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Killing Connectivity. Springfield vs. Downtown

How the Forgotten Downtown Loop System Destroyed the Historic Connections Between Downtown and Springfield.At the end of the 1960's Jacksonville was beginning to grapple with a few problems universal to the times. "White flight" (primarily to Arlington with the opening of the new super Mall , Regency Square.) emptying the core neighborhoods of affluent residents and any real diversity

Published May 3, 2012 in Neighborhoods      34 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

Civil Rights and Civil Unrest in the Urban Core. Riots and gigantic police led "crackdowns" along Florida Avenue not to mention Ax Handle Saturday in Hemming Park.

Urban "Blight". Aging structures, declining property values and citizen dissatisfaction with the urban core.  And the widespread, racist opinion that the presence of primarily black residential neighborhoods surrounding downtown were unsafe and 'blighted'.

The controversial techniques employed by New York urban planner, Robert Moses----covered in previous stories were immediately implemented to combat the problem, along with modernization plans and a Utopian redevelopment scheme described in the 1971 Master Plan. (which called for moving elevated sidewalks among other innovations)

http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/548/

http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/549/

Chief among these plans were the deliberate separation of the greater urban core into distinct zones (a plan still nursed until recently by celebrated Jacksonville urban dynamiter, Jack Diamond) including a sort of outdoor pedestrian shopping plaza centered around Hemming Park and the physical separation of the Central Business District from the large African American neighborhoods of Springfield, Eastside LaVilla, Brooklyn and Durkeeville.

Central to this plan was the creation of the Downtown Loop System. The Loops were also designed to alleviate the parking shortage downtown by establishing a series of Parking garages on the perimeter of a very rapid one way loop system. Most people are unaware of it today because of the half hatted way it was implemented, but if you start at any point of the loops traveling at 30 miles per hour, the traffic signals are synchronized so that you can completely circle the loop without any red lights.

The idea was that you would come in from the outlying areas, hop onto the loop system, park in one of the garages closest to your destination and the hop onto an elevated sidewalk system with ease. The area inside of the Loop would then become a huge plaza environment with wide sidewalks and street-side cafes.


 
 


Better yet, with the introduction of one way streets all the way through the grid, if one coordinated the streets ever so subtly with the placement of the new Florida Junior College Downtown Campus (now FSCJ), one could effectively block access to the Springfield and LaVilla neighborhoods from downtown.

Lets look at the Loop System again.

Now lets look at the actual end effect of the one way street grid when you complete it with the blocks created by architectural elements like FCCJ, the Park, and the Transit Station: Think about trying to travel by car to Springfield from downtown. Its actually very, very difficult.
 


 
If one is downtown, the layout of the grid and the placement of the several blocks long FSCJ campus makes it nearly impossible for the downtown visitor/shopper to wander over to the Springfield Neighborhood. As indeed this was one of the plans purposes. The planners of the era were trying to partition off the high crime district from the suburban shoppers. After the 1970's the only streets that lead a straight shot from downtown into Springfield are Broad and Liberty. Not coincidentally, these are the ones that connected from LaVilla (at the time another African American Neighborhood) and the PoliceStation.

Of course, we know now that the implementation of the first phase of the 1971 plan ended up totally destroying the retail base downtown. It was begun in 1982 and within two years, 4 million square feet of retail bordering Hemming Park was closed down due to the lack of planning and length of time taken by the 'redevelopment'. After that, with the exception of a brief heyday for the Jacksonville Landing, Downtown ceased to be a retail destination by 1987.

So all of that planning and the millions of dollars of monies dumped into the 1971 plan had two concrete results. It completely killed the retail it was created to protect, and it completely disconnected Springfield from Downtown.

This latter fact is something that needs to be corrected. There is no need for either the double loop system or the one way street grid anymore. There is no benefit in physically separating Springfield from the Downtown, if indeed there ever was. For these two neighborhoods to be restored to their historic vitality they need to be reunited and the relationship of a large residential neighborhood to a large commercial district needs to be restored.

Article and graphics byStephen Dare.









34 Comments

jeh1980

May 12, 2008, 04:38:15 AM
Huh? ??? How could we possibly kill connectivity? That's ridiculous! We all due respect, but I don't like the idea of how we think of some of our city leaders and architects as bad influences to downtown. Despite the mishaps and the most of the retail moving to the suburbs, I personally thought the 1971 Master Plan had absolutely NO intention of driving away the retail business. It's original idea of the plan was really about building and revitalization, NOT destruction (even though there were a lot of surface parking lots made during that time). Interesting article though,...I think. ::)

thelakelander

May 12, 2008, 09:04:29 AM
Here's an image from the 1950s before FCCJ's campus was constructed.  One can clearly see that downtown's urban building fabric stretched from the river all the way to Hogans Creek on several streets including Ocean, Main, Laura and Hogan.

stephendare

May 12, 2008, 09:39:42 AM

Thanks Lake, the picture marvelously illustrates the change.  And Jeh, Its not that the planners of the time had the intention of destroying the retail, in fact it was the opposite.

