Arlington used to be “the place,” as Mayor Lenny Curry remembers.
City Council Vice President John Crescimbeni recalls the days when the community just east of Downtown had amenities on par with today’s St. Johns Town Center. And the real estate, he said, was some of the hottest in the city.
The past few decades haven’t been as kind, though. The shine wore off, the community aged and the amenities and investments went elsewhere.
As Jacksonville University President Tim Cost noted Thursday, Arlington has “been at the end of the line with economic development opportunities.”
“They’re not at the end of the line anymore,” he said, surrounded by well over 100 people celebrating the groundbreaking of Dolphin Pointe.
The commitment of the riverfront skilled-nursing center adjacent to the school’s campus signaled the community had stepped up in line through an opportunity not seen for some time.
An $18.5 million investment, 325 construction jobs, 240 permanent jobs and, as Curry said, “a catalyst for what is yet to come” for Arlington.
The Renew Arlington Community Redevelopment Area approved last year will look to keep tax dollars in the community to improve those commercial corridors that haven’t seen improvement over time.
Crescimbeni told the crowd Thursday there’s no reason Arlington can’t experience a renaissance like the one Brooklyn has seen in the past several years.
The Downtown suburb has received a huge influx of new construction, including businesses and residences.
Greg Nelson knows Arlington. The former JU basketball star played on the team during its historic rise to success in 1970.
He and his family went on to develop retirement and nursing centers all over the country. In all, Nelson said he’s bought or built 50.
His last one will be Dolphin Pointe in Arlington, Nelson said, a place he still holds dear.
People over the years have shied away from investing there, he said. Nelson doesn’t understand why and believes the stigmas attached to the community are “grossly unfair.”
“I know Arlington,” he said. “I don’t see Arlington the way other people see Arlington.”
Nelson believes his investment is a “giant step” for the community’s turnaround and he thinks others will follow.
One of them will be JU, which plans next year to unveil plans to build a health science institute on campus along University Boulevard.
Cost said the “eight-figure investment” will have classrooms, conference and lab space and a wellness center that will serve the needs of students, faculty and the Arlington community.
As for Dolphin Pointe, the 120-bed facility will provide a service to residents but also be part of a key partnership with JU. Students will receive hands-on experience through a variety of programs being developed.
Eventually, more phases will include assisted and independent living to create a complete care retirement community, Nelson said.
“We love Arlington, we’re digging into Arlington, we’re investing in Arlington,” Nelson announced at the event.
Curry said when he knocked on the doors in the community during his mayoral campaign, people asked him what happened to the area.
The answer, he said, isn’t about what happened — it’s now what is to come.