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Business Brief: Healthy 'District' On Track For 2017 Opening

The Laura Street Trio. The Shipyards. Jacksonville’s urban core has had its share of big development announcements that seem to go nowhere.

But one ambitious project on the city’s Southbank is plugging along.

In this week’s “Business Brief,” analyst John Burr tells News Director Jessica Palombo a housing and entertainment area called The District is on track to open next year.  

The District, which was originally called Healthy Town, is a development headed by Peter Rummell, who wants to create a community that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Rummell says he and his partners have figured out “the hardware,” the buildings and facilities, but he isn’t sure yet about the programming, or what he called “the software.”

“How do we communicate to people that there is an experimental nature to this, and we promise that we will fail fast? So if going to yoga on the lawn at 6 a.m.... doesn’t work, we’ll cancel it if nobody shows up for a week,” he says.

This is not Rummell’s first stab at creating a health-driven community. He is the brains behind the Celebration, Florida, community that was created in the mid 90’s.

As John Burr notes, what is considered healthy living has changed since then. Whereas Celebration surrounded a large medical facility, Rummell is now trying to focus on a more preventative approach, with programming to promote good diet and exercise.

Burr says Rummell, 70, was inspired to create The District because of the lack of options for retirees and soon-to-be retirees like himself.

However, Rummell plans to appeal to a wider demographic by offering a range of options, from $500-600 a month apartments to $1 million penthouse condos.  

Along with residences, Rummell plans to open several restaurants along the river.  

He’s negotiating with the city to buy the adjacent land where the Duval County School Board administration building sits.

Burr says Rummell also plans to market this concept to other developers if it’s successful.

Rummell says, “I think there could be a way to make some money by doing some licensing things, and smart developers will pay to not have to go through the brain damage we’re going to go through the next 18 months.”  

Groundbreaking on The District is expected to begin later this fall, with hopes of having residents moving in  by the end of 2017.