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Rediscovering Jax: Riverside Avondale Preservation District

Saphara Harrell

The nonprofit Riverside Avondale Preservation has made it its mission to maintain and enhance the historic area just south of downtown Jacksonville. Executive Director Carmen Godwin says the group is responsible for one of the largest historic districts in the nation.

“Riverside Avondale Preservation started over 40 years ago because there were demolitions all throughout the historic district, so all these beautiful historic homes were coming down and so they wanted to save them," Godwin said.

As an Avondale resident, Godwin says she wanted to make a difference in her community. When she heard there was a job opening at the Preservation seven years ago, she took it.

“I love the fact that we’re preserving these old buildings and letting people know how special they are. But also, all of the things I mentioned, like the quality-of-life projects… if you’re helping with a playground or helping with a garden, those are the types of things that are really rewarding," Godwin said.

She says she’s working on two projects right now. One is a two-acre dog park in Riverside Park. It will be a place people can take their dogs off the leash.

“The dog park came about because a lot of people in the community were like, ‘We really need a place to run our dogs,’ because a lot of these houses in the neighborhood are on 50-foot lots, many of them don’t have backyards," Godwin said.

The other project is a community garden where people can grow their own food and also have access to an herb garden and fruit trees. “So even if you’re not a gardener, inside you can go and grab a piece of fruit and some herbs off the trees that are there,” she said.

Godwin says some steps remain in the process. She’s negotiating with the city for permission to use the land as a garden.

And Riverside Avondale Preservation’s efforts extend beyond neighborhood improvements. The group sponsors the weekly Riverside Arts Market and hosts an annual tour of historic homes.