But that was the outcome.

Downtown was faced with competition from Malls which offered free parking, security, great service, and new stores.

The intent was to create a 'plaza' equipped with 'modern' conveniences like elevated, moving sidewalks.   But it took WAY too long to dig up the roads and repave them with bricks.

I was just discovering downtown as a teenager when it happened.  None of the stores had easy access in hemming park, and you couldn't park for blocks because the streets were all torn up.  It lasted 18 months and by the time it was done, the stores were closed.

When people had to park 5 blocks away from the stores, there was no way at all to get back to their cars before they were issued a ticket.  The meter maids picked off what was left of the suburban customers and drove them permanently out of downtown.

Springfield was completely shut off by the road redirection (on purpose) to cut down on 'crime'.

The reasons which supported this tedious replatting and redirection are gone now.

We need to fix it, and examine the underlying reasons why regional malls were able to compete so devastatingly (free parking, security) and reconnect downtown with its residential component (springfield and durkeeville)

stephendare

May 12, 2008, 10:13:03 AM
Downtown was faced with competition from Malls which offered free parking, security, great service, and new stores...

When people had to park 5 blocks away from the stores, there was no way at all to get back to their cars before they were issued a ticket.  The meter maids picked off what was left of the suburban customers and drove them permanently out of downtown....

We need to fix it, and examine the underlying reasons why regional malls were able to compete so devastatingly (free parking, security) and reconnect downtown with its residential component (springfield and durkeeville)

Lunican has found that a few other cities have already taken measures to address one of the real problems:
http://www.metrojacksonville.com/forum/index.php/topic,2237.msg21722/topicseen.html#new

stephendare

May 12, 2008, 01:05:55 PM
i added the updated view in the post above.

stephenc

May 12, 2008, 01:10:26 PM
I always wondered why the streets were like that. That's pretty amazing.

thelakelander

May 12, 2008, 01:19:04 PM


Regarding street patterns, change is being made, or at least, proposed. 

A. Julia will be reversed to head south.

B. Pearl will reopen as a two way when the courthouse is built and completed.

C. Laura will become a two way from Hemming to Independent.

The biggest obstacle will remain FCCJ's campus.  The best way that can be overcome is to make sure the future expansion plans have an urban oriented format to encourage foot traffic, currently hidden inside of the school, to become more visual and interactive with its surroundings.

stephendare

May 12, 2008, 01:44:55 PM
to really help though, they need to make all the streets 2 way

thelakelander

May 12, 2008, 01:52:45 PM
The city maintained streets would be easier to do, which is being done (or talked about) to a large extent.  The FDOT maintained streets (Main, Ocean, Forsyth, Adams, etc.) would be more difficult, but its been done before.

Steve

May 12, 2008, 02:23:23 PM
to really help though, they need to make all the streets 2 way

While it would be nice, I don't think that is necessary to make our downtown thrive.  San Diego is a classic example of a mid-sized downtown thriving with a ton of one-ways.  However, they're one ways are laaid out in a logical pattern, unlike ours.

Plus, Jacksonville had a lot of one ways going way back.  However, not nearly the amount they have today.

stephendare

May 12, 2008, 08:31:52 PM
one ways are no longer justified.

Its like the parking.  The environment that it made sense for was a specialized no competition world that no longer exists.  If it can be made easier for the end user and there is no plausible practical reason in maintaining an obsolete troublesome process, then choose the citizen user over the process.

Id actually like to see Hogan street restored through the FCCJ campus.

tufsu1

May 12, 2008, 10:09:06 PM
Stephen...this discussion has already been had on a previous thread...and you even admitted that Main/Ocean, State/Union, and Lee/Broad are justified as one-way

Not all one-way streets are bad...Please stop making blanket statements

stephendare

May 12, 2008, 10:16:30 PM
I'm not trying to be challenging in this tufsu, but I dont think Main and Ocean are justified as one way.

And in fact, having given the matter a bit more thought, I dont think any downtown streets are justifiably one way.  If I did previously, then I feel I have learned the error of my thinkng.

The original city design had the extra benefit of working.  Our present one doesnt for the reasons demonstrated in the article.

