A group of business owners is trying to drum up interest in what they’re calling Jacksonville’s “Rail Yard District” just west of downtown.
The Jaxson co-founder Mike Field says their hope is to breathe new life into a once-booming wholesale district.
The Rail Yard District, formerly called Honeymoon Yard, is just west of I-95 from downtown Jacksonville and north of Riverside. It was once where rail lines converged and wholesalers would buy from the area’s many manufacturers that sprang up around the tracks.
Today, it’s home to many niche manufacturers, nonprofits, and the Engine 15 Brewing Co., which also owns the Glass Factory event venue next door.
“You could literally take your bike from Engine 15, go over to the farmer’s market and then drive onto the S-Line Trail, which will take you into Springfield and downtown,” Field said. “So it’s really an area that appeals to millennials. They just need to know about it.”
He says the area has been largely neglected by developers so far, which is good and bad. On one hand, it has a great stock of cheap warehouse space that’s attractive to entrepreneurs, who see the potential to create something like Ohio City in Cleveland or Eastern Market in Detroit. But on the other hand, the neighborhood’s infrastructure is outdated. Sidewalks are lacking in many areas, for example.
Now, the current tenants are hoping to get the city’s attention by pooling their collective strength. After all, they employ more than 6,500 people and have yearly sales of $2.5 billion. Field points out, that’s the equivalent of a Fortune 1000 company.
“And if you were to ask city leaders, ‘Would you be interested in have a Fortune 1000 company relocating its headquarters to here?’ they’d jump over the river to get that done,” Field said.
For a photo slideshow of the Rail Yard District and more on its history and plans for revitalizing it, visit Modern Cities.