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River City Marketplace: A Boom in North Jacksonville

While the booming Southside continues to receive most local media coverage, North Jacksonville has a rapidly growing commercial epicenter of its own. Today, Metro Jacksonville explores River City Marketplace and additional development underway around the popular shopping destination.

Published April 1, 2014 in Neighborhoods      34 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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River City Marketplace


Site Plan of River City Marketplace

According the developer, Ramco-Gershenson Properties, River City Marketplace is strategically located at the interchange of I-95 and Airport Road, just north of I-295 and is the largest shopping complex in the north Jacksonville market.

The shopping center opened in 2006 and today features twelve national anchor tenants and encompasses approximately 900,000 square feet, including anchor-owned space.

River City Marketplace is located at the first commercial exit along I-95 as people enter Florida from Georgia, benefitting from the heavy tourism between the two states.

For more infomation: http://www.rgpt.com/rivercity/







City Center Boulevard serves as the main centralized throughfare through the River City Marketplace property. Large anchors such as Walmart (203,091 square feet), Lowe's (117,000 square feet) and Gander Mountain (100,636 square feet). City Center Boulevard is known to back up with traffic exiting River City Marketplace. Many drivers don't realize that City Square Drive, which fronts Walmart and Lowe's, also exits the property with a signalized intersection at Airport Center Drive.















The majority of River City Marketplace's big box anchors are located west of City Center Boulevard and east of City Station Drive. Retailers situated in the section of the development include Ross Dress for Less, Michael's, Bed Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, PetSmart, Best Buy and Wallace Theater.













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34 Comments

I-10east

April 01, 2014, 06:03:46 AM
Nice coverage of RCMP. It's looks like RCMP (not the outparcels) is pretty much topped off with any future SJTC-esque expansion. There's a forest buffer to the south towards the on-ramp, but it seems very highly unlikely that they'll expand on the ass-end backside of the Hollywood Movie Theater. The size is more than big enough anyway, esp with today's internet economy.   

Noone

April 01, 2014, 06:51:28 AM
The S-Line with the connectivity of a TOD and the real positive benefit being the extension into Nassau County will be the ticket in the creation of another sustainable organic spur of infill development.

avonjax

April 01, 2014, 07:28:53 AM
I think that is Moe's not Mellow Mushroom. At least that's what the sign says. But Mellow Mushroom will be in that general area.

strider

April 01, 2014, 08:10:59 AM
We started going to River City Lowes because it was only a minute or two further away (from Springfield) and never crowded. At first there were more employees than customers.  It was sort of like Cheers, everyone knew your name.  It has gotten much busier through the years of course, so it has been interesting watching how things progressed.

One thing I have seen is that not only is the development not walk-able, it isn't very driver friendly either. I have a tendency to cut around the back drive to avoid the confusion down the main drag.

Dapperdan

April 01, 2014, 08:27:35 AM
That is what I was thinking. Yeah you can get a commuter ride there, but what if the store you want to visit is on the other end of all that massive asphalt parking lot? And it is 95 outside. Good luck.

mbwright

April 01, 2014, 08:41:02 AM
yes, this is not walkable, especially when hot and rainy.  It's lots of fun at Christmas.  There is no way to park in one spot, and get to the whole mall.  No shuttle to move folks around.  I know that indoor malls are out of fashion, but these work better in southern california, and since land is much more expensive, they are better at maximizing the space, often 2 or more stories high.  Just like St Johns Town Center, sprawl.
I do think the proposed hospital at 92 beds will be too small to properly serve this side of town.

urbanlibertarian

April 01, 2014, 09:24:36 AM
I visit RCMP often as I have family in the area.  It's clear to me that demand for retail, dining and night life in this area exceeds supply and growth is pretty much guaranteed.

