Affordable prices, new businesses spur Murray Hill revitalization

Residents and business owners in Murray Hill have more than a centennial to celebrate this month.

While recognizing the 100th anniversary of incorporation in 1916 as a good reason to throw a party, the real news is what could be Murray Hill’s comeback.

First platted in 1906, Murray Hill’s residential growth was steady for four decades, with a post-World War II growth spurt before tapering down in the 1980s when suburban developments rose in number and popularity.

Now the area, bordered by Interstate 10, Park Street and U.S. 17/Roosevelt Boulevard, has seen positive commercial and residential growth within the past four years, but it’s not clear which is driving the other.

Sacha Higham, a REALTOR® at Traditions Realty in Riverside, attributes a lot of the residential growth to the surge in commercial investments, especially along Edgewood Avenue. From Plymouth Street to College Street, a variety of restaurants, shops and boutiques have opened doors, with promises of more to come.

While fans of the iconic Edgewood Bakery mourned the closing of its doors in 2015 after 60 years, the location will be home to the second French Pantry in Jacksonville in the next one to two years.

In the meantime, Maple Street Biscuit Company, Vagabond Coffee, Community Loaves and the newly-opened Magnolia’s have added to the dining options on the south end of Edgewood Avenue, while the north end, closer to College Street, will see La Cena, an upscale Italian restaurant, opening in the very near future.

There’s also plans for a new comedy club on Edgewood Avenue, according to Regina Heffington, owner of the Silver Cow on King Street in Riverside.

Heffington and her partners, Matt and Becky Martz, hope to have Jeux De Jax open by the end of the year next door to their new location of The Annex, which formerly operated next door to the Silver Cow.

Home values increasing

Higham, who moved to Murray Hill in 2003 to invest in rehabbing houses, has the long view on the resurgence. He bought his first home in 2004, and a second one in 2006 when “Riverside/Avondale was so ‘hot’ then you couldn’t afford it,” Higham said.

There were two real estate upswings in the past 10 years, according to Higham, and statistics support his statement.

The first influx to Murray Hill was 2004 to 2007, when many people bought ‘high,’ said Higham, but a lot of those investors went belly-up after 2007.

From 2005 to 2007, the average sale price of a home in Murray Hill was between $115,000 and nearly $134,000, according to data supplied by the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors (NEFAR).

After 2007, others came in to buy properties at distressed rates, then put in a minimum of renovations and turned them into rentals, according to Higham. NEFAR data indicates that for six years average sale prices ranged from just over $53,000 to about $77,000. But as of August 18, 2016, the year-to-date average sale price of a home was $107,000, according to NEFAR statistics, signaling a return to those pre-recession values.

“In the last couple of years people are buying to live in Murray Hill, not just to invest,” said Higham.

“If you shop carefully, and get reliable information about the particular area of Murray Hill you are looking at, Murray Hill is still, in my opinion, one of the best deals if you want the perks of older homes at a price that is doable for many,” said Toy Scott, a REALTOR® with Norville Realty in Lakeshore.

Pre-recession, the last year when more than 200 homes sold in Murray Hill was 2006. The numbers stayed well below that figure until 2014, when 211 homes were bought; last year 233 homes were sold in Murray Hill, according to NEFAR.

A great alternative

“Long-term owners stuck it [the recession] out, but many of the newer owners got out then,” said Higham. “Now a lot of people are coming back, a lot of young families coming in.”

Higham calls this latest wave the second gentrification of Murray Hill. “Before, it was infill,” he said. “Now it’s new growth. Families are moving into homes that have higher-end renovations; you can’t tell the difference in a re-done home in Avondale versus Murray Hill.”

Sherry English has lived in Murray Hill since 2002, having purchased a 1926 bungalow at the beginning of the first upswing in real estate prices. She also noted a wave of younger families coming in around her.

“They are buying homes on my street that had been occupied for five and six decades by the same family,” said English, who has recently completed some high-end renovations of her own. Now those homes are coming on the market at a time when young buyers can’t quite afford to buy in Riverside or Avondale, she said.

“Indeed, for young people it’s been a great alternative for those looking for the older homes, hardwood floors, higher ceilings, which are way too expensive in Avondale, Riverside,” said Scott. “Interest rates are still at an all-time low and there are many financing options available.”

“There’s definitely an energy,” said Higham. “Murray Hill is the next logical step [in home buying] to Riverside and Avondale.”

Centennial presentation

In celebration of Murray Hill’s centennial, the Friends of Murray Hill Library are sponsoring a presentation on “Murray Hill: Past, Present, and Future,” by Ennis Davis, urban planner and author. The free event will be held Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at the library, 918 Edgewood Ave. South.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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