Although the area surrounding Western Way and Baymeadows has been in decline for the past few years, a number of new businesses have moved in within the last 12 months. Combined with tentative development plans that could significantly change life around Western Way, it seems as if new opportunities are beginning to emerge for business owners and residents alike.
Developed in the late 60’s, the Baymeadows area was originally built around the Baymeadows Golf Club. As the neighborhood grew, Freedom Commerce Center, now a 752,154 square foot office park, was planned in the 90’s as a mega retail chain. Controversy over destroying wetlands left Freedom Commerce center to falter while the St. John’s Town center was built, ultimately drawing business from the area.
Over the last few years, big companies like BellSouth and Mercedes-Benz have been leaving Western Way for better opportunities. Smaller businesses have been leaving or closing down as well, and the results can be seen from the roads: there are no shortages of for-lease signs, and overgrown grass covers many properties. In 2012, three long established restaurants – Buffalo Wild Wings, Cha-Cha’s, and Vito’s – all closed down. Freedom Commerce Center suffered after a string of vacancies. For an area that sounds as if it's in decline though, signs of life are emerging beyond the daily heavy traffic that populates the area. Let's take a look at the new businesses.
Recently, Compass Rose Foundation Inc. bought the building at 8813 Western Way. Compass Rose has installed J-Tech, a vocational training center. J-Tech’s website says that they offer “programs in Automotive Technology, Diesel Technology and Commercial Truck Driving.” J-Tech’s new location used to be that of Mercedes-Benz, who moved near Jacksonville International Airport.
Petroleum Containment, a company that specializes in containment sumps, purchased the warehouse located at 8873 Western Way.
The building at 8451 Western Way was bought in 2013 by Cosner Properties LLC, which operates Cosner Moving and Storage and Cosner Office Solutions. The warehouse was built in 1968 and was formerly home to BellSouth.
4 Rivers Smokehouse opened last year, bringing the Texas-style smokehouse to Western Way and Baymeadows. The restaurant moved into the building at 9220 Baymeadows Rd.
Veterans United Craft Brewery has moved into 8999 Western Way, and they plan to open their doors soon; a glance at their Facebook reveals that they are receiving the first shipments of ingredients to be used in the batch-making. The owner sees an emerging market in Jacksonville for breweries and there are not currently any others in the area.
Metro Diner is planning to add an expansion at Southside and Baymeadows.
As of 2012, even Freedom Commerce Center is getting a facelift, in the form of a multi-million dollar renovation project. The office park has been renamed Prominence.
These companies aren't the only ones investing in the vicinity of Western Way. D.R. Horton, a home builder, has been trying to redevelop the old Baymeadows golf course for a number of years. Although Horton purchased the land in 2005, development has been delayed by Jacksonville officials due to traffic congestion concerns. The most recent development plan would include 697 new homes. The D.R. Horton sign that sits in the seemingly abandoned former Baymeadows golf course is symbolic of the lost opportunity that Baymeadows has endured due to infrastructure problems. The grass is high, but adventurous joggers can be found making their way along the concrete path that follows the gentle slopes of the course.
Currently, plans are being laid to possibly move Baymeadows Circle West in order to lessen traffic congestion for the influx of homes brought by D.R. Horton. The Bank of America would be demolished in the process. The change could dramatically impact the Western Way area, both economically and visually.