JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It seems like every time you go through North Jacksonville, there's a new restaurant or store. The River City Market Place is just one of the reasons experts say Jacksonville's Northside is booming.
Home sales are skyrocketing and more and more companies are setting up shop. For lifelong residents, it's a vast difference from the area they used to know.
In the middle of River City Market Place, you can see a movie theater, a hotel and enough restaurants to keep you full for a long time. Those who have lived in Jacksonville for many years would say the place used to be nothing, but that's not the case anymore.
"It's gotten a lot busier," said shopper Shelly Frazier. "There's a lot more buildings, there's a lot more opportunities to shop, and a lot of different places to eat."
Frazier and her family live in Yulee and have seen the northside's growth first hand, especially at the River City Market Place.
"It's definitely busy all the time," said Frazier.
The development near the airport, just off Interstate 95, is the most evident sign of growth for the formerly rural part of town. A movie theater, a hotel, big name restaurants and dozens of shops. Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's are the latest to join in, both set to open next week.
In all, there's more than one million commercial square feet available, and 110 businesses in the area. The Michigan based developers are pleased.
"When we came down to retail demand, we felt we were on to something," said Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust Vice President Michael Sullivan. "You can clearly see by our lineup that we were successful in getting national retailers to consider a new market, which is North Jacksonville."
But that's just part of the story. UF Health, formerly Shands, is opening an office in the area. And housing developments are going up faster than you can keep track.
"It's been constantly increasing." said Alice McCrory from Watson Realty. "It's very good."
Northside realtors like McCrory say it's one of the hottest areas to live, and home sales are through the roof. Watson Realty said they sold 65 homes last month on this side of town alone, and they expect even more in the future.
"Different industries are able to put themselves right in this area because there are large expanses of land that they can come into, which are bringing new people all the time," said McCrory.
Realtors say the location is also key. It's not far from the river, 15 minutes from downtown, 25 minutes from Georgia and not far from the beach. They say the place is close to just about everything.
The market place is about at capacity for businesses right now, but there are developers across the street now, and on the other side of I-95, planning to put in even more shops, restaurants and homes.
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