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Real Estate
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 4, 201712:00 PM EST

Former condo site may be rezoned for apartments; multifamily rental market expected to remain strong

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Multifamily residential construction in Riverside could get back on the horizon if a proposed amendment to a Planned Unit Development is approved by City Council.

Ordinance 2016-790 seeks rezoning 1.66 acres along the St. Johns River at 500 and 555 Bishop Gate Lane between Lomax and Post streets.

The applicant, Atlanta-based TriBridge Residential, proposes building up to 140 apartment units in two mid-rise structures on either side of Bishop Gate Lane.

There also would be a special event venue, an integrated parking deck for resident and limited public parking, and a 15-foot-wide Riverwalk easement along the entire 350 feet of river frontage with paving, landscaping, lighting and street furniture.

TriBridge representatives did not return calls for comment.

The site was initially approved for development of Beacon Riverside, a 45-unit high-rise condominium project, with units priced from $700,000 to $2.3 million.

Sales began in 2013 by NAI Hallmark Partners, but when only 25 percent of the units were sold in advance of construction, the company suspended marketing in October 2015 and released escrow funds to buyers.

Multifamily development has been limited to apartments for several years in Jacksonville.

Hallmark opened 220 Riverside in Brooklyn in May 2015 and recently received approval for another apartment project next door at 200 Riverside.

Both are a few blocks from the former Beacon Riverside site.

“We are happy to be in the apartment business,” Alex Coley, Hallmark principal, said Tuesday.

According to a midyear 2016 research and forecast report published by the Colliers International commercial real estate firm, “the Jacksonville apartment market continues to exhibit strong growth, with vacancy rates dropping below 5 percent.”

The report showed six apartment developments under construction and another 12 in the planning stages.

As for the rental outlook, the report said, “The Jacksonville market has continued to experience good job growth, economic fundamentals are solid and will continue to drive demand through 2016 and into 2017.”, a website that tracks monthly apartment rental rates nationwide, reports Jacksonville ranks 49th this month among the top 100 markets at an average of $890 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,030 for a two-bedroom. That’s up 11.3 percent compared to January 2016.

The most expensive apartment market this month is San Francisco, where a one-bedroom averages $3,350 and a two-bedroom, $4,510.

The least expensive market in the top 100 is Toledo, Ohio, where a one-bedroom apartment is $430 and a two-bedroom unit is $550.

Peggy Queen, executive vice president of the First Coast Apartment Association, said the strength of the Jacksonville market is based on the supply remaining slightly behind the demand. She expects that to continue.

“We’re having new apartments coming into the market and I think they’ll be absorbed,” she said.

Another factor in the strong market for multifamily rental housing is trends adopted by young people — and more recently, older people as well.

“There’s a new generation that looks at renting an apartment as a lifestyle and they want the amenities apartment living provides,” Queen said.

That includes upscale fixtures like stainless steel appliances and granite countertops in kitchens and proximity to shopping and entertainment options, such as the 220 and 200 Riverside apartments, both between Unity Plaza and the Fresh Market shopping center along Riverside Avenue.

The older generation is also moving into apartments.

“The boomers generation is moving out of their homes and into apartments,” said Queen. “They don’t want the maintenance issues (associated with owning a home).”

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