RockStar

April 01, 2014, 11:21:04 AM
In SoCal, they build parking structures and design outdoor malls with connectivity in mind. In Florida, we marvel at the vast tar landscape and watch people jockey for the spot closest to the door at their gym.

thelakelander

April 01, 2014, 11:31:13 AM
This is because our land use and zoning regulations drive a certain style of development pattern. RCM was built by a national development firm.  If they were required to lay the product out in a different manner, they probably would as long as the requests don't kill the project's feasibility.

FSBA

April 01, 2014, 12:42:13 PM
As a born and raised Northsider, RCMP was a Godsend. Not having to trek all the way to Regency or the Avenues to do most basic shopping or going to a movie was a huge step forward for the area.

I will agree though it is terribly laid out. Just trying to get from Wal-Mart to Ross or Bed, Bath, & Beyond is a nightmare.

As for the hospital, wasn't that part of the fight between Memorial and UF Health (Shands)? I thought it was supposed to be bigger before Memorial got its jimmies rustled over it.

spuwho

April 01, 2014, 08:51:20 PM
It's basically a string of strip malls folded into a box like pattern with a few variations for national big box anchors. The fact that you can't walk from one side to the other without getting run over is the proof.

I think its great for the northside overall. It's lousy for Regency because it has pretty much drained off their last audience.

Is it sustainable? Not really. Being by the airport is an asset and even closer to a potential commuter station nearby.

But all it will take is one developer purchasing the NE corner of the I-95/A1A intersection and building a Nassau Town Center in 5-10, perhaps 15 years and this center will begin its eventual decline and become the next Gateway Center.  Greater Jacksonville has lots of history to prove it.

IrvAdams

April 01, 2014, 09:23:54 PM
^^Perhaps, but isn't that just the natural progression of time? Gateway, for instance, did rule the area for 25 years or so. It's still not completely dead, they are trying to maintain its usefulness and purpose within the community.

FSBA

April 01, 2014, 11:34:39 PM
Gateway was for all intents and purposes dead a decade before the first shovel of dirt was moved for the RCMP. Even when Gateway had some life, past Dunn Ave the Northside was nothing but cow country and trailer parks. RCMP became viable because during the height of the real estate boom several subdivisions a year were being built along Eastport, Alta, New Berlin, and Pulaski.

thelakelander

April 01, 2014, 11:54:29 PM
Yeah, Gateway's life as a regional mall ended in 1992 when its remaining anchors, JCPenney and Service Merchandise, shut their stores down. RCMP has had a larger impact on Regency.

spuwho

April 02, 2014, 12:30:01 AM
I think my post was misunderstood.

I don't think RCMP caused Gateway's problems, hardly.

What I am saying is the next big retail adventure farther up the road (I used I-95 & A1A as an example) will probably turn RCMP into the next Gateway at some future time.

Jacksonville has a history of retail waves that come then move on. I was using RCMP as the next example.

Based on the last 60 years in this town, RCMP will face its first bump in the road in around 15-20.

I-10east

April 02, 2014, 01:05:36 AM
^^^You say that a future mall will turn RCMP into 'the next Gateway', and I totally disagree. Gateway's main abandoned state is it's antiquated indoor mall, which RCMP doesn't even have. Location-wise, comparing those two malls are night & day. Gateway has definitely seen better days, but DTLR was a recent addition to Gateway's outdoor mall, with zilch being moved inside the melancholy indoors.

It seem like it's hard for people to realize that urban planning can go wrong (like the Landing) and suburban styles could prosper (like the Avenues, or RCMP) or vice versa. It doesn't get by some that maybe many people actually embraces suburban lifestyles, and everywhere doesn't need four story garages, with a compact two story footprint. 

I-10east

April 02, 2014, 01:32:47 AM
RCMP will be fine for the unforeseeable future (regardless of it's suburban status with little transit etc) as long as it regards these key rules.

1. Keeping up with the Joneses. Maintain it's standard with the national chains. Most of the big boxes there are very stable companies.

