Development of East San Marco on the verge… once again

By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

Good things come to those who wait, and San Marco residents’ have waited a long time for the development of East San Marco on the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard. While the wait isn’t over, the developers are pursuing the details of the project to assure the final outcome is indeed a good thing for the neighborhood.

“St. Joe and Regency Centers are working together to explore reviving the mixed-use project,” said Chris Kuhn, director of development for The St. Joe Company. “It’s a complex project and we want to comprehensively approach any sensitive issues that may enhance the neighborhood.”

The project, a joint venture between The St. Joe Company and Regency Centers, was originally approved for 57,000 square feet of retail space, which included a grocery anchor.  Above the retail space would have been 160 condominiums both stretched between the two parcels of land separated by Wachovia Bank.

But that was before the real estate market went bust and the vacant land on the corners of Atlantic Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue sat conspicuously empty.

“There is interest in revitalizing this project because of the recovery of the real estate market,” Kuhn explained. According to Kuhn the recession created a demographic shift that makes the appeal of multi-family developments more attractive. “The opportunity and the market have intersected,” said Kuhn. “In addition to its great location, this development can offer a lifestyle that is attractive to many people.”

District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer said she is happy with how the process turned out a few years ago. “In general terms, the buildings and designs with the existing approval would be a real asset to the neighborhood,” Boyer said. “They [the developers] have floated the idea of increasing the density but within the same building. As long as it would not change the design appearance and they provide adequate parking, I am not opposed to the idea.”

Besides the residential component, the project has the potential to enhance business activity within San Marco Square and the surrounding areas.
Jason Bajalia, owner of Pulp in San Marco, said while he doesn’t look forward to more construction, especially since he finally has unimpeded access for the first time since Pulp opened in 2010, he ultimately thinks the project could enhance the development of the area.

“Neighborhoods like San Marco have a hard time competing with the options of a St. John’s Town Center type mega development,” Bajalia explained. “If done correctly – like tying East San Marco in with the Square via continuity of design and access to make crossing the street safe and desirable – I think the construction inconvenience would be worth it at the end.”
In the meantime, San Marco residents can be assured the developers are doing their due diligence so their wait won’t be in vain. “As a joint venture, we are as interested in the retail succeeding as much as the residential,” Kuhn said. “All of the components need to work to ensure the project’s success.”

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