Springfield area needs the most?
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(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly indicated that city council member Joyce Morgan had also voiced opposition to the proposed brewery.)