Miami’s Wynwood

Platted just north of Downtown Miami by Josiah Chaille and Hugh Anderson in 1917, what is now known as Wynwood originally developed into a booming industrial and garment district that by 1980 was said to be the third largest fashion district in the country with 225 clothing retailers and manufacturers. Now a canvas for urban street art, galleries, craft breweries, museums and complementing businesses, Wynwood is one of Florida’s most vibrant warehouse arts districts.

The Springfield Warehouse District Coca-Cola Bottling Company in 1934. (State Archives of Florida/Fisher)

If a plan long envisioned for the Springfield Warehouse District comes to fruition, a similar renaissance could be underway soon in Jacksonville. Like Wynwood, Springfield’s warehouse district developed just north of Downtown Jacksonville during the 1920s around the junction of the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) and St. Johns River Terminal Company (SJRT) railroads. Early 20th Century companies with operations in the district included Swisher International, National Merchandise Company (Pic N’ Save), Aetna Iron & Steel Company, American Bakeries Corporation, Dorsey Company Bakery, Coca-Cola Bottling Company and the Mavis Bottling Company (Pepsi). Like many pre-WWII warehouse districts across the country, by the late 20th century it became a center of obsolescence due to technological advances leading to massive changes in industrial architecture design, while opening the door for creative forms of adaptive reuse.

The Springfield Warehouse District Coca-Cola Bottling Company building in 2019.

With that in mind, the proposed Jacksonville School of the Arts could become the anchor to breathe life back into this unique district. A non-profit organization established to provide adults with access to fine and industrial arts training at an affordable cost, the Jacksonville School of the Arts will be housed in 100,000 square feet of warehouses in the heart of the Springfield Warehouse District. Viewed as the first piece in establishing a vibrant arts community to be known as the Phoenix Arts District, the buildings are expected to house the art school, 20,000 square feet of event space, 20,000 square feet of art studio space, a 5,000 square foot restaurant and market whee artist can sell their work. While no longer posted to the City of Jacksonville Planning and Development Department’s website, the entire project scope describing its proposed rezoning appears to follow the Urban Core Vision Plan. Completed by the City of Jacksonville in 2010, that plan’s visioned illustrated the creation of a warehouse/loft district.

A Springfield Warehouse District rendering (2010 City of Jacksonville Planning and Development Department Urban Core Vision Plan)

From the PUD Written Description:

“The Phoenix Arts District PUD seeks to rezone multiple parcels totaling 2.27 acres to support a mixed-use complex of arts, retail and entertainment-related uses. The project is intended to help revitalize this declining industrial area on the northern edge of the Springfield Historic District, while supporting local artists and craftspeople.

Nearby uses are generally industrial, with IL zoning on all sides except for IH zoning to the southeast. This area was originally developed for industrial uses in the early 1900’s, but is no longer well suited to modern industry due to older buildings, small lot sizes, lack of access to the interstate system, and proximity to residential uses. However, the buildings are historically interesting and well suited to adaptive reuse. Neighboring uses include tire storage to the west, vacant industrial to the north, warehousing to the east and a Norfolk Southern right of way to the south.

The property is located in the “Warehouse District” proposed as part of the Urban Core Vision Plan. This concept was intended to help restore this declining industrial area as “a true activity node which could include uses oriented towards the design arts, entertainment, and weekend activities.”

The proposed PUD keeps some of the less intensive uses from the current IL district, and mixes in most of the permitted and permissible uses and development standards from the CCG-S district which covers nearby Main Street, and a few more to create a zoning district suitable for an industrial / commercial hybrid area suitable for artists’ studios or lofts, small scale fabrication and supporting retail and entertainment uses. The developer hopes to spur redevelopment of nearby vacant buildings to create a loft district as has been successful in many other cities.”