Commercial Real Estate, Capital, Insurance, Leasing & Management

Can Unity Plaza Retail Be Saved?

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Carrie Smith shares potential options for reviving the retail center at Unity Plaza in Jacksonville's Brooklyn submarket.

Excerpted from Jacksonville Business Journal story.

Unity Plaza is inaccessible to customers who might have come on lunch breaks, said Cantrell & Morgan CEO Chris Morgan, and it didn’t benefit from anchor traffic from the nearby Fresh Market, either.

“For quick service or fast-casual you have to have great parking and great access,” Morgan said. “And if you don’t have that, then what you need is foot traffic and high-density multifamily nearby.”

Rob Zinn, an architect with Office of Architecture and Design, said that if 220 Riverside and Unity Plaza were rotated 180 degrees, it would have more connectivity with Brooklyn Station, in terms of sharing its parking and foot traffic. He added that another reason the development struggled was because it was a pioneer in Brooklyn. Not much had been built nearby, and surrounding parcels are still under development. The best bet to reactivate the space, he said, would be for the city to work on redeveloping Magnolia Street, adding parking and encouraging retail development along it. 

“It’s unfortunately just situated in a way that it needs help,” Zinn said. 

Going forward, whoever buys the property will have to take the development’s design into consideration when bringing in tenants.

Morgan suggested that perhaps some specialty medical services or professional services might work better — a very different approach from that of the original developers, who preferred to bring in restaurants.

Franklin Street broker Carrie Smith also suggested services such as nail salons or yoga studios could succeed in the space – but that restaurants could work, too, if signage was improved so people knew where to park.

Smith also said that mixed-use properties struggle in Jacksonville, despite taking off  in other parts of the country. However, she added, Hallmark must have reason to believe the project can still be successful, given that it is developing a similar mixed-use project, the 308-unit Vista Brooklyn, adjacent to 220 Riverside.

For full story, visit April 19th issue at https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/

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