Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cornering the Market in St. Augustine Rise in Retailers Shows Route to Success Includes Intersection of U.S. 1, Florida 312

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cornering the Market in St. Augustine Rise in Retailers Shows Route to Success Includes Intersection of U.S. 1, Florida 312

Article excerpt

ST. AUGUSTINE -- For corporate megastores and restaurant chains, St. Johns County's hottest intersection is at U.S. 1 and Florida 312. And empty lots near all four corners are going fast.

Over the past decade, the St. Augustine intersection has exploded with commercial development, according to planners and economic experts.

"It's the new 100 percent corner in the greater St. Augustine area," said Brian Teeple, executive director of the Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council, using a planning term for a spot with the highest property values, intensity and density of land uses. The county's old "100 percent corner," Teeple said, probably was the intersection of Florida A1A and the Bridge of Lions at St. Augustine's bayfront.

Now, following the big footsteps of Kmart and Wal-Mart, the U.S. 1-Florida 312 intersection has a nearby Home Depot set to open and a Target in the works, along with numerous chain restaurants and retail stores that have opened in the last two years.

The area, close to the city limits, has burgeoned because of increased traffic, experts said. The Florida 312 bridge has a new span, and Florida 207, which feeds into Florida 312, has become a four-lane road.

Scheduled to open in early December, Home Depot decided to build on U.S. 1 because of the housing in the area, said Marsha Fergueson, company spokeswoman in Atlanta.

Those sentiments were echoed by David Close, the electronics manager at Staples, which opened Sept. 9.

"It's prone for that kind of economic activity because anyone in the county can get there relatively easily," said Rick Burke, director of economic development for the St. Augustine and St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. "There is four-lane easy access from everywhere."

The area stores serve St. Augustine's 12,000 residents, as well as much of the county's 120,000.

When David Nolan, a St. Augustine historian and author, moved to the area in 1977, he said the only stores around the intersection were Kmart, Publix and Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q. …

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