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Jax Daily Record Friday, Sep. 13, 200212:00 PM EST

Upscale condo market booming in Jacksonville Beach

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by Staff

When one thinks of oceanfront condominiums on the First Coast, images usually come to mind of high-priced units in traditionally upscale areas such as Ponte Vedra Beach, Amelia Island and, traveling up the coast a bit, Sea Island, Ga.

Now add Jacksonville Beach to the list.

With six residential condo developments dotting prime oceanfront property in various stages of development — and several either completely sold out or well on the way — the area has made considerable strides from those not-so-long-ago days when it was best known for its inexpensive eateries, mom-and-pop motels and cheap rentals.

“With our audience running out of property in Ponte Vedra and Amelia Island, we felt like Jacksonville Beach was an untapped market,” said Ed Burr, president and CEO of LandMar Group, developers of the LandMark, a 44-residence community with three- and four-bedroom homes ranging in size from 1,600 square feet to 3,400 square feet and in price from $460,000 to $1.2 million.

Indeed, the numbers do tell a positive story. In 2000, when sales started, the developer sold 33 units within 90 days; to date, only two remain on the market. In the last year, prices have appreciated by almost 20 percent.

“And we’re talking about units that haven’t even closed, yet,” said Burr. “Obviously, we’ve hit a strong, pent-up demand.”

It’s a radical departure from even four years ago, when, as Mark Werner, a broker for Realty Management Group who is in charge of sales for the LandMark, said, “There was nothing on the beach but junk. Part of the excitement of Jacksonville Beach is its abundance of great restaurants and other ancillary amenities.”

In recent years the area has attracted a host of upper-crust business establishments. Several pricey, white-tablecloth restaurants have opened, including the Atlantic and O’Grady’s Chop House. J. Johnson, a free-standing, multi-million dollar art gallery also has opened. In addition, an oceanfront park is planned, slightly to the north of the old Jacksonville Beach pier.

Capitalizing further on the area’s growth, LandMar plans to begin construction on WaterMark, an 11-story, 25-unit building on South First Street with prices in the $500,000-$1 million range.

“If anything,” said Werner, “it will be even higher quality.”

At 831 N. First St., 37 units have been sold at Eagle Development’s 12-story, 48-unit condo project, Aquillus. With four units per floor, prices range from $520,000 for a two-bedroom, 1,616 square-foot floor plan, to $910,000 for a 2,308 square-foot floor plan on the 12th floor.

Oceana, a 48-unit project of JB Developers at 1415 N. First St., and Oceanic, 205 S. First St., developed by Oceanic Properties, are completely sold out.

The 16-unit condo project, Eastwinds, developed by Eastwinds Courtyard Developers, also is sold out. It’s at 1510 S. First St.

Groundbreaking begins this month for Marabella Condominiums, a 22-unit, Mediterranean-inspired condominium community patterned after the village of Marabella, along Spain’s Costa del Sol. The project, designed by architect Robert M. Swedroe, will be sold by Prudential Network Realty. Featured amenities include marble floors and alabaster and bronze lighting fixtures in the entry lobby, 10-foot ceilings in the main living areas, imported granite vanity tops and sliding glass doors leading from the master suites to a veranda overlooking the ocean.

Prices range from $1,283,400 for a 4,160 square-foot unit, to $2,360,000 for 5,315 square feet.

If Jacksonville Beach is fast aligning itself with the upper crust, then certainly, much of the credit goes to the City itself. With beautification a priority, the area in recent years has attracted a wealth of high-class business establishments. Several pricey, white-tablecloth restaurants have opened in recent years, including the Atlantic and, most recently, Jack O’Brien’s, a steak and chop house that opened on Beach Boulevard, catty-corner to Joe’s Crab Shack. J. Johnson Gallery, a freestanding, multi-million dollar art gallery has opened at 177 Fourth Ave. N.

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