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Mixed-use projects take off at Jacksonville Beach

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Liz Flaisig

Staff Writer

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- More than 24,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space will open up in Jacksonville Beach within the next two years in three office and condominium developments.

The "mixed-use" concept is defined by combining retail with an office or residential project and is widely used to encourage the pedestrian traffic needed to revive an area.

Although its proximity to the ocean and Florida's warm weather made its downtown more conducive to bike riders and pedestrians, Jacksonville Beach in the 1980s and 1990s became heavily congested with cars. A plethora of strip malls and smaller, free-standing businesses prompted patrons to drive to restaurants, coffee shops and retail stores.

Local planners, brokers and developers think The Metropolitan, Ocean Pointe A1A Office Condominium and Pier Point condominiums will change that.

"I think [mixed use] is an excellent use of the land in that it tends to extend the amount of time during the day that a place is active and lit up," said Steve Lindorff, Jacksonville Beach planning and development director. "It also offers streetscaping and something more pleasant than the blank wall of a parking garage or an asphalt surface of a parking lot."

Lindorff credits the strong market for condominiums and offices at the beach as driving developers to begin including retail elements in their projects.

The Metropolitan on North First Street will feature 13,000 square feet of retail with six to seven businesses such as restaurants, boutiques and a coffee shop, said Kate Clifford, senior vice president at Coldwell Banker Commercial Nicholson Williams Realty.

The roughly $17 million project will feature 34 condominiums ranging in price from $400,000 to $1 million and 18 office condominiums costing $300,000 to $600,000.

Clifford is sifting through proposals from prospective retail tenants to decide on what mix of businesses would best suit the residents and tenants of the building.

Because the concept is new for the beach, Clifford said it's important to pick the right retail tenants.

"I think it's economics that's making it happen now," she said of the mixed-use concept's entry into the Jacksonville Beach market. "When you take property that's a half-block worth $6.5 million and a full block worth more than $10 million, you have to look for the highest and best use. It's not likely you're going to see a Circuit City or a bike shop, but you will see a card store, coffee shop and restaurants."

Despite Downtown Jacksonville's decline in past years, some businesses such as jewelry stores have been in the same spot more than 50 years serving workers whose offices are located in the same building.

Independent broker Renee Baron sees that type of shop and others such as a full-service spa or a deli compatible with the Ocean Pointe building, which will have 3,602 square feet between two retail spaces.

The five-story project on the east side of Beach Boulevard and Third Street will be completed by spring 2006. Its office condominiums start at $400,0000.

Lindorff noted Ocean Pointe as an example of a project that is mainly one use, office space, but includes retail for services and as a buffer to hide parking.

Proctor Ace Hardware's planned Pier Point at Third Street and Fourth Avenue North also combines one use, condominiums, with 8,000 square feet of retail.

Proctor Ace President Steve Proctor said the company's five-story development would have 58 units ranging in price from $400,000 to $600,000. Its retail element will likely feature a coffee shop, dry cleaner, ice cream shop and other similar businesses.

Proctor views the retail space added to his development as complementary, rather than a loss of condominium space.

"It makes sense to put retail there because there's a great demand for it," said Proctor, whose company expects to begin construction by May. "The mixes blend together really well. What a wonderful concept to go home, see the ocean, walk to the pier, walk to dinner. We think it's a benefit."

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This is great news. I hope more storefronts start to appear there. I haven't seen many mix-use projects come up. Most of the new residential units are in their own buildings, with nothing on the ground floor. But future projects might change that.

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It will be nice to see Jax Beach's downtown densify in the upcoming years. There's already a large amount of pedestrians there, so the ground floor retail spaces should easily be filled with specialty boutiques and restaurants.

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