2. Do not become overran by the crime/delinquent element. Something that no one wants to talk about it's that sometimes that very preached on holy grail 'great transit' could potentially bring in a bad element to the mall (like the delinquents running amuck on Christmas; I'm not against RCMP having improved transit) The bad element is the #1 reason that Regency is the way it is now, not RCMP's existence. 

Keith-N-Jax

April 02, 2014, 03:12:51 AM
Yes despite the complaints on here the area seems to be doing well and is a nice addition to the area. People in America are pretty much used to these types of shopping developments. For DT yes a more walkable plan should be desired. I like shopping at the Lowes and Kirklands there. Haven't been there in a while though. 

thelakelander

April 02, 2014, 09:02:10 AM
I do agree with spuwho that RCMP will eventually decline. These types of centers tend to have a 15 to 20 year life span before the next best and greatest thing that accommodates the latest trends and demographics, sucks them dry.

strider

April 02, 2014, 10:02:02 AM
Frankly, I often pass on going there because it is such a pain to drive around and you can not walk.  I remember being a tourist coming to the South and liking the outdoor mall atmosphere of many shopping centers, where you could park and walk anywhere you needed to go. So, I go to RCMP when I HAVE to. Or occasionally for a particular restaurant or a movie, but then when I go for those reasons, I go no where else in the complex.

 Unfortunately it seems that developments like this are not done because it is what the potential clientele wants, it is done this way because it costs less or it is what the bigger box store anchors say they want and/ or are comfortable with.  Saying that is it what the public wants seems incorrect. Why would the public want dangerous to walk and dangerous to drive around? There just isn't a better choice.  Yet.

thelakelander

April 02, 2014, 10:38:43 AM
COJ's zoning drives this style of development.  I've visited similar projects all over the country that accommodate big boxes just as well, while also meeting local community goals and visions.  Here's a similar center in a San Diego suburb.  It includes a light rail station in the middle of the parking lot.

San Diego Trolley (LRT) system map


The images below are of the Santee Town Center which is located at the end of the Green Line.



Lots of parking for cars, like any other suburban strip mall. Yet, laid out to include transit and facilitate pedestrian movement internally without much auto conflict.



Restaurant outparcels are lined against the main street. Landscaping buffers the main street's sidewalks from fast moving auto traffic.



Light rail terminates in the middle of the shopping center. The middle is a pedestrian plaza (similar to the one at SJTC). Behind it is a small bus terminal.





Several riders appeared to bike to stations in other parts of the city, then use transit to access big boxes typically not present in urban core areas.



Since LRT splits the center of the property, a parallel landscaped promendade is provided for bikers and pedestrians to move from the major street intersection to the shops without having to navigate the surface parking areas.

In general, this suburban shopping center is not laid out any differently from a Markets at Town Center, Oakleaf Town Center or Sleiman's project at Atlantic and Kernan.

What it has that Jax's centers lack is proper integration of land use policy and transit infrastructure investment. That's all about zoning and land use at the local level. Not developer and shopper preference.

IrvAdams

April 02, 2014, 12:53:34 PM
Wow, Lake, thanks. This shows us what to shoot for. There is no reason in the world that we cannot strive to produce such a retail and entertainment environment. The public and the powers that be, who report to us, need to step up our game and expect something superior.

I-10east

April 02, 2014, 03:04:21 PM
Yes despite the complaints on here the area seems to be doing well and is a nice addition to the area. People in America are pretty much used to these types of shopping developments.

+100

strider

April 02, 2014, 03:35:24 PM
Yes despite the complaints on here the area seems to be doing well and is a nice addition to the area. People in America are pretty much used to these types of shopping developments.

+100



Used to them or just not currently being offered many better alternatives?  New and shiny works no matter how bad to drive around or how bad to walk around when there is need because nothing else is offered.

Lake, like that concept, any hope Jacksonville will see this ever?

ProjectMaximus

April 02, 2014, 04:18:09 PM
Yes despite the complaints on here the area seems to be doing well and is a nice addition to the area. People in America are pretty much used to these types of shopping developments.

