Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Parkway (1961-1962)

The Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway is a 7.1-mile long expressway running along the eastern and northern edges of Downtown Jacksonville. Designed as a bypass connecting Northwest Jacksonville with Downtown Jacksonville, it was originally two separate expressways. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway is not only an expressway, it also includes miles of frontage roads serving as the front door to hundreds of residences and businesses.

3. 20th Street Expressway

In 1891, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) pastor James William Randolph moved his family, wife Elizabeth and sons James, Jr. and Asa Philip Randolph, to Jacksonville as a part of a larger Black migration to southern cities in the decades following Emancipation. In 1892, Randolph began raising money for a new permanent AME church by organizing Saturday night fish and chicken fries. The congregation he established, first named New Hope AME Chapel and eventually renamed Greater New Hope AME Chapel, was built in a small African American community then known as Summerville.

Between 1961 and 1962, the Jacksonville Expressway Authority created a barrier between Summerville and the then white Brentwood neighborhood with the construction of the 20th Street Expressway. The result was the creation of a large network of dead end streets in what had originally been a collection of walkable neighborhoods with a well connected street grid. At the time, the 20th Street Expressway was designed to serve as a part of a northern bypass between Downtown Jacksonville and mid-20th century suburbs in Northwest Jacksonville. Prior to the expressway’s construction, 20th Street was a quaint street lined with single family and missing middle residences. In 2000, along with the Haines Street Expressway, the Jacksonville City Council voted to rename the two expressways after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

4. Haines Street Expressway

Born into slavery in 1854 in Abbeville, SC, Richard Lewis Brown may be Jacksonville’s most well known African-American architect and builder. Regarded as the city’s first known African-American architect, Brown was also elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1881, serving two consecutive terms. Residing in the Eastside at 1727 Milnor Street, Brown was hired by the Duval County School Board to build and repair schools following the Great Fire of 1901, including Public School Number 8. Brown died in 1948 at the ripe old age of 94. Following his death, his residence and property were donated to the Duval County School Board, becoming the present day site of R.L. Brown Gifted and Talented Academy. 13 years after Brown’s death, a new expressway was built along the edge of his Eastside property along a former residential thoroughfare known as Haines Street.

R.L. Brown Gifted and Talented Academy’s recreational grounds have a front door view of the former Haines Street Expressway. (Google Earth)

Prior to consolidation, Haines Street served as a border between the African American neighborhood of Oakland and the white neighborhood of Fairfield. During the 1960s, the Jacksonville Expressway Authority reconfigured Haines Street into a north south expressway, linking the 20th Street Expressway with the Mathews Bridge and Hart Bridge Expressway, creating an east west network of limited access expressways through several of Jacksonville’s then established African American communities. The project not only divided and limited access between a number of built out neighborhoods, it also inserted a high speed facility adjacent to public schools and parks. Renamed, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway in 2000, it continues to serve as barrier to mobility in the Eastside, despite being the neighborhoods gateway.

5. Arlington Expressway

The Arlington Expressway is a part of State Road 115, which was developed by the Jacksonville Expressway Authority as an alternative to US 1 during the 1950s. Prior to its construction, Arlington, was a network of small rural communities by the names of Floral Bluff, Eggleston, Clifton, Chaseville, and Gilmore. It was an area known more for its moonshine stills than the ranch houses that line its streets today. During the efforts to advance the expressway system from paper to reality, Arlington land owners opposed the concept without the inclusion of a new high level bridge connecting their area with downtown Jacksonville. In 1946, an agreement was reached and in 1950, what’s now known as the Mathews Bridge, became to first project to break ground. After it’s completion in 1953, the fortunes of Arlington immediately changed.

By 1961, over 50,000 new residents had made Arlington their new home. With 26,500 cars crossing the Mathews daily, additional plans were underway by the Expressway Authority to feed traffic into its toll bridge. This work came in the form of a $25 million feeder road program during the 1960s. Under this program, Cesery Boulevard, Rogero Road, and Arlington Road were widened to four lanes. The feeder roadway infrastructure projects helped fuel additional growth and development along the Arlington Expressway, paving the way for the opening of Regency Square Mall in 1967. Newer suburban development east of Arlington eventually led to businesses along the Arlington Expressway’s frontage roads closing down one by one. Today, the Arlington Expressway corridor is one that not only is dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users, but also in need of an economic makeover.

Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com