What benefits do you see in the one ways that outweigh connectivity?

thelakelander

May 12, 2008, 10:26:15 PM
We would have probably ended up with a crosstown expressway really cutting off downtown from Springfield if State & Union were not converted to one-way streets.  Today, they carry so much traffic that they are the real commercial corridors that the city should look at for inner city retail development.  Although most consider them death traps to cross, crossing would not be as much of an issue if there were a reason to cross on foot.

tufsu1

May 12, 2008, 10:57:02 PM
and while Main/Ocean don't carry as much traffic as State/Union, they do carry much more than could be handled by 2 two-lane roads...if you squeezed 4 lanesd onto one of them, there would either be problem with turning movements (no room for turn lanes) and/or no room for on-street parking.

Other than the 3 pairs I mentioned, I would agree that almost everything else could be converted....the only other potentially viable one-way pair is Bay/Forsyth

thelakelander

May 12, 2008, 11:03:32 PM
Here's a good look at Main before it became a one way street.  It appears to be five lanes with no parallel parking.  Did the city shrink the width of the road at some point?

Charles Hunter

May 12, 2008, 11:15:18 PM
I believe, as part of the Loop Streets projects, the sidewalks along Main were widened, making the road narrower.  As said in the article, that was the thinking then - wider sidewalks = better environment for pedestrians = more pedestrians (forgetting that tearing down everything else would have the opposite result)

I think thelakelander hit the nail on the head about State/Union, it has probably been a one-way pair since the Mathews was built in the mid 1950s., and the alternative would be an expressway - a much more "solid" barrier. 

Regarding Ocean Street being cut off - there was a proposal back in the 1970s to extend it across the park, but local opposition to carving up more of the park stopped it.

About the JTA station cutting off Downtown/Springfied access - I believe FCCJ was there long before the JTA "FCCJ Station" was built.  Although, if the college opens up Hogan Street (which would require a change of attitude, given the tall fences all the way 'round campus), then the JTA station would be in the way.

thelakelander

May 12, 2008, 11:27:38 PM
Quote
I believe, as part of the Loop Streets projects, the sidewalks along Main were widened, making the road narrower.  As said in the article, that was the thinking then - wider sidewalks = better environment for pedestrians = more pedestrians (forgetting that tearing down everything else would have the opposite result)

Those sidewalks must have been pretty thin because the ones today don't look that wide.  I assume the lanes in that old photo above must have been around 10' wide, instead of 12'.

stephendare

May 12, 2008, 11:30:15 PM
Ocean was a pretty cool cruise strip once upon a time.  Main would function so much better as a two way. 

Lake, No doubt that either side of Union/State would make for great commercial development.  Its where the huge corporate fast food strip should have taken place years ago.  Throughout Tennesse there are second story fast food joints with the parking lots underneath adjacent to the highways.  The entire strip along the two main roads would have done very well with the same design and provided a reason for travellers looking for something off the highway to beeline into downtown.

The JTA originally hoped to purchase right of way from the multimodal station all the way to the bridge in order to make room for a potential transit line to the beaches.  Im not sure where they stopped in that process.

stephendare

May 15, 2008, 07:27:00 AM
there is continued commentary about connectivity between these two neighborhoods in the metrojacksonville article http://www.metrojacksonville.com/forum/index.php/topic,2245.msg21892/topicseen.html#new about lighting laura street.

stephendare

July 14, 2010, 07:58:01 PM

Killing Connectivity.  The Downtown 'Loop' System



 At the end of the 1960's Jacksonville was beginning to grapple with a few problems universal to the times.  White Flight (primarily to Arlington with the opening of the new super  Mall , Regency Square.) emptying the core neighborhoods of affluent residents and any real diversity

Full Article
http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/785

tufsu1

July 14, 2010, 09:23:04 PM
since this has been brought back up, here's an update...

JEDC has advertised a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consultant to do a traffic study which includes evaluating the effects of changing portions of Julia, Pearl, Adams and Monroe Streets from 1-way to 2-way

If all goes smoothly, the study should be done by fall 2011.

stephendare

July 14, 2010, 09:38:49 PM
since this has been brought back up, here's an update...

JEDC has advertised a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consultant to do a traffic study which includes evaluating the effects of changing portions of Julia, Pearl, Adams and Monroe Streets from 1-way to 2-way

If all goes smoothly, the study should be done by fall 2011.

thanks for the info, TUFSU.  You do have useful moments ;)

a study evaluating the effects of changing portions of.......
are you f($%ing kidding ?

If you do it wrong does it accidentally blow up half of the buildings downtown?

oops......i think it already did.

tufsu1

July 14, 2010, 09:58:55 PM
While I feel they are misguided, there are still traffic ops people (both at the City and FDOT) who care primarily about vehicle LOS and signal delay...as such, the study will evaluate all the potentially affected intersections.

stephendare

July 14, 2010, 10:01:09 PM
While I feel they are misguided, there are still traffic ops people (both at the City and FDOT) who care primarily about vehicle LOS and signal delay...as such, the study will evaluate all the potentially affected intersections.

these people are vogons, and should be taken out and flogged.

