Walkable Commercial Districts: West Beaver Street

May 25, 2011 6 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Before there was an Interstate 10, there was Beaver Street. This long-overlooked historic commercial district is unique for Jacksonville because of its industrial-market-blend character. Under the right circumstances, this gem can add to the quality and character of Urban Jacksonville without a significant public investment in newly subsidized infrastructure.

Yesterday's Beaver Street

During the urban core's heyday, West Beaver Street was a busy industrial hub, anchored by multiple railroads and railyards leading into downtown's Jacksonville Terminal.

Looking toward the intersection of Acorn and Beaver Streets, with the Beaver Street viaduct in the background, in 1959.

An aerial view overlooking the Jacksonville Farmer's Market in 1953.

View looking down Beaver Street from the King Street intersection in 1953.

Beaver Street Fisheries' original retail fish store in 1950.

The Jacksonville Farmer's Market in 1938.

Looking west down Beaver Street near the intersection with King Street in 1953.

Today's Beaver Street

In 1950, the Frisch family opened a small, retail fresh fish store on West Beaver Street in Jacksonville, Florida called Beaver Street Fisheries. Together with their mother, brothers Alfred and Hans Frisch worked around the clock to expand their business. With a single truck, they procured a variety of fish from both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts by night, delivering their product fresh to Jacksonville area hotels, restaurants and grocery stores by day.

Since then, Beaver Street Fisheries has been continually evolving, improving and building upon decades of experience in the seafood industry. Sixty years later, the family-owned business that began with just a handful of employees has grown into a company with over 400 dedicated men and women and the small street-side shop has been replaced with a much larger, more modern USDA-inspected facility that covers two city blocks.

Today, Beaver Street Fisheries is a leader in the seafood industry and through our cooperative efforts with our sister companies, Bahamas Food Service and Tropic Seafood, we are able to offer one of the largest seafood selections in the United States. Tropic Seafood is the largest lobster tail and seafood processor in the Bahamas and processes and packages Island Queen and Island Prince brand lobster tails, conch and other seafood products for global markets at its state-of-the-art Nassau Bahamas plant.

The Jacksonville Farmer's Market previously existed for many years near Downtown Jacksonville before being moved in 1938 to its current Beaver Street location.

The Jacksonville Farmers Market, Florida's oldest farmers market, at 1810 West Beaver Street (U.S. 90), provides a forum in which customers can buy directly from over 200 farmers and year-round vendors retailing and wholesaling the widest and freshest selection of produce in North Florida.
Operating much as farmers markets have for hundreds of years, the Jacksonville Farmers Market offers a unique shopping experience that takes place in a festive outdoor market where people from across the area hand pick produce and assorted food products from amongst the broadest offerings found anywhere, all at the most competitive prices available. The Jacksonville Farmers Market also features ethnic specialties, imported items, and unique and hard-to-find varieties.

WhiteWave Foods' plant on Beaver Street processes, packages, and distributes Silk Soymilk and Land O' Lakes Whipping Cream throughout the Southeast. This location recently underwent a $7 million expansion to increase its processing and distribution capacity.  WhiteWave owned the first company to nationally supply organic milk, Horizon

Condaxis Coffee & Tea, Inc. is located directly across the street from the Jacksonville Farmer's Market.  The wholesale coffee, tea, and spices company has operated out of what was a former gas station on West Beaver Street for 50 years.  

Premier Meat & Seafood market at 2385 West Beaver Street.

The TTX Company is North America’s leading provider of railcars and related freight-car management services to the North American rail industry. TTX's Southeastern Repair Division (SRD) facilities on Beaver Street provide quality repair services for the entire TTX fleet.

Context-Sensitive Streets: The Solution to Energizing Beaver Street?

Make no doubt about it, this is an industrial district at heart and should remain one. However, here are a few tips to enhance the built atmosphere, which could lead to additional infill development opportunities.

1. Eliminate or Modify the Industrial Sanctuary Overlay Zone

The concept of context-sensitive streets includes properly addressing adjacent land uses, and zoning regulations. This is one regulation that hampers creative urban redevelopment from taking place along Beaver Street.

What Is The Industrial Sanctuary Overlay Zone?

