Walkable Commercial Districts: Lake Shore

May 4, 2011 25 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

While much of the focus in our city is on downtown revitalization, Jacksonville's Urban Core is home to a series of long-overlooked historic, walkable commercial districts. In our effort to promote better use of existing assets in our communities - which will facilitate sustainable growth and subsequently increase the city's tax base - Metro Jacksonville kicks off a new neighborhood photo series, highlighting these urban gems.

Area History

Although the Westside's Lake Shore neighborhood dates back to the mid-1920s, the community was primarily developed after the Jacksonville Naval Air Station boom in the 1940s. The intersection of Blanding Boulevard and San Juan Avenue sits just north of Lake Shore's main entrance at the intersection of Bayview Road and Appleton Avenue. A set of entry arches was demolished when Blanding Boulevard was widened decades ago.

Looking down Bayview Road from Blanding Boulevard.

Looking southward along Blanding Boulevard at the San Juan Avenue intersection in 1948. Stewart's Five-and-Dime, San Juan Service Station, and Gulf were the commercial anchors at this intersection during Lake Shore's early years.

Lovett's Food Store on Gulf Street in 1948. Lovett's Food stores were owned and operated by the Winn & Lovett Grocery Company. In 1925, Idaho-native William Davis purchased Rockmoor Grocery in Miami. He later purchased the Lively Stores (1931) and the Winn & Lovett stores (1939), a name his sons used as their company name. In 1944, Winn & Lovett headquartered in Jacksonville. In 1955, they merged with Dixie Home Store to form Winn-Dixie Supermarkets.

Lake Shore Today

Nowadays, what occupies this old Lovett's Supermarket?  Barnett's Art & Frame Shop.  The 1940s structure is located just south of the intersection of Blanding Boulevard and San Juan Avenue.  As shown, it stood next to Stewarts 5 & 10 in 1948.  The variety store is vacant today, and the parking spaces in front were paved over when Blanding was widened.

Just several hundred yards south of the building are the distinctive white entry gates to the Lake Shore neighborhood.  Although first developed during the 1920s, the subdivision boomed after America entered into World War II in 1941.  Lake Shore was home to many Navy families whose wage earners commuted to NAS Jax.  Today, the neighborhood consists of both modest homes and waterfront residences that stretch along the Cedar and Ortega rivers.  Local kids are served by Bayview Elementary School and Lake Shore Middle School, contained in a 1942 building that underwent a $13 million renovation during the late 1990s.
http://www.jaxhistory.com/Jacksonville Story/Picture of Supermarket, Lovett's Storefront.htm

San Juan Avenue

A number of businesses line San Juan Avenue within Lake Shore's retail district. If Jacksonville is successful at establishing a commuter rail line in the area, this district and the adjacent Roosevelt Square could co-anchor a station that would give the area greater accessibility to the rest of the city.

Intersection of San Juan Avenue and Blanding Boulevard, looking NE.

Blanding Boulevard

Like San Juan Avenue, a number of local, small businesses still operate along this corridor of Lake Shore's retail district.

Blanding Billiards

Puerto Plata Restaurant

Stock Mild to Wild

Flash Dancers Gentlemen's Club

Context-Sensitive Streets: The Solution to Improving Lake Shore's Future?

Over the years, the intersection of Blanding Boulevard and San Juan Avenue has been modified to accommodate autocentric movement - to the point where Lake Shore's "Town Center" actually severs the neighborhood, instead of being a featured, central business and pedestrian-friendly focal point.

Here are a few affordable suggestions that would make the environment of this retail district more business- and pedestrian-friendly.

1. Curb Extensions At Intersections

Considering the retail district already has on-street parallel parking, the simple addition of curb extensions at existing intersections could create room for trees, as well as reduce the exposure of automobile traffic to pedestrians.

A curb extension (or also neckdown, kerb extension, bulb-out, kerb build-out, nib, elephant ear, curb bulge,"curb bulb" and blister) is a traffic calming measure, primarily used to extend the sidewalk, reducing the crossing distance and allowing pedestrians about to cross and approaching vehicle drivers to see each other when vehicles parked in a parking lane would otherwise block visibility.

Curb extensions are often used in combination with other traffic calming measures such as chicanes, speed bumps, or rumble strips, and are frequently sited to "guard" pedestrian crossings. In these cases the "squeeze" effect of the narrowed roadway shortens the exposed distance pedestrians must walk.

In Coral Gables, FL, Miracle Mile's curb extensions create extra room for landscaping, and pedestrian crossings.

2. Add Medians Within Retail District

Both Blanding Boulevard and San Juan Avenue are wide, five-lane highways severing this historic retail district into four parts. The simple addition of medians would allow for landscaping, while also serving as a pedestrian refuge for residents and consumers trying to cross the streets.

Miracle Mile is a four-lane highway (State Road 972) in downtown Coral Gables that has landscaped medians. These images are intended to serve as a visual example of what the Lake Shore retail district could resemble with the addition of landscaped medians.

3. High-Visibility Crosswalks

High-visibility crosswalks with alternative paving or ladder/zebra striping help slow down automobile traffic, making it safer to use other forms of mobility.

While there are several other techniques that can be applied to improve the visual quality and environment of Lake Shore's retail district, these three simple components are worth considering when the next highway-repaving project comes online for either Blanding or San Juan.  A simple make-over of an existing urban-neighborhood retail district such as Lake Shore's, has the power to stimulate additional redevelopment, and support infill development in an area of Jacksonville where the public has already invested in the infrastructure needed for growth.

Crosswalks along Miracle Mile have alternative paving material so that they stand out to pedestrians and drivers.

4. Street Trees

"Given a limited budget, the most effective expenditure of funds to improve a street would probably be on trees. Moreover, for many people, trees are the most important single characteristic of a good street." - Allan B. Jacobs

On narrow SW 72nd Street in South Miami, FL, space for street trees was created with "curb bulb-outs" in on-street parallel parking lanes. This would allow greenery and landscaping without reducing sidewalk width.
Street trees are a primary element in providing a sense of safe separation from traffic for pedestrians. Lake Shore's commercial district currently appears barren and full of visual blight, due to the domination by vehicles.  A simple way to enhance the district's appeal is the planting of street trees along the sidewalks and in potential median areas.

Visiting Lake Shore's retail district

The Lake Shore commercial district is located at the intersection of Blanding Boulevard and San Juan Avenue, on the Urban Core's Westside.

Article by Ennis Davis