As highlighted in this previously published article, Jacksonville possesses a neighborhood hidden in plain view that contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in local economic impact. Buoyed by an influx of new businesses reimagining industrial buildings, the area once known as Honeymoon Yard has the potential to become a regional destination and could eclipse Detroit’s Eastern Market as the largest wholesale district in the country. Now, area business owners are formally organizing in an effort to capitalize on the area’s assets, market the area appropriately and improve on infrastructure that has gone neglected for decades.

One of the district’s newest business owners, Annie Murphy of Eco Relics, was present at a gathering of business owners last week organized by LISC Jacksonville and was excited about the neighborhood’s future. “There is so much we can do as a group to improve the economics of the business community as well as improve the livability of this district,” she said. “A coalition of strong and viable businesses can help bring change both physical (sidewalks, greenery etc) and conceptual (safety, run-down). I have high hopes that we can bring attention to this vibrant area to encourage more entrepreneurs and residents to make it their home.”

Business owners meet at Engine 15 Brewing to begin the formation of a business improvement association centered around Honeymoon Yard.

“After talking to many of the local business owners here, it became evident that this might be a place where LISC can do what we are in business to do,” said Janet Owens, LISC Jacksonville’s Executive Director. “LISC Jacksonville is a local chapter of the national Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Since 1999 the local organization has supported a variety of efforts aimed at stabilizing and rebuilding some of Jacksonville’s most-struggling neighborhoods. LISC doesn’t lead efforts like (organizing the Business Innovation District). Instead, we provide support to those who are leading these kinds of efforts. We want to see this group realize the goals that they have agreed on at our latest meeting.”

Business owners like Murphy heard from a consultant hired by LISC to examine the area’s current status as well as identify areas where improvements are necessary. “The conclusion we reached,” said Joel Bookman, one of the consultants LISC hired to conduct the market analysis, “was that the area is a strong economic engine; not just for Northwest Jacksonville, but for all of Jacksonville.” The neighborhood currently houses 346 businesses, creating 6,289 jobs and accounting for over $2.6 billion in annual revenue.

Excerpt from a MetroEdge Report studying the area surrounding Beaver Street and Myrtle Avenue.

Challenges identified for the success of the neighborhood.

With this kind of existing baseline to build upon, the area’s future could rapidly improve with the help of an organized business association that could push local officials to update zoning laws and upgrade roadways and sidewalks to lay the functional groundwork for future growth. In addition, local business owners hope to initiate branding and marketing initiatives and install wayfaring signs in order to drive more locals to the area.

Luciano Scremin, owner and brewmaster at Engine 15 left the meeting particularly excited about the opportunities the lay ahead. “The craft beer business has grown explosively over the last decade and a mainstay of the craft beer community is collaboration,” remarked Scremin. “Uniting to propel craft beer to success has made it possible for many small companies to make a huge impact in a business dominated by global players. I hope we can achieve the same in promoting what is a diamond in the rough for Jacksonville.”

Neighborhood stakeholders brainstormed ideas to help propel Honeymoon Yard at an official meeting for a newly formed business improvement association.

That sentiment was universally shared. “Sometimes It’s lonely being a business owner,” noted Kristin Keen of ReThreaded. “You are working so hard and long hours to get your business off the ground. It is easy to get discouraged and wonder what exactly you are working so hard for. Being part of the Beaver St Business Association is enabling me to connect with like minded business owners. We are able to bounce off ideas about our businesses, network with each other, and come together to make the Beaver St. Business District stronger and a better place for all of us. I am excited about working with other businesses in the area to move towards something that will benefit all involved.”

Eco Relic’s Murhpy beamed with excitement, “We are not Jacksonville natives so we had only instincts to go on (when searching for a location to open our business). What we did not realize that this district, even though it has been forgotten by many, has a huge impact on the numbers of residents it employs and the income it brings to the city. And as you heard in the meeting Tuesday night, the industries and businesses that reside here have a special place in their heart for Jacksonville and the district itself. It is unique in that industry, retail stores, and residents can all share a district.”

Next: What’s the big deal with Honeymoon Yard anyway?