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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Aug. 19, 202005:10 AM EST

The Markets at Town Center adding kayak launch and deck

The amenities will be for retail tenants, like REI and West Marine, to use for product experiences, training and meetings

Hines, owner of  The Markets at Town Center, wants to build an outdoor amenity center and a kayak launch for REI and other tenants that could use the features for products, training, classes and meetings.

The St. Johns River Water Management District is reviewing plans for an environmental resource permit to build the project at the existing wet detention pond behind REI – Recreational Equipment Inc. – at 4862 Town Center Parkway.

A district letter from Halff Associates Inc. says the project includes a covered outdoor seating area, wooden deck, concrete sidewalk and steps, and a floating dock for launching kayaks at the pond.

“It’s an amenity we are offering as a consumer experience,” said Helen Ciesla, Hines general property manager, as well as allowing customers and employees to gather in groups with social distancing during the pandemic.

She said Hines is building the dock, kayak launch and outdoor seating, which can be a teaching area, for use by all tenants at The Markets at Town Center.

A satellite view of the retention pond at The Markets at Town Center.

That includes REI and West Marine for outdoor gear and other tenants, such as Nordstrom Rack, for staff meetings and training.

Ciesla said that in addition to social distancing, it also makes possible what retailers were seeking before the pandemic: customer experiences at brick-and-mortar stores that online shopping cannot offer.

“Pre-COVID, it’s always been bricks-and-mortar retailers’ goals to provide an experience. How can I get the consumer in my store and offer them an experience versus what they get online?”

Ciesla said Hines hopes to start construction as soon as the permits are issued, possibly in a few weeks. She hopes the amenities are operating by late October or November.

“That’s beautiful weather for us here,” she said.

Ciesla said Evan Douglas Construction Inc. is the general contractor and Serenity Brothers marine contractors will be executing the dock portion of the project.

REI Jacksonville Store Manager Kara Montgomery said Aug. 18 that the retailer has suspended its indoor classes and was looking for an outdoor venue.

According to the site, REI Jacksonville provides gear and clothing for camping, climbing, cycling, fitness, hiking, paddling and more. It also is a complete bike shop.

Montgomery said the 9-acre lake behind the store was part of her vision to use the outdoor space behind the store.

The Jacksonville store was REI’s first Florida location when it opened in March 2013, she said. It has since opened two more in the state.


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