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This news was the biggest culmination of a long wait

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“It's no longer sleeping,” she said. “Jacksonville is coming alive. Businesses are looking at Jacksonville, and that's what spurs growth.”

It may still be two years out, but 2015’s biggest payoff of a long wait was the announcement that Ikea would finally — finally — come to Northeast Florida.

The Swedish superstore announced in October it would open a location on Gate Parkway near the St. Johns Town Center in fall 2017.

For years, Ikea has said that Jacksonville did not have the population to support one of its iconic Scandinavian-designed home stores.

Usually, Ikea looks to enter areas with a population of 2 million or more.

In 2012, after the announcement of a second South Florida store, Ikea USA spokesman Joseph Roth said Jacksonville “ wasn’t there yet.”

“If you don’t have population size, you don’t really get to the second point,” he said at the time. “It’s basically our stores are so large, they’re very expensive to build and need lots of customers to support them.”

Roth added then that there was nothing Jacksonville could do other than double its population.

In the intervening years, that hasn’t happen, but Jacksonville has grown its retail market, with booming success at the Town Center, including the addition of Nordstrom one year ago.

“[Population] was the Town Center’s biggest hudle when it was built,” said Whitney Kantor, director of retail leasing for Franklin Street. “The density in numbers wasn’t here. But the dollars had always been here.”

She said she thought a combination of factors — the region’s proximity to Georgia, Jacksonville’s gateway status to Florida, millennials moving to the area and even the success of events like One Spark — have helped change Jacksonville’s image.

“It’s no longer sleeping,” she said. “Jacksonville is coming alive. Businesses are looking at Jacksonville, and that’s what spurs growth.”

And in the years in between the announcement and construction, Ikea could mean other big retailers could follow suit. “Having an international retailer of that caliber means other retailers will follow,” Kantor said. Ikea is “iconic across the world. It really is a confirmation that Jacksonville is quickly becoming a sought-after city.”

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