Metro Jacksonville's Kara Holmes dives deep into the heart of Baymeadows, where investors have rediscovered a collection of forgotten possibilities.
The Freedom Commerce Center
Nestled in the heart of Baymeadows lies a forgotten husk of opportunity. The Freedom Commerce Center is located just west of I-95, and was once home to big corporations such as Florida Blue (formerly Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida) and CitiGroup Inc. The 752,154 square foot office park is surrounded by beautifully forested wetlands and, at first glace, does not seem to be in any kind of financial struggle.
As I drive down the winding road leading to the Freedom Commerce Center, I am immediately enveloped by nature. Tastefully placed street lamps and modernized glass buildings compliment the scenery. The first complex I pull into has a packed parking lot and there are plenty of individuals coming and going from the building. It is hard to believe that the Commerce Center accounts for the high vacancy rates of the Baymeadows area. A staggering 60% vacancy was the highest Jacksonville has experienced in a long time. I find a spot to park in, and begin wandering the premise. The architecture is modern but lackluster in appearance. The pavement is cracked and many parking designations and markings are in dire need of a paint job.
The south end of the building is completely deserted. There are no cars but mine occupying the 30 some-odd spaces. A large sign stating that “Office Space [is] Available” looms over the entrance like a gravestone, advertising the death of the area. I continue down the street. I come across a crossroad and am presented with three options. To my left are more extravagant buildings that are covered from the ground floor to the roof in reflective panels of glass. Forward and to the right are winding roads that lead to mysterious lands, which I regrettably left unexplored.