5. Boutique Hotels Add Fuel To Downtown’s Fire

17 years have passed since the last hotel opened its doors in Downtown Jacksonville. After years of sitting on the sidelines, downtown’s hotel dry spell is about to come to an end. According to Tourism Economics, boutique hotels made up a quarter of all hotel rooms under construction in the country in 2017. Seen as cost effective expansion into up-and-coming areas that aren’t overpriced and popular for their authenticity with travelers, boutique hotels opening in second-tier destinations have become a mainstream of the hotel industry.

By the end of 2019, projects involving Hotel Indigo, Hyatt Place, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott, and La Quinta Inn & Suites could all be under construction, with four of the five listed being located in the heart of the Northbank. This