As shown above in this aerial, the area stretching from King Street to Myrtle Avenue is identical in length to the Strip District in Pittsburgh. This loosely defined district already houses large scale food production companies like Beaver Street Fisheries, Condaxis Coffee and WhiteWave Foods, the oldest continually operating wholesale/retail farmers market in the State of Florida- the Jacksonville Farmers Market, and a new breed of specialty manufacturers like Dignity U Wear, Peterbrooke Chocolates, ReThreaded, Duval Container Company and Engine 15 Brewing Company.

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In the 20th century, the Strip District (pictured above) became the economic center of Pittsburgh as hundreds of wholesale warehouses opened to distribute fresh produce, meat and poultry across the Northeast. After World War II, companies preferred to ship goods by truck instead of by boat and rail, leading to many manufacturers and wholesalers to leave the district for property with easier access to a growing network of highway systems.

The physical form of the neighborhood was left mostly intact during this downturn, and today the large, raw open spaces of the bygone industrial building stock has drawn a new breed of specialty food-related manufacturers, wholesalers, restaurants, nightclubs and bars to setup shop. This new wave of redevelopment has turned the Strip District into an authentic and culturally diverse hub of Pittsburgh’s food scene.

From vendors cooking and preparing ethnic foods atop grills setup along the sidewalk, to bustling seafood markets, butchers, ethnic grocery stores, restaurants of all ilk’s, to micro distilleries, craft breweries and the bustling Pittsburgh Public Market… today the Strip District in Pittsburgh is a unique melting pot of gastronomy that is buzzing with commerce.

As in Pittsburgh, more home-grown, specialty businesses that offer a hybrid manufacturing/wholesale/retail business model like ReThreaded or Engine 15 are moving into Jacksonville’s Honeymoon Yard. With an organized effort to improve and promote the area could create a regional food hub that would attract an influx of people of all social, economic and ethnic backgrounds to come together and gather at what has historically been Jacksonville’s proverbial kitchen table.

Products readily available on grocery shelves are produced in Honeymoon Yard. Silk almond milk is produced in a White Wave factory on Beaver Street.

In addition to large-scale manufacturing operations, small-scale specialty producers like ReThreaded have set up shop along Barnett Street producing products and operating retail operations in the same footprint.

Detroit’s Eastern Market is one of the oldest wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower markets in the country. The district is both a vibrant cultural center and tourist destination, and a critical food distribution hub that represents an important center for job creation in the City.

Colorful murals provide identity and highlight Eastern Market’s place as a regional food hub. Image Credit: Daily Detroit

Area business owners have successfully pushed local officials to capitalize on Eastern Market’s assets by enhancing infrastructure throughout the neighborhood. The Dequindre Cut Greenway is an urban recreational path that opened to the public in May of 2009. City officials connected the path with the main public market hall at Eastern Market. Additionally, public officials have improved sidewalks, roadways and wayfaring signage throughout the neighborhood.

The S Line Rail Trail is a multi-use bike path that connects Honeymoon Yard with neighboring Durkeeville, LaVilla, Springfield and Panama Park. Like the Dequindre Cut (pictured), seemless connections could be made to adjacent businesses within Honeymoon Yard. Image Credit: I Heart Michigan

As Detroit plans to ensure the positive, future economic development of Eastern Market, a Public Realm Plan has been established to guide urban design improvements in the neighborhood. Additionally, a Food Industry Innovation District is being established to provide modern industrial space and upgraded infrastructure for small- and medium-scale food manufacturers and distributors that are currently being pressured out of the district.

As a multi-use food production facility is planned for Eastern Market, a similar structure could be imagined in an abandoned grocery store adjacent to the Jacksonville Farmers Market along Beaver Street. Image Credit: WXY

Along the Beaver/Myrtle corridor, there is an unprecedented opportunity to assemble developable parcels, market ready-to-build sites, design vehicular and pedestrian access systems to contemporary standards, and cluster compatible uses. Having a strong business association dedicated to advancing the interests of this hidden asset is a key step towards fully realizing the area’s potential.

Next: What is Honeymoon Yard?