Expert insights: Out-of-town developers say Jacksonville desirable, but with struggles

Commercial real estate experts offer their insights heading into the second half of the year.

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  • | 12:00 a.m. July 18, 2023
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Robert Nickels, Savannah Sims and Mike Salik of Matthews Real Estate Investment Services.
Robert Nickels, Savannah Sims and Mike Salik of Matthews Real Estate Investment Services.
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Jacksonville has been one of Florida’s best-kept secrets, and now the word is out, as developers are flocking to capitalize on what Jacksonville has to offer. 

Based out of Austin, Texas, Saxum Real Estate’s Matthew Wassel has found success in Jacksonville, contributing it in part to several factors, “including its strong market fundamentals, the growth and potential of JaxPort, and the strength of the labor force.”

It is clear Jacksonville is taking proactive steps to improve and invite more business into the state, as well as being the fortunate beneficiary of a logistically sound location. 

“Jacksonville has a lot of the items we look for in an industrial market: an active container port, a growing population, and regional connectivity via I-95 and I-10,” says Imminent Venture’s CEO Robert Richter from Miami.

These newly developed industrial parks and buildings can thrive in Jacksonville, but it isn’t for the faint of heart. 

Merritt Properties from Baltimore, Maryland, has been able to break into this market successfully with Imeson Landing Business Park and continues to acquire more property to develop throughout the region. 

“Jacksonville became a desirable location for Merritt due to the area’s pro-growth business culture, low vacancy rates, advanced transportation and logistics, and fast-growing communities. Our acquisitions have allowed us to expand into a strong market while responding to the demand for single-story, light industrial product,” said Patrick Franklin, Merritt’s asset manager in Jacksonville.

This sheds light on why developers are eager to position themselves in Jacksonville’s market, though it is not without its struggles. 

Richter said there are some significant hurdles to overcome.

 “Understanding the competitive landscape of long-established developers and their legacy land positions is a challenge. You couple the developer challenge with the position of the military being the largest employer versus a traditional sector and add a downtown district needing revitalization; you get Jax, a unique market compared to other Florida metros.” 

The recent spotlight on the city is also a double-edged sword, not only bringing in more people and higher demand for space but also increasing the competition for developers. But those willing to put in the work will likely see the rewards. 

 “Despite significantly increased interest and development by national institutional investors, demand drivers have led to consistent positive absorption and increased rental rates, positioning Jacksonville as a strong competitor for local, regional, and national requirements,” Wassel said.

While all markets come with rough waters to navigate, it’s clear that national developers are breaking in on the Jacksonville market and making a splash. 



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