Forgotten Jacksonville: New Springfield

August 21, 2007 7 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Despite boasting a decent amount of historic building fabric and being located within close proximity to downtown, New Springfield remains one of Jacksonville's most ignored neighborhoods.

Brief Neighborhood History

New Springfield was originally developed in the early 1900s.  The neighborhood's heyday and greatest period of building occurred during the 1920's.  Its downfall came with the construction the 20th Street Expressway and Interstate 95.  Already cut off from neighborhoods to the south and west by railroads and industrial facilities, the Jacksonville Expressway Authority's projects eliminated blocks of residences and businesses, replacing them with a concrete and asphalt wall instead.


The Jacksonville Expressway Authority's (now JTA) expressway projects severed New Springfield from its surrounding neighborhoods and even the community park.  After these projects were completed, the neighborhood's quality of life plunged downhill.


Diverse Residential Building Stock

Architecturally, New Springfield is just as diverse and interesting as any neighborhood in Jacksonville.  Residences range from modest frame bungalows and two story prairie school homes to brick apartment buildings all within a pedestrian friendly gridded street layout.



Main Street

Main and Pearl Streets are New Springfield's main commercial oriented corridors.  Despite focus being applied to Main Street through the Springfield Historic District, New Springfield's strip seems more lively. This is partially due to Springfield's over inflated commercial lease rates and its commercial buildings being owned by developers who have no true intentions of leasing them out.  Springfield's negative commercial situation creates the opportunity for mom & pop businesses to set up nearby with cheaper leasing rates.  


Cotten's BBQ, a Jacksonville landmark, has been in business for over 50 years and continues to operate on Main Street in New Springfield.


This site at Main and 17th Street will soon become the home of a 10,000sf retail center.


A once vacant gas station is being renovated at MLK Parkway and 19th Street.


Pasco Hardware will bring new life to this historic commercial building on Main Street.


You don't see supermarkets constructed like this anymore.


Some buildings on Main contain commercial uses at street level and apartments above.


Springfield Warehouse District

New Springfield's heyday was also marked with heavy industrial expansion in the 1920's.  The 1920's saw many companies such as Setzers, Coca-Cola, Dorsey Bakery Company, Chevrolet, and Swisher International operate manufacturing plants and distribution centers in the area, creating nearby well paying jobs for the community's residents.  Over time, the industrial district's manufacturing became obsolete and many of the businesses relocated or closed, introducing industrial blight into the area.

However, Swisher International has continued to expand.  Today, it employs over 1,100 workers, but its growth has also effectively cut off the neighborhood from areas to the east. 


The effects of Robert Moses style planning

20th Street was once a two lane neighborhood street lined with residences and businesses.  Today it's an expressway that cuts off the neighborhood and successfully walls off the community from other areas of town.


This house, on the corner of 19th and Hubbard, once had a row of similar type structures located directly to the north.  Today 19th Street forms the northern border of New Springfield, while cars zoom down the 20th Street Expressway, now known as the Martin Luther King Parkway.


The abrupt severing off of streets to construct Interstate 95 and the MLK Parkway create dead zones on nearly every street, thus enhancing areas for potential crime pockets.


Visual Effects of Abandonment 

It's one thing to talk about the negative side effects of Jacksonville's planning, but another to see the results in visual form.  The amount of vacant residential structures in New Springfield is visually shocking.  Visiting its streets gives you the same impression that one would get driving around the streets of inner city Detroit. 


While it's too late for LaVilla and possibly a large swath of Brooklyn, the fact that most buildings still stand in New Springfield means it still has a future.  These images may be depressing, they also present the perfect opportunity for redevelopment. 


New Springfield Locator Map

Explaining the map.

Red = Outside forces that have contributed to the decline and isolation of New Springfield

Pink = JT'A's proposed Bus Rapid Transit Route (parallels I-95)

Blue = Areas where JTA's BRT route will have to be elevated

Orange = Positive factors for economic revitalization

Green = potential mass transit corridor using the S-Line ROW 

While I-95 and MLK Parkway won't be going anywhere, using the S-Line for mass transit helps reconnect New Springfield to the rest of the city.  Based on similar redevelopment patterns in our peer cities, using the corridor for rail traffic creates the opportunity for redevelopment of the Bloody Block and Springfield Warehouse Districts, turning these areas into postive economic engines instead of poster childs of crime and abandonment.