Founded in 1866, Durkeeville’s Edward Waters College is a 23-acre urban college campus with an enrollment of 1,025 students one mile northwest of Downtown Jacksonville. It is an example of several destinations in the urban core’s denser neighborhoods where seamless connectivity to downtown and premium mass transit service should be considered.
Located just west of I-95 from Downtown and Springfield, Durkeeville is a historic neighborhood that was literally built for transit. The neighborhood largely grew up around the routes of the North Jacksonville Street Railway, a black-owned streetcar company that once connected Northwest Jacksonville with Downtown.With transit-oriented development intentionally built around the line, Durkeeville emerged as a prosperous African-American neighborhood in the early 20th century. Transit was so important to Durkeeville that its streetcar line was the last one remaining when the city dismantled its streetcar system in the 1936. Durkeeville has undergone a long period of distress since the 1960s, and transit remains crucial to its residents as many depend on it for access to food, jobs, retail, healthcare, and other services not available in the community.
As such, Durkeeville would benefit immensely from a partial restoration of premium transit access. Extending the Skyway concept just 3/4 of a mile up 8th Street past the proposed UF Health stop would bring the system to Myrtle Avenue, Durkeeville’s main thoroughfare. With one simple pen stroke on the planning schematics, JTA could bring needed economic development to a distressed neighborhood while simultaneously tapping hundreds if not thousands of guaranteed weekly riders.
Atlanta-based Columbia Ventures plans to convert the Eastside’s Union Terminal Warehouse building into a Ponce City Market-style adaptive reuse project that will include commercial, retail and residential, dining and entertainment elements. Artist lofts and a food hall are planned within walking distance. Both projects suggest the Eastside could soon become the urban core’s next hotspot.
The Eastside is a remarkable urban neighborhood located just east of Springfield and north of Downtown’s Stadium District. It is home to a commercial district on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard that experienced substantial decline in the 1960s, but which has piqued some investment interest recently due to the fact that it connects directly into the burgeoning sports and entertainment district to its south. One of Jacksonville’s oldest neighborhoods, Eastside is also home to a large collection of shotgun houses that are ripe for a wave of historic restoration like the one now gripping Springfield.
Extending the Skyway’s proposal eastward another three-quarters of a mile from the planned stop at First and Main Streets would bring the system to the Eastside’s commercial strip at A. Philip Randolph, and within easy reach for hundreds of Eastsiders, many of whom do not have consistent access to cars. In addition, this extension would also enhance access to the thousands of seniors and other apartment dwellers in the blocks between the Eastside and Main Street. More ambitiously, a line running along A. Philip Randolf between Eastside and the Stadium District could spark millions in redevelopment on this once-bustling corridor.
Attracting 25,000 people a week from all over the Southeast, the Jacksonville Farmers Market is a treasured Rail Yard District tradition and unique in that it’s an actual working market with wholesale and retail operations taking place simultaneously. Here one will find as many as 100 farmers and vendors selling seasonal, ethnic, organic, specialty and unique items such as fresh seafood, flowers, plants, honey boiled peanuts, syrups, gourmet dressings and even live goats and chickens throughout the year. It is also representative of another major urban core destination and increasingly popular and transit dependent district near downtown the U2C fails to access.
With the bridge taken off the table and focus put back on serving the transit needs of urban Jaxsons, the possibilities are endless. A modified Skyway could reach west to the Rail Yard District, an old industrial area currently seeing a renaissance of new business investment. It could reach up Main Street further into Springfield, Brentwood, and the urban Northside. It could continue through Durkeeville into Northwest Jacksonville. All it takes is a more intentional look at what Jacksonville really needs.
Editorial by the managing partners of The Jaxson.