For nearly 50 years, Jacksonville has been Florida’s largest city by land mass – a legacy of its consolidation with Duval County that produced a unified government for the entire county. The city has traditionally played catch-up to Miami, Orlando and Tampa in population growth rates and sex appeal, but Jacksonville is on the brink of a new era.
Experts say Jacksonville’s commercial real estate market is accelerating. The center of gravity continues to be the St. Johns Town Center, a mammoth, open-air mall near the St. Johns County line owned by Simon Property Group. A subsidiary of Alabama-based Books-A-Million signed a contract earlier this year for land near the mall on which it wants to build a 45-acre mixed-use development. But there may be no more closely watched projects now that the Brooklyn Riverside and 220 Riverside, a pair of adjacent nearly complete apartment projects that will inject 600 apartments into a downtown Jacksonville neighborhood with very little residential housing stock. “If that works, there’s going to be a strong argument that there is a demand for people to be living in these urban environments in Jacksonville,” says Carrie Smith, a regional managing partner at commercial brokerage Franklin Street.