Despite a Difficult Economy, Five Points 'Just Goes on and On'

Article excerpt

Byline: KATHY HORAK

Curt Cavins swept construction dust from the terrace of O'Brothers, the Irish pub he was getting ready to open with his brother, Drew, plus partners D.J. Corbin and Macky Rowland.

Drew Cavins and his wife, Scooter, also own Mossfire Grill a few doors down.

Recession be darned, merchants in the Five Points seem to say. Several new eateries and stores are mingling with the established in the eclectic neighborhood flanking Margaret and Park streets between Memorial Park on the river and College Street to the north.

"We see the economy as an opportunity," said Maira Martelo, serving coffee and a croissant at Latitude Cafe. "When you open a business in a time like this, you can bargain with landlords and everybody. You have better chances."

Latitude opened in November, courtesy of former Philadelphian and Colombia native Gina Monsalve. Her landlord is car dealer Mike Shad, whose interests also include the circa-1927 Five Points Theater.

Monsalve won't specify her rent, except to say Five Points is "an expensive area, of course. But for our concept, it's the best. The people [in this neighborhood] like 'different.' "

Across the street, an empty, 1,500-square-foot storefront is offered at $1,800 a month, inclusive, said owner and Julington Creek resident David Hyke.

Down Margaret Street, O'Brothers, which opened almost two weeks ago, is in the former Dona Maria's Mexcian Restaurant location, complete with sidewalk seating.

Alongside burgers and sandwiches, chef Drew Cavins' menu includes shepherd's pie, curry, fried pickles and, of course, Irish coffee.

Drew Cavins and his wife previously ran Preservation Taproom in Avondale.

Scooter Cavins says the Jacksonville Transportation Authority's downtown-to-Riverside trolley helps keep Five Points humming. On a sunny workday, nearly a dozen people on lunch break got off the trolley right in front of Al's Pizza and not far from Mossfire and O'Brothers.

Just up the block are SunTrust Bank, Publix, Five Guys burgers, Lee's Ice Cream and A Floral Affair, plus a UPS store and a dry cleaner that does alterations.

According to DataQuick Information Services, home prices in Five Points' area ZIP codes declined anywhere from 6 percent to 32 percent in this year's third quarter vs. a year ago. The recent median price in 32202 was $75,000; in 32204, $147,500. In 32205, the median was $113,600, or 16 percent lower. Sales volume across these areas fell between 37 percent and 67 percent. …