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Business Brief: Huge St. Johns County Mixed-Use Development Sign Of Explosive Growth

A giant shopping, office and residential development is coming to northern St. Johns County along I-95.

In this week’s Business Brief, WJCT business analyst John Burr tells News Director Jessica Palombo, that’s one of the fastest-growing areas in the state.

Earlier this summer, land owner Gate Petroleum and Gatlin Development announced the massive project called Durbin Park, including 2.4 million square feet of retail, 2.8 million square feet of office space, apartments and more.

To give you an idea of the scale we are talking about, St. Johns Town Center has 1.4 million square feet of retail space.

Northeast Florida Regional Council CEO Brian Teeple says one critical element that makes Durbin Park possible is the construction of State Road 9B, an extension of I-295. Without a high-capacity road cutting through the site, a development on the scale of Durbin Park is just not possible. And he said 9B will open up development of other projects in northern St. Johns, which have been on the books for years but did not have good enough access without the road.

And other planned road projects in the area should pave the way for more development.

By far the biggest will be the outer beltway, which will cut down through Clay County, swing east with a new bridge over the St. Johns River and hook into I-95 in St. Johns County.

“Just look at, for example, where certain things have located in Clay County in anticipation of this,” Teeple said. “You’ve got the new St. Vincent’s hospital. It’s not located where it is by accident.”

He also said population growth in Northeast Florida has picked up recently, and projections show strong continued growth through the year 2040.

“St. Johns County’s leading the way. They’re growing at 2.5 percent per year. They’re the third, percentage basis, fastest growing county in the state,” he said.

North Florida is becoming increasingly attractive to developers as South Florida is largely built out. It’s also possible they’re turned off by South Florida’s concerns over rising sea levels from climate change and projected drinking-water shortages in Central Florida.

Listen to this story on Redux:

WJCT Business Analyst John Burr is a veteran journalist who has been been directing news coverage and reporting in Jacksonville since 1983. He is currently also a news analyst for WJCT, where he can be heard regularly on the "First Coast Connect" media roundtable.