Back from vacation and it’s funny…Brookside was very much on my mind while I was in Florida! My host moved from his beloved Brookside home to Jacksonville almost two years ago….and he moved into a neighborhood very much like Brookside, called Springfield. However, Springfield is an ‘up and coming’ area, as we real estate agents say. There are beautifully renovated homes sandwiched between abandoned houses and vacant lots. But anyone driving through can see and feel the potential…
Springfield is on the National Register of Historic Places, located just north of downtown Jacksonville. Once a wealthy suburb (similar to the Hyde Park area in Kansas City), most of the homes were built in the late 1800s through 1920s. I was surprised to see so many oak trees among the palm trees! (Curiously, no squirrels!?) In January 2010, Southern Living magazine named Springfield the “#1 Comeback Neighborhood of the South”. Springfield is very much a resident driven improvement project, with its own sustainability focus (www.sustainablespringfield.net) and neighbors committed to saving the historic homes in danger of demolition (www.preservationsos.org). There is a Springfield Merchants Association (www.sambajax.org) and monthly potluck suppers hosted by homeowners.
So when my friend bought his home, he deliberately chose this area to help push it forward into a more stable neighborhood. Of course, this happens house by house, small business by small business. Not knowing many people in Jacksonville, he was surprised at the very strong sense of community in Springfield—neighbors shouting “Welcome to the neighborhood, thanks for moving here! “ and baskets of goodies left on his front porch. He was so excited to find Three Layers Coffehouse, a small ‘loft-style café’ coffee shop/wine bar just down the street. It’s the only business on the corner, with empty storefronts next door. Still, it’s thriving with local residents. It seems much easier to meet and strike up friendships when everyone is living in the same area for a common cause—a passion for historic, charming neighborhoods with easy walkability, where local entrepreneurs and business owners are committed to making a difference in their own square mile of the world.
Brookside is an area years ahead of what Springfield is becoming …yet it is the very same emotional pull of a certain type of lifestyle that keeps Brookside thriving…and Springfield growing. Thanks to the urban pioneers who recognize it is the unique and historic neighborhoods of a city that give it personality and flair. These neighborhoods are worth preserving, no matter what city you live in!
During the second part of my trip, I stayed with friends in Celebration, Florida..and that will be the subject of my next blog. A neigbhorhood inspired by Brookside, but with a very different feeling.