Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Downtown Residential Growth Gains Momentum; Number Stands at 8,600 with Expectations of Doubling as Planned Projects Are Completed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Downtown Residential Growth Gains Momentum; Number Stands at 8,600 with Expectations of Doubling as Planned Projects Are Completed

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

Jacksonville's up-and-down quest to attract residents downtown has resulted in about 8,600 people making it their home so far, a number that could nearly double if projects in the pipeline come to fruition, according to the State of Downtown report released Wednesday.

The gathering momentum resembles where downtown was a decade ago, when a host of developers angled to build housing in downtown only to see that activity collapse with the broader housing market during the recession.

"A lot of development really got reset to zero," said Downtown Visions CEO Jake Gordon. "We saw downtown take a huge pause in terms of development. Now, we're getting back to the economics where it's possible to get back to that growth."

Downtown Vision, a non-profit organization that represents property owners in the 90-block core of downtown, handled the State of Downtown report, tracking trends in a larger 2.7-square-mile area that covers downtown on both sides of the river.

The report, which covers the period from January 2016 through June 2017, shows positive trends in several areas:

- The downtown office vacancy rate is 15.4 percent compared to 16.2 percent in the suburbs, which is the first time since the recession that downtown fared better than the suburbs in this metric.

- Hotel occupancy rates for downtown are 65.9 percent, up 7.9 percent from 2015.

- The roughly 8,600 people living downtown is up from around 8,000 at the time of the last State of Downtown report in 2015. The residential occupancy rate is at 95 percent.

Downtown's restaurant and bar scene hasn't taken off, however. The most recent report shows 112 bars and restaurants downtown, compared to 118 in 2015.

Gordon said attracting more residents to downtown remains crucial to spinning off other kinds of activity.

"All the great neighborhoods in Jacksonville are a testament to the people living there," he said. …

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