+100



Used to them or just not currently being offered many better alternatives?  New and shiny works no matter how bad to drive around or how bad to walk around when there is need because nothing else is offered.

Right, I know a number of suburbanites who are big fans of SJTC and also couldn't care less about smart planning. But they complain incessantly about the traffic and parking over there, and you can be certain they'd appreciate better planning if they experienced it. I think this is true of most human beings.

thelakelander

April 02, 2014, 04:22:18 PM
Strider, we just have to keep fighting and hitting people over the head about the benefits of tying together the concept of common sense with public tax dollars.  To further illustrate what coordinated land use planning and transit infrastructure investment can do, here are a few more stations along that suburban LRT line:

Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego Chargers play here)


Station Village TOD (model in sales center)


Station Village (real life)


Mission Valley Center Station

The rail line runs along the back side of a strip mall called Park Valley Center.  In the middle of the shopping center is a courtyard, where the Mission Valley Center LRT Station is located. Anchors include Best Buy, Thomasville Furniture and Pier One Imports. There's a Panda Express and Sammy's Woodfired Pizza adjacent to the LRT station.  There's also a large suburban mall across the street.  A wide landscaped sidewalk connects transit riders from the plaza to the mall across the street.

Hazard Center Station


The back of Hazard Center, a strip mall, is located on the other side of a four lane road from the LRT's Hazard Center Station. Tenants include Smashburger, Applebees, Joe's Crab Shack, a Hilton hotel and a Barnes & Noble. Below, a view of the rail station across the street from the shopping center's main entrance.





^Surface parking for the shopping center is located in the front of the center near a freeway interchange.

This last image is kind of hard to see. However, this is the parking lot of Fashion Valley Mall. It's a LRT stop and local bus terminal behind JCPenney.



Inside Fashion Valley Mall



Traffic in the area still sucks but residents do have the option of using reliable mass transit to get to the same suburban destinations. The images above represent what coordination of land use and transit investment can do for Jacksonville and moving people between suburban destinations like RCMP and SJTC.

jaxjags

April 03, 2014, 10:05:22 AM
Lakelander, how do we JTA to take a system like the SD trolley seriously today. My thoughts are that future routes for this need to be set way early to make it easier for developers to incorporate, even if it may 10 years or more out. As an example take RCMP. If JTA had said 10 years ago, not today, that a light rail would parallel Main Street to Max Legget Parkway, then it could have been designed into the Florida Health property, RCMP, Airport Exit modification (which are in plans for future) to cross I95 and the airport. Seems to me it will be harder and more expensive after the fact. At least right of way would be reserved and future plans would include design elements. But it seams JTA is stuck on buses.

IrvAdams

April 03, 2014, 12:22:39 PM
Maybe it has to with funds? Are buses cheaper? This gets back to Jax being one of the lowest-taxed cities in the country. You get what you pay for. Taxes are a necessary fuel for public amenities and transportation.

thelakelander

April 03, 2014, 01:27:59 PM
Lakelander, how do we JTA to take a system like the SD trolley seriously today. My thoughts are that future routes for this need to be set way early to make it easier for developers to incorporate, even if it may 10 years or more out. As an example take RCMP. If JTA had said 10 years ago, not today, that a light rail would parallel Main Street to Max Legget Parkway, then it could have been designed into the Florida Health property, RCMP, Airport Exit modification (which are in plans for future) to cross I95 and the airport. Seems to me it will be harder and more expensive after the fact. At least right of way would be reserved and future plans would include design elements. But it seams JTA is stuck on buses.

Jax is no different from San Diego. In fact, we were in the same position 30 years ago. San Diego started off with a 13-mile starter LRT line on an existing railroad track in 1981, while Jax opened the first segment of the Skyway a few years later.  Over the years, San Diego has worked to extend their system and coordinate land use planning to make the most of their public investment.  Here, we gave up after the Skyway reached 2.5 miles and have never properly integrated land use policies or the full coordination of the local bus system with that major initial investment. Thus, the results have been different.

