With more than $1 billion in projects on the horizon, the future of downtown Jacksonville looks exciting. But supporters of downtown are not waiting.
Since the beginning of 2016, a number of smaller projects adding up to more than $900 million have been completed or are in progress, according to nonprofit Downtown Vision.
Those projects include new restaurants at Brooklyn Station and Unity Plaza at the west end of downtown to Intuition Ale Works, a microbrewery and tap room near the sports complex on the east end.
The sports complex area has traditionally been silent on days when there are no events.
“Intuition Ale Works has reinvigorated that area,” says Jacob Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision.
The downtown Jacksonville district has 13 culture and entertainment venues and 112 bars and restaurants packed into 2.7 square miles.
One of the highlights of the downtown area is the First Wednesday Art Walk, a monthly event drawing about 8,000 people to see local artists and also check out museums and dining in the core of downtown.
Even for companies that bring jobs to the suburbs, Gordon says a vibrant downtown is an important signal to potential employers.
Downtown growth is not limited to entertainment. “Downtown is a recruiting tool for our city to attract and retain talent,” he says. “This is a good investment on a long-term scale.”
Jacksonville University, with its main campus along the St. Johns River northeast of downtown, opened a downtown campus in 2017.
JU is offering about 100 undergraduate and graduate programs at its 15,000-square-foot facility in the SunTrust Tower.
More businesses are also locating in downtown. Downtown Vision says the office vacancy rate in 2016 fell to 15.4%. That was the first time in a number of years that the downtown vacancy rate was below the suburban office vacancy rate, which was 16.2%.
“We’re really excited that number is now down,” says Gordon.
Nearly 60,000 people come to work downtown every day. Gordon says 4,000 to 5,000 people live in the downtown district, but that number is expected to grow as more housing units become available in the coming years.
“We really, truly feel people are returning to the urban core,” Gordon says.
- $909.9 MILLION -- Active and Completed Developments since January 2016
- $1.1 BILLION -- Proposed Developments
- 2.7 SQUARE MILES -- Historic Core and Central Business District
- 90 BLOCK -- Business Improvement District