Will new Brooklyn development be able to survive?

Construction underway on apartment & retail space Vista Brooklyn

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Construction on yet another apartment complex and retail shopping space is underway in the growing Jacksonville community of Brooklyn.

But questions remain about whether the new retail shops will be able to survive after restaurants and businesses in the same area closed their doors last year, citing not enough foot traffic. 

Currently, the up-and-coming neighborhood of Brooklyn revolves mostly around the apartment complex 220 Riverside, a Fresh Market and a handful of stores. 

As construction starts on more apartments and retail space, residents wonder whether Brooklyn will live up to its high expectations. 

Restaurants, a barber shop, brewery and an ice cream parlor are all part of the plans of Vista Brooklyn, a 308-unit, 10-story apartment complex next to 220 Riverside. That apartment complex is part of Unity Plaza, which has had its fair share of challenges 

"In 220, we've always had stuff under us, but it's been closed since we've been here," said 220 Riverside resident Rachel Azumbrado in reference to the closure of four restaurant spaces at Unity Plaza, where owners blamed the failures on foot traffic, low street visibility and awkward parking. 

City leaders had high hopes for the area they once called a modern-day Central Park. 

In spite of past challenges, developers are forging ahead with new construction of the development that will consist of 219 studio and one-bedroom units, 81 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units. 

"I work at Wolfson, so there are a lot of doctors, nurses, residencies that live in this area," Azumbrado said. "So, it is cool to be next to Wolfson, near the water."

Vista will also include 14,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, as well a rooftop pool, beer garden and an eight-story parking garage. 

"I love it," Dexter Jackson said. "We need new restaurants, apartments."

The project is expected to be completed within the next two years. 

According to the Downtown Development Review Board, another 12,000-square-foot dining and retail area is also in the works off Riverside Avenue and Leila Street, as well as a Residence Inn by Marriott hotel, which is expected to be built sometime next year. 

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