Drink Magazine

Craft Beer: A Catalyst for Neighborhood Revitalization

By Marc Wisdom @JaxBeerGuy

Craft beer: A catalyst for neighborhood revitalization

Springfield building under renovation to house the Main & Six Brewing Company. Photo by MetroJacksonville.com

Just a few months ago, I stood before members of the Jacksonville City Council several times to express my support for breweries that wanted to open in the Springfield National Historic District. I used my three minutes of speaking time to hammer some facts about the benefits of breweries to re-emerging neighborhoods like Springfield. My goal was to impress upon the voting members of the Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) committee how breweries across the country have been instrumental in the revitalization of communities.

In its article, “Craft beer’s big impact on small towns and forgotten neighborhoods,” published, June 13, online housing news site Curbed captures the same information I spoke of in an in-depth article.

The article, by Patrick Sisson, weaves a compelling tale of how breweries have brought new life to forgotten towns and neighborhoods across the country. It even holds Jacksonville’s King Street Beer District out as an example of an abandoned commercial district that has seen an amazing turn around due to craft beer and craft beer breweries.

For my research, I dug up numerous stories of down-trodden areas that were brought back to life when a craft beer brewery moved in. Notably — and also mentioned in the Curbed article — is the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. Before Great Lakes Brewing Company set up shop in 1988, the neighborhood situated immediately west of the  Cuyahoga River, was a deteriorating district marred by abandoned buildings and plagued by drugs.

Today the Ohio City neighborhood is thriving with six breweries, shops, restaurants, night clubs and residential buildings. It is a prime example of the power or craft beer to bring people in to a neighborhood they would otherwise ignore. It illustrates how a brewery tap room can become a gathering spot that can serve as a catalyst for conversation about gentrification.

Today, in Jacksonville, we in the midst of a beer-fueled revitalization of multiple forgotten neighborhoods. The neighborhood known as Silvertown adjacent to Riverside and home of the city’s first craft brewery, Bold City Brewing Company, is seeing a rise in property values and an influx of new residents intent on restoring the historic homes and residing close to the bustling beer-centric nightlife hub of King Street.

Other local breweries such as Intuition Ale Works and Engine 15 Brewing Company have opted to utilize existing building stock in crumbling areas. Intuition took up residence in an old warehouse in the city’s Sports District nearly a year ago and has seen astounding success and growth because of the decision. Engine 15 bought a couple of warehouses in the crumbling LaVilla neighborhood. The addition of a small tap room at the brewery has seen an influx of suburbanites curious to visit the location.

In Springfield the addition of Hyperion Brewing Company on long neglected Main Street has already brought visitors from other parts of the city that had long eschewed the area. Soon, a new night club/restaurant, Crispy’s, will open providing another reason for outsiders to travel to the inner city. And, in late September or early October, Main & Six Brewing Company will join the other new-comers and older properties like Wafaa & Mike’s, Uptown Kitchen & Bar and  Tapas Old World.

With more breweries planned for the coming year, Jacksonville is poised to become the next great beer destination in Florida. One can only hope that they decide to settle in one of Jacksonville’s other abandoned districts to breathe life once again in to the Bold New City of the South.

Read the entire Curbed article here.

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