We're not starting from scratch.  We need better coordination of land use policy along with a commitment to actually invest in the infrastructure incrementally.  JTA already has a strategic plan and the mobility plan modified to comp plan to allow for and incentivize TOD along proposed transit corridors and station sites. What we still lack is real life commitment to invest in construction.  Until that happens, we're limited to what we have with the Skyway (which, IMO, is more than enough to immediately start incrementally). It will take decades to properly connect suburbs like the Town Center or Beaches with the urban core, with anything other than rubber wheeled buses, so don't expect much TOD activity around Jax. However, we can drive progress in the urban core initially (like San Diego) and expand outward over the years. With that said, going back to the San Diego pictures, that LRT line opened in 2005.....24 years after the initial LRT line opened.  That corridor is similar to JTB between I-95 and the beaches. Many of it's destinations were already in place. Stations just happened to placed immediately adjacent to those existing shopping centers, hospitals, schools, industrial parks, etc. and buildings immediately adjacent to those stops were retrofitted to become more pedestrian friendly. We can eventually do the same with spots like RCMP but first we have to commit to actually investing in transit that stimulates transit oriented development.

thelakelander

April 03, 2014, 01:31:57 PM
Maybe it has to with funds? Are buses cheaper? This gets back to Jax being one of the lowest-taxed cities in the country. You get what you pay for. Taxes are a necessary fuel for public amenities and transportation.

It's all about commitment. We have more than enough funds to incrementally get started.  In fact, we already have 2.5 miles of fixed transit in place with 8 stations to play with.  Adding a station in Brooklyn is a good incremental step.  Better coordination of existing transit and downtown growth desires are two more steps worth considering more than we are today.

I-10east

April 03, 2014, 03:04:15 PM
As long as no ever-present crime permeate through the area, RCMP would be fine. The location near the airport is ideal. The Avenues has been around for twenty-four years (1990) and it's doing fine, with the so called 'big bad bully' SJTC on the Southside also. So much for that juggernaut 2020 Nassau County mall that's gonna turn RCMP into Gateway in 20 years...The whole ' bigger and better' takeover philosophy is so highly overblown, esp given that Jax is a growing city...

thelakelander

April 03, 2014, 05:41:41 PM
The philosophy isn't overblown. There's a strong pattern across the country of retail centers declining as they age, the demographic setting around them changes, and newer/modern centers designed for whatever the trend is at that time, come online.  This really isn't a Jax issue, it's just the world we live in.

We can always find some centers that are an exception to the rule but I wouldn't call The Avenues one.  The Avenues and SJTC are managed by the same company.  If anything, they complement each other moreso than compete with one another.  Just look at the anchor tenants.  Other than Dillards, each center has anchor tenants that the other does not.

I-10east

April 03, 2014, 07:15:30 PM
^^^If people start to feel unsafe at RCMP, and some big boxes go out of business with no replacements coming in, I could see RCMP gradually declining. Other than that, I don't see a decline happening, regardless of what's built in Nassau County.

thelakelander

April 03, 2014, 07:27:48 PM
What typically happens has less to do with customers being unsafe and more to do with better business opportunities for tenants developing replacement stores elsewhere.  For example, when Walmart went to the supercenter format, they abandoned a lot of viable strip malls across the country for new digs that met their updated business strategy and footprint.  CVS and Walgreens did the exact same thing when they left viable strip mall storefronts for a new model focused on free standing outparcels adjacent to signalized intersections.  You also have situations where some chains close altogether and spaces specifically designed for that chain's foot print are difficult to lease to others. While we've been fortunate with Walmart and Rowe's moving into our market, others across the state are littered with spaces abandoned by Albertson's, Winn-Dixie, and Food Lion. In general, some shopping centers are redeveloped to meet current day trends (ex. Roosevelt Square) and others aren't (ex. Town & Country, Expressway Mall).
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