Then whipped.

Then flogged again.

And studied every day until late 2011.

Perhaps then we could ascertain whether twice daily floggings and once daily whippings would be feasible to discontinue.

BridgeTroll

July 15, 2010, 07:19:42 AM
Quote
these people are vogons, and should be taken out and flogged.

Sorry but the term sounded familiar... I had to look it up... :)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogon

Quote
The Vogons are a fictional alien race from the planet Vogsphere in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. Vogons are slug-like but vaguely humanoid, are bulkier than humans and have green skin, although the movie has them have greyish white skin . Vogons are described as mindlessly bureaucratic, aggressive, having "as much sex appeal as a road accident" and the writers of "the third worst poetry in the universe". They are employed as the galactic government's bureaucrats.

dougskiles

May 03, 2012, 08:30:02 AM
No question that Beaver, State and Union have destroyed the connection between DT and Springfield.  One solution to restoring the pedestrian connectivity is a northward extension of the Skyway through the FSCJ campus.  There even appears to be a corridor set aside for just such a purpose.  The route could angle east at a 45 degree and terminate in the JEA parking lot at the corner of First & Main.  That would provide better access to Hogan's Creek Park and the business on Main Street.

duvaldude08

May 03, 2012, 12:58:58 PM
this is very sad. We destroyed our city for the sake of segregation and racism. Not to mention the expressway purposely being built to separate the whites from the blacks. Now I understand why we were criticized for not having the infrastructure to support the super bowl. Our Urban core is logistically screwed up!!

tufsu1

May 03, 2012, 02:44:49 PM
No question that Beaver, State and Union have destroyed the connection between DT and Springfield.  One solution to restoring the pedestrian connectivity is a northward extension of the Skyway through the FSCJ campus.  There even appears to be a corridor set aside for just such a purpose.  The route could angle east at a 45 degree and terminate in the JEA parking lot at the corner of First & Main.  That would provide better access to Hogan's Creek Park and the business on Main Street.

and connect to the streetcar system which as proposed would come up Newell/Hibbard to First and then over to Main St

montgomerie

May 03, 2012, 03:34:48 PM
Regency is about dead as any viable competition to downtown. It make for a perfect opportunity for a group of people to come in and create a better downtown that is a bit more of a comfortable experience. After having spent a significant amount of time downtown, specifically in the Hemming Plaza area, only reinforced my dislike for downtown going back to when I first came to the area in late 1988.

Garden guy

May 03, 2012, 04:10:56 PM
this is very sad. We destroyed our city for the sake of segregation and racism. Not to mention the expressway purposely being built to separate the whites from the blacks. Now I understand why we were criticized for not having the infrastructure to support the super bowl. Our Urban core is logistically screwed up!!
Criticized? We were the laughing stock of the country that week.....welcome to good ole' conservative Jax.

tufsu1

May 03, 2012, 04:22:51 PM
^ care to expound on this?

Ocklawaha

May 04, 2012, 06:05:56 PM
"There was a Papal decree, ex cathedra, from all of Cristiandom ordering John Birch and all of the EVIL forces on the right, to prevent Jacksonville, Florida form moving forward. ...Oh yeah, and the decree was issued at First Baptist Church, after which there has NEVER been another religious business person to set foot in the downtown core."

Guess we're screwed.

(Just thought I'd save him the effort, LOL)

OCKLAWAHA

exnewsman

May 05, 2012, 08:36:55 AM

Thanks Lake, the picture marvelously illustrates the change.  And Jeh, Its not that the planners of the time had the intention of destroying the retail, in fact it was the opposite.

But that was the outcome.

Downtown was faced with competition from Malls which offered free parking, security, great service, and new stores.

The intent was to create a 'plaza' equipped with 'modern' conveniences like elevated, moving sidewalks.   But it took WAY too long to dig up the roads and repave them with bricks.

I was just discovering downtown as a teenager when it happened.  None of the stores had easy access in hemming park, and you couldn't park for blocks because the streets were all torn up.  It lasted 18 months and by the time it was done, the stores were closed.

When people had to park 5 blocks away from the stores, there was no way at all to get back to their cars before they were issued a ticket.  The meter maids picked off what was left of the suburban customers and drove them permanently out of downtown.

Springfield was completely shut off by the road redirection (on purpose) to cut down on 'crime'.

The reasons which supported this tedious replatting and redirection are gone now.

We need to fix it, and examine the underlying reasons why regional malls were able to compete so devastatingly (free parking, security) and reconnect downtown with its residential component (springfield and durkeeville)


LaVilla School of the Arts does the same thing to Church Street heading east.
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