Industrial Sanctuary Overlay Zone means an overlay zoning district designated by the City Council for a distinct geographical area predominately consisting of industrial uses and zoning districts and strategically located for future expansion and economic development for the purpose of protecting and preserving the area from premature fragmentation by intrusive residential and commercial uses and promoting the expansion of industrial uses within the area.
Sec. 656.399.40

Industrial Sanctuary Overlay Zone permitted uses and permissible uses by exception

In addition to the uses already permitted or permissible in the underlying zoning district, the following uses are all permitted uses in the Industrial Sanctuary Overlay Zone, subject to consistency with the land use plan.

Scrap processing, outdoor, unclean activity meeting the performance standards and development criteria set forth in Part 4.

Facilities for recycling construction demolition debris, meeting the performance standards and development criteria set forth in Part 4.

Explosives manufacturing or storage.

Paint, oil (including linseed), shellac, turpentine, lacquer or varnish manufacture.

Paper and pulp manufacture.

Petroleum refining.

Outdoor storage of scrap or processed scrap generated through scrap processing, indoor, clean activity.

Care centers meeting the performance standards and development criteria set forth in Part 4.

Construction and demolition recycling facilities.

Churches, including a rectory and similar uses, meeting the performance standards and development criteria set forth in Part 4.

Essential services, including water, sewer, gas, telephone, radio and electric, meeting the performance standards and development criteria set forth in Part 4.

In addition to the uses already permissible by exception in the underlying zoning district, the following uses are permissible by exception in the Industrial Sanctuary Overlay Zone, subject to consistency with the land use plan.

Establishments or facilities which include the retail sale and service of alcoholic beverages for either on-premises or off-premises consumption, or both.

Commercial retail and service establishments in support of an industrial use.

What Does This Mean?

While city leaders meant well in creating this industrial overlay, the one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work in a city the size of Jacksonville.  For urban core districts, restrictive zoning stymie's the creativity that is needed for massive urban core revitalization.  For example, the Industrial Sanctuary Overlay zoning regulations, in districts like Beaver Street, prohibit creative uses such as loft-style residences or galleries from going into former abandonded warehouses and former manufacturing facilities that are now obsolete for those purposes today.  Thus, there is no chance of a Portland-style Pearl District or Cleveland-style Warehouse District springing up in urban Jacksonville.  A simple solution for Beaver Street would be to modify the industrial overlay to allow market-rate development and urban pioneer creativity to take place within this district.

2. Integrate Private Sector Activities With The Street

Beaver Street is already urban in nature and dominated with a number of successful, long-term businesses. However, the majority of these economic anchors fail to properly address the sidewalk with uses and amenities that stimulate the urban synergy that is needed to take the district to the next level. Simple solutions such as putting displays in windows facing the sidewalks, better signage, and outdoor seating at select spots/businesses could easily transform Beaver Street's atmosphere (See Detroit's Eastern Market industrial district in next section).

Imagine if there were outdoor sheds at the farmer's market along the street, instead of fenced in overflow parking on one side of the street (above), a Condaxis Coffee and Tea, Inc. coffee bar with outdoor seating across the street (below) and a wholesale seafood market associated with Beaver Street Fisheries adjacent to these activities?  The intersection of Beaver and Robinson would be transformed into what Detroit's Eastern Market has become below.

A Vision For Beaver Street?

Like Beaver Street, Detroit's Eastern Market has been a mainstay of life for several decades, providing the city's residents with access to agriculture grown in the region. Like Beaver Street, this area of Detroit is industrial in nature with a number of food-related industries.  

Detroit's Eastern Market

Each week as many as 40,000 people flock to Eastern Market for its Saturday Market to enjoy one of the most authentic urban adventures in the United States. The market and the adjacent district are rare finds in a global economy - a local food district with more than 250 independent vendors and merchants processing, wholesaling, and retailing food.

At the heart of Eastern Market is a six-block public market that has been feeding Detroit since 1891. Every Saturday it is transformed into a vibrant marketplace with hundreds of open-air stalls where everyone from toddlers to tycoons enjoy the strong conviviality served up along with great selections of fruits, veggies, fresh-cut flowers, homemade jams, maple syrups, locally produced specialty food products, pasture and/or grass-fed meat and even an occasional goose or rabbit.

The FD Lofts at Eastern Market are the signature redevelopment project of Urban Life Development. Completed in 2007, this National Register Historic Building features 30 distinctive mixed-use lofts.

The FD Lofts are rich in Detroit history. Originally the site of the the Fire Department's horse hospital, training track and stables, horses for all the City's fire stations were trained and cared for here. The building itself was constructed in 1917 as part of the department's transition from horse-drawn to motorized vehicles.

After years of neglect, a new life began for the building in 2004. Today, the FD Lofts have been painstakingly rehabilitated and showcase the building's historic charm and original industrial character.

The FD Lofts are in the heart of Eastern Market's 24-hour neighborhood. Versatile spaces and an energized atmosphere nurture a creative environment where you are part of a vibrant mix.

We have designed each loft around the building's original industrial heritage. The century-old brick, soaring wood-beam ceilings and ten-foot windows showcase its distinctive character. At the same time, each unit invites its residents to express their personal vision.

FD Lofts residents enjoy all that Eastern Market has to offer. Creative and engaged, they make friends with their neighbors and share a passion for urban living.

This type of development can't happen in many of Jacksonville's obsolete industrial/warehouse districts due to the city's zoning regulations.

Eastern Market's Milano Bakery plant also features a dine-in bakery that sells goods that are manufactured in the same building (see below). This is an example of a mix of uses that would complement the development of Beaver Street, as to make it into a district that accommodates both industrial and wholesale businesses within a fairly walkable urban district.

As the images suggest above, unlike Beaver Street, this section of Detroit has successfully marketed itself as a "market district."  Perhaps, we should consider doing the same. Taken from the Eastern Market District Plan, here are six goals worth considering, to take Beaver Street to the next level.

Eastern Market District Plan

The overall objective of Eastern Market Corporation’s Economic Development Strategy is to capitalize on the attractions and legacy of the Eastern Market in order to create a vibrant and diverse urban district in Central Detroit whose heart remains an even stronger Eastern Market.

The Eastern Market has been a mainstay of life in Detroit for more than a century, providing residents with access to the agricultural bounty of Southeastern Michigan, Northern Ohio, and Ontario, Canada.

It became the primary distribution center for crops, produce and meats for the region, and remains an important source of fresh foods for local grocers, restaurants, and citizens. As “Detroit’s kitchen,” the district’s gritty environment attracts businesses and visitors alike and compels them to return.

Careful redevelopment and a richer array of uses and attractions can reassert Eastern Market’s historic prominence relative to competing markets and attract more customers. The marvelous vibrancy witnessed each Saturday morning as Eastern Market springs to life can extend across the week to make the Market District more viable, sustainable, and successful.

Nearby neighborhoods, including Downtown, Riverfront, Brush Park, Midtown, New Center, Lafayette Park, the Medical Center, and adjacent Eastside neighborhoods will especially benefit from a stronger and more attractive Eastern Market.

To achieve this vision, six goals have been identified:

1. Strengthen the role of Eastern Market as the hub of a complete local food system. In addition to developing retail, wholesale and processing businesses that are food-related, the Eastern Market can complete the local food system loop by: Serving as a center for urban agriculture by hosting both a model market garden and urban garden training classes. Serving as an animated venue for improving education about food-related public health issues. Developing cutting-edge systems to convert waste streams generated in the district to provide energy to heat, cool and power facilities, and compost to increase food production yields.

2. Balance the great opportunities for economic development available throughout the Eastern Market District while maintaining authenticity and then use that grittiness to attract more creative people to live, work, visit, and invest in the district.

3. Create a mixed-use neighborhood that improves the business climate and enlivens streets and public spaces by carefully blending in a variety of residential forms. New uses should support and respect the food identity of the district.

4. Improve travel to and within the district and cultivate a unique sense of place by improving major corridors within the district. Streetscaping, façade enhancements, signage, parking, lighting, and landscaping all must be enhanced for the Eastern Market district to fulfi ll its potential.

5. Improve connectivity between Eastern Market and adjacent neighborhoods. The Dequindre Cut will greatly improve nonauto related connectivity between Eastern Market, the Riverfront, and Downtown. Strengthening Wilkins as an east-west corridor will improve Eastern Market’s connectivity to Midtown, which features major cultural assets  and large employers such as Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center. The Wilkins Corridor can also improve Eastern Market’s connection to the East side neighborhoods where redevelopment around principles of local food systems can restore value to important neighborhoods. Reopening Russell Street north of Mack will improve connectivity to northeast side neighborhoods and Hamtramck.

6. Increase the density of Eastern Market by carefully integrating context sensitive new construction and artfully renovating existing buildings.

Visiting The Beaver Street Market District

Beaver Street's market district is located along West Beaver Street between McDuff Avenue and Acorn Street (Honeymoon Railyard).

Article by Ennis Davis.