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Business Brief: Booming San Marco Development Picks Up Even More Steam

San Marco lion fountain
Lindsey Kilbride

A long-planned mixed-use development called East San Marco is finally proceeding in the historic Jacksonville neighborhood after building permits were issued last week.

The $58 million project is nearly 15 years in the works. Construction is expected to begin in April, according to Regency Centers, the local developers, and it should be completed in 2019.

The four-story development at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue will have 239 apartments (plus 25-30 townhomes to be built behind the Wells Fargo building), a Publix grocery store bigger than the Riverside Publix and 13,500 square feet of other retail space. It’ll also include a six-story the parking garage.

Architecturally speaking, the Publix project is significant in that the building is being built adjacent to the street, in a more urban type of construction, with the parking in the back. And with that city feel comes one of the holy grails of new development – walkability, the idea that residents can walk from their homes to shop without having to jump in a car.

The first rumblings of Publix’s eyeing the spot was back in 2002, with firm plans for the site set in 2006. But the 2008 recession put things on hold. Investors haven’t been willing to commit until recently because of the weak economy and not being sure it would work in San Marco.

Since then, the commercial real estate business has rebounded and is now relatively healthy. And the neighborhood of San Marco is on a roll — Baptist Hospital on the Southbank has been steadily expanding; Peter Rummell’s $500 million District project is starting; and other smaller but significant projects are popping up along Prudential Drive.

Closer to San Marco square, a restaurant battle is heating up, with La Napolera’s moving into the old train station; local businesses Bold Bean, Hyppo Pops and Saucy Kitchen coming in on Hendricks; and Tom Gray, the owner of Moxie Kitchen, planning to open his Town Hall restaurant later this year in the square.

Plus, there will soon be a new exit off I-95, providing better access to San Marco later this year.

In real estate, nothing breed success like success, and this is the level of activity that developers love to see – it means the neighborhood is gaining cache and becoming a destination for people from across the metro area. It’s the same phenomenon we’ve seen in Riverside, Avondale, Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, and what we’re starting to see in Murray Hill.

The San Marco situation is potentially bigger than any of those.

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.