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Drivers negotiate the signals and merge into traffic Wednesday afternoon at Gate and Town Center parkways at St. Johns Town Center. About 75 acres are under development in the area for more stores and housing.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Dec. 22, 201612:00 PM EST

More shopping, more choices, more traffic coming to St. Johns Town Center area


Shoppers experiencing serious holiday traffic at the St. Johns Town Center should cherish the memory.

Next year, there could be much more.

Site work and some construction are underway at the Town Center Promenade and The Strand and The Crossing at Town Center, totaling 75 acres, for dozens of new stores and restaurants along with apartments and hotels.

The target date for many to open is in time for next year’s holiday shopping season, which means more drivers will vie for space on the roads, especially at Gate and Town Center parkways.

The new properties line Town Center Parkway across from The Markets at Town Center and St. Johns Town Center, which are north of Butler Boulevard and west of Interstate 295.

To enter the new developments, drivers will take the main road system –– Gate and Town Center parkways –– although once they exit into the projects, they can use the internal network.

But there is some help on the way.

Preferred Growth Properties, the developer of The Strand and The Crossing, is making $2.5 million in traffic improvements at Gate and Town Center parkways, including adding turn lanes, access points and a trail for pedestrians, runners and bicyclists.

District City Council member Scott Wilson said Wednesday those improvements are in design, plus construction on the roads can’t take place during the holiday season.

By next year this time, Wilson hopes there will be improvements.

“But they have serious problems with traffic there, no matter what,” he said, noting the number of retail stores in a small area.

Wilson said it’s up to the city and state to address those issues.

“We won’t be able to hold the Town Center or the others accountable for that. That’s something we have to fix on our own,” he said.

More relief might be down the road.

Wilson said some state funds will be freed up as the city uses $7 million in Jacksonville International Airport Community Redevelopment Area funds for traffic improvements at the I-95 and Airport Road interchange.

That would mean five other projects would be fully funded in the Florida Department of Transportation’s five-year work plan, including improvements to the Butler Boulevard and Gate Parkway interchange.

That interchange now sometimes suffers major backups from St. Johns Town Center traffic.

Wilson also said at the request of the city, the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization is funding a study to suggest improvements in the Town Center area.

The TPO’s Unified Planning Work Program for 2016-17 through 2017-18 shows a traffic study for the St. Johns Town Center, Deerwood Park and Belfort Road areas.

Tasks include recommending short-, mid- and long-term improvements, such as transportation demand management strategies and intersection improvements.

The report is due for completion in June.

Still, it likely will be a busier time next year on the roads, especially since visitors might want to try out many of the new-to-town stores, restaurants and hotels at The Strand, Crossing and Promenade.

More residents will be using the roads, too, from the two planned apartment communities that total almost 600 units.

Major emergence

The Crossing, Strand and Promenade emerged this year as members of the Skinner family sold property. The family also owned the St. Johns Town Center property and land around it.

Core Property Capital of Atlanta bought 69 acres along Town Center Parkway in January, across from St. Johns Town Center. Its northern end is at Brightman Boulevard.

About 30 acres are being developed as Town Center Promenade.

Preferred Growth Properties, the real estate subsidiary of Birmingham, Ala.-based Books-A-Million, bought about 61 acres in March at Gate and Town Center parkways, just south of the Promenade land.

About 45 acres can be developed.

The main tract, The Strand, is east of Gate Parkway and runs north and west along Town Center Parkway.

A smaller tract, The Crossing, is west of Gate Parkway.

While two of the retail tenants will be relocating from the Town Center area, many of the names are new to the area while some are additional locations.

And more are coming. For example, about 20 smaller tenant spaces are available at The Strand.

Here’s what has been revealed at this point.

Crossing at Town Center

So far, the Crossing includes plans for a Wawa gas station and convenience store, Goo-Goo 3 Minute Express Wash, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and PDQ, a restaurant that sells chicken tenders, sandwiches and salads.

ABC and PDQ have a Jacksonville presence, while Wawa and Goo-Goo are new.

There is land for more projects.

Strand at Town Center

The Strand will feature two retailers that are relocating across the street. Best Buy is moving from The Markets at Town Center while Chase Bank is relocating from the St. Johns Town Center.

New there to the market will be four restaurants: Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse, Chuy’s, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and Firebirds Wood Fired Grill.

Moe’s Southwest Grill, with a local presence already, also will open there.

PGA Tour Superstore and 2nd & Charles, a Books-A-Million company, will be new to the market.

Hobby Lobby and TD Ameritrade are already in the market but plan locations there.

The 160-room Hyatt Place hotel and the 306-unit Ravella at Town Center Apartment Homes also will join The Strand.

Lots more retail space is available.

Town Center Promenade

At least three new restaurants are planning locations at Promenade –– Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews, Texas de Brazil Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse and Piada Italian Street Food.

Texas Roadhouse, Newk’s Eatery, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Taco Bell and Starbucks will expand their market presence there.

Aldi will open a grocery store in the Promenade, right across the street from Publix at the Town Center, while Mattress Firm and Aspen Dental also will lease space.

Tru by Hilton intends to develop a 98-room new-concept hotel, while apartment developer TriBridge Residential is considering a 287-unit project.

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