Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Will Nassau Leave Home for River City?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Will Nassau Leave Home for River City?

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis

YULEE -- Ann Patton makes a mean bianca and claims that after one, you're hooked.

Patton opened Cafe Vino about 15 months ago along Florida A1A, not far off Interstate 95, and tries to hook as many customers as she can to her coffee shop and wine bar, nestled in a small center behind a Chick-fil-A that sits along a growing corridor of development. The bianca -- a white-chocolate espresso with milk, froth and whipped cream -- anchors a menu designed for the expanding business and residential base in the Yulee area.

Patton's boast about her coffee mirrors the pride, or perhaps protectiveness, that economic development representatives show about Nassau County's growing retail base. Along with the ritzy shopping on Amelia Island, Nassau offers quaint shops along historic Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach and supermarket-anchored centers that serve its expanding housing base.

And the formerly sleepy stretch along A1A from I-95 into Fernandina Beach changed dramatically the past few years with a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, a soon-to-open Home Depot and plans for a Target store and a Chili's Grill & Bar.

That's why the announcement of the first tenants for the River City Marketplace, just nine miles south of A1A along I-95 in Duval County, hasn't generated a rush of excitement. It's not that Nassau County residents won't work and shop there -- I'm sure they will. It's just that Nassau, with its housing and income growth, is busy with its own expansion.

Melanie Ferreira, executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board, said the area has "exploded." She cites demographics, convenience and rooftops as the draw for the big-box retailers, accessible both to residents to the east in Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island and to the west in Callahan and Hilliard. …

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