Public Art For Brooklyn Neighborhood

Artist David Nackashi commissioned to create public art in Brooklyn that lays foundation for developing a sense of place for emerging neighborhood by celebrating its cultural and historical context.

Published February 18, 2015 in Neighborhoods -

Regency Centers and Wingard Creative are in the process of erecting two public art murals at the Brooklyn Station development along Riverside Ave. This public art installation seeks to enhance Brooklyn Station by creating a site-specific sense of place that honors the historical character of the neighborhood.

A streetcar on Riverside Avenue in 1915.  The Riverside line took passengers from downtown to Riverside, Avondale and Ortega before terminating at NAS Jax.

Railroads had a tremendous impact on Jacksonville’s developmental patterns, and the history of the Brooklyn neighborhood has an unmistakable relationship with rail. The modern-day redevelopment of Brooklyn reconnects both a physical and metaphorical bridge between Riverside and downtown. It is within this context that the concept behind Brooklyn Station on Riverside was formed. The brand identity for Brooklyn Station is inspired by the trolleys that ran through the neighborhood, right down Riverside Avenue (formerly known as "Commercial Street").  

This image illustrates the extent of Jacksonville's city limits in the 1930's and the location of the city's streetcar lines in green.

David Nackashi, a local artist who lives in Fernandina Beach, has been commissioned to create the public art installation. The murals are based on historical photos that were purchased from the Jacksonville Historical Society and should be completed by early March.

Renderings of murals being installed at Brooklyn Station

The land, then referred to as "Dell's Bluff", that would become Brooklyn was acquired by Miles Price in October of 1858 for $1,528. In 1868, nearly 500 acres of this land were sold to Edward Cheney for $10,000 in gold and renamed Riverside. Price platted his remaining land holdings under the name Brooklyn. For comparison, in 2013 Pollack Shores Real Estate Group of Atlanta paid $7 million for the 7.96-acre site that contains the Brooklyn Station retail center and a 310-unit apartment complex presently under construction called Brooklyn Riverside.  

A newspaper publisher, Cheney was acting in trust for railroad magnate John Murray Forbes. Forbes' railroad interests included both the Michigan Central railroad as well as the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. Forbes would sell roughly half of his Dells Bluff acquisition to Drew, Hazeltine & Co whose principle Mellen W. Drew had ties to the Jacksonville and Atlantic Railway Company, a short-line railroad between South Jacksonville and Pablo Beach. The Jacksonville and Atlantic Railway Company (later acquired by Henry Flagler) is largely credited with the development of what is now known as Jacksonville Beach.

John Murray Forbes, Image: Massachusetts Historical Society

In 1870 Brooklyn had a population of less than 400 residents, but the addition of a streetcar in 1879 triggered a rapid acceleration of growth within the neighborhood. Brooklyn would later be annexed into Jacksonville in 1887. At the time of annexation, the neighborhood’s population had swelled to over 1,000 people. Brooklyn's present-day population is less than its 1870 population, although this phenomenon is expected to change almost overnight once 604 high-end apartment units being constructed along Riverside Avenue come into use while the construction of another 223 units are expected to break ground this year.

A group of businessmen pose for a photograph inside a streetcar.

The Jacksonville Traction Company's trolley barn on Riverside Avenue (demolished for the construction of the current Acosta Bridge ramps). The power house and maintenance facility of the Skyway now reside on a portion of this site

Connectivity to Brooklyn was further enhanced by the opening of the Myrtle Avenue underpass in 1909 and the Lee Street Viaduct in 1921. The Lee Street Viaduct led to a particularly distinct change in character to Brooklyn's built environment. Designed to help relieve congestion on the Riverside Viaduct, the underpass and viaduct stimulated commercial and industrial development along Myrtle Avenue and Park Street.

The "Brooklyn Bridge" has been rebuilt several times and is now the Riverside Viaduct, courtesy Wayne Wood

The Myrtle Avenue Subway. Streetcars once traveled down the middle of this street to access the streetcar suburbs of Brooklyn, North Riverside and Lackawanna.

The Lee Street Viaduct was built to provide a connection over the railroad tracts serving Union Terminal, what is now the Prime F Osborn III Convention Center.

What Role Does Public Art Play In A Neighborhood's Redevelopment?

"Public art projects in both the public and private sector can transform neighborhoods when tied directly to physical infrastructure developments. Murals and facade enhancements, particularly in Jacksonville, are already changing the perception of the role artists can play in shaping a city," says Christie Holechek, Director of the City of Jacksonville's Art in Public Places Program.

The physical assets of Brooklyn will always exist in a state of change, which is why re-purposing the neighborhood's physical forms and constructing quality public space are crucial in maintaining Brooklyn's unique place in Jacksonville's future. Public art is most powerful when it can reinforce a community’s underlying narrative while celebrating the oftentimes conflicting nature of the neighborhood’s past, present and future.

While Brooklyn’s physical and social form has changed over the last century, there is no doubt that the neighborhood is and has always been a critical cultural, economic, and social connection between downtown, Mixon Town and Riverside. Public art can thereby play a vital roll in facilitating the type of creative dialogue that ensures Brooklyn's future does not evolve at the peril of its past.

“Brooklyn Station is such a special project for us in such a vibrant and expanding part of Jacksonville. We wanted people to literally see the history and culture that inspired so much of the center, and now they will be able to experience an aspect that makes this place so unique. This mural project is the first of a couple surprises that we have planned for the center, and we’re excited to see the community’s reaction as these additions unfold throughout the development process.” notes Eric Davidson, Communications Manager for Regency Centers.


Artist David Nackashi prepping  the surface in preparation for mural installation

Brooklyn Station on Riverside is a 50,148 square foot retail center serving the emerging Brooklyn neighborhood located in between downtown and Riverside. The shopping center is a joint venture between Jacksonville-based Regency Centers and Atlanta-based Fuqua Development. Wingard Creative serves as the creative partner with Regency Centers for the Brooklyn Station on Riverside development.

Article by Mike Field and Ennis Davis

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Metro Jacksonville