Article by: Jennifer Edwards | Editor, Resident Community News Group
Scott Riley fondly remembers his time living in the Brooklyn area, located between Five Points to its south and LaVilla and Downtown to the neighborhood’s northeast. About four years ago, he lived in a tiny 600-foot studio apartment in the multi-family complex called 200 Riverside, next to Unity Plaza. It was a place with amazing fourth-story views of Downtown. He could walk down from his apartment to restaurants in the complex and take daily strolls over the Main Street and Fuller Warren bridges safely.
Riley, now a San Marco resident, recently reopened his longtime business, Stellers Gallery, in its former home: San Marco Square. But he said he loved living in Brooklyn and would still be if he was single – even though he hardly recognizes the area.
“It’s exploded since I left,” he said. “I don’t get over there much anymore, but when I do go over there it’s amazing, the restaurants and the shops. And, I loved walking Downtown. I walked every day from my apartment, every day straight to town. Those were some fun times for me.”
If Riley and other visitors think Brooklyn is packed now, they should wait another year and gauge again.
While the area already has a retail center, Brooklyn Station, with a Fresh Market grocery store and various other services, retailers and places to eat, it’s poised for tremendous growth in the retail, employment and residential sectors in the next year or two. This year alone, there are at least half a dozen major projects either starting, in the process of completion, or nearly complete. They are all acting synergistically to accomplish some major City goals: a diverse residential population; more jobs; more employers; more retailers; and more parking.
Each goal builds on the others, said the City’s Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) CEO Lori Boyer, who is helping shepherd and, with DIA, to incentivize projects for the area.
“To me, Brooklyn is a great success story, and it’s what we want to see in the other districts downtown,” Boyer said. “Brooklyn has really taken off, and I have to give kudos to W. Alex Coley with Hallmark and 220 Riverside, and the initial shopping center (Brooklyn Station) because both those were the pioneer projects and a lot of everything else came behind it. You always have to have those pioneer projects first. Obviously, the commercial office growth was strong before that and has been forever. But those were the first that took us in the neighborhood and the community, residential and community.”
Here’s a look at what’s coming to the area, including expanded parking, a hotel, several new employers and two new multi-family residential complexes that will target different demographics.
Boyer said the City’s goal for Brooklyn is to offer a mix of housing that will serve multiple types of workers and residents.
“What you’re seeing here are everything from luxury apartments to workforce housing to lower income housing,” Boyer said. “The idea with all of those is that you can support the entire demographic span of the community. You might have individuals who are working in some of those office buildings at an executive level who are looking to downsize and who want to live close to work and a walkable community. You might have young millennials who want to live close to work, or you may have service staff that support all these areas, whether they work in restaurants or service. Our goal downtown is to make sure we serve all those demographics in proximity to where they work and shop.”
Bristol Hallmark Holdings LLC is developing a 10-story, 308-residential unit at 200 Riverside Avenue, according to City documents. When it’s complete, the building will include a rooftop pool and deck, a fitness center and 14,000 square feet of retail space that could attract retail tenants who could then potentially employ Brooklyn residents. The project likely won’t be complete this year; the website says spring 2021, although Vista Brooklyn is currently pre-leasing. Boyer says developers are branding the units as luxury and marketing to higher-end occupants. They will command rent of $2.15 to $2.20 a square foot, in excess of some other area residential projects.
Renderings of the Lofts at Brooklyn, 190 Chelsea St.
THE LOFTS AT BROOKLYN
Vestcor’s Lofts at Brooklyn Ltd. is developing a 136-unit, five-story structure at the corner of Chelsea and Jackson streets. While Vestcor has not returned requests for comment about the project, its website states that the building should be complete and open in early 2021 and will offer studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. It is also slated to have a fitness center, lounge, and picturesque views. Boyer said that the slab was poured in mid-May and workers were proceeding on the framing at that time. She also said that the units would be workforce housing, and developers would be taking advantage of some credits for low-income renters.
Rendering of a new dialysis center rising at Roselle and Park streets.
THE DIALYSIS CENTER
In May, work was nearing completion on The Dialysis Center, a 12,000-square-foot facility situated on .77 acres at Roselle and Park streets, according to City documents. Based in Nashville, Tenn., the developer is Dialysis Clinic Inc. (DCi), a nonprofit that treats people with end-stage renal disease, according to its corporate site. DCi also has a Jacksonville presence, with a center on Union Street.
DCi did not immediately return request for comment at press time, so there was not an indication yet of how many the clinic would employ.
“I think this is an additional piece of the puzzle,” Boyer said. “Ultimately, we would like to see a centralized medical innovation campus somewhere Downtown. If that were to happen, all of these ancillary facilities play a role in that. Those are one of our target industries, the medical technology and medical support.”
Conceptual renderings of Riverside’s latest sleek modern skyscraper, a $145 million headquarters for FIS.
Executives had hoped to break ground in May on the new FIS headquarters, which in February was expected to bring up to 1,800 employees to the Brooklyn area by 2029, a little more than 12,000 of whom were current Jacksonville FIS employees with an average salary of $85,000. Now, crews building the 12-story, 350,000-square-foot office are more likely to see a groundbreaking in June, Boyer said. When the headquarters is done, it will supply 1,380 additional parking spaces for its employees and allow the use of at least 130 for the public after work hours and on weekends and holidays.
Meanwhile, the nearby Florida Blue parking garage at the corner of Park and Forest streets had a completion date of March 2021 but may be completed sooner, Boyer said. It will supply a minimum of 750 spaces for night and weekend parking. Parking is essential to develop retail and employment in the area, she said.
Brooklyn Place, a retail strip, fronts Riverside Avenue.
Southeast Investment Inc. is constructing a retail strip called Brooklyn Place. It will be located next to the retail center Brooklyn station and span 11,708 square feet while accommodating five retail tenants in four retail bays, according to renderings submitted to the City and other City documents. Like the existing retail already there, it will front Riverside Avenue. Construction is fully under way, and Boyer said she expects the strip may be done completely by the end of this year.
Residence Inn by Marriott, 357 Oak St.
The 135-room hotel at 357 Oak Street is also rising quickly. Boyer said it’s needed for travelers doing business in Jacksonville’s corporate offices and for family members of new residents. Hospitality projects being built now have an advantage, because they were financed before the COVID closures and will likely open after a COVID vaccine is found – and before new hotel projects can get financing, she said.
Overall, Boyer counts all the new projects as a win for the Brooklyn area and a possible model for other areas Downtown. Riley, the former 200 Riverside resident, also thinks it’s a positive for his old neighborhood.
“I think the growth is probably very, very fun, and every time I go there it’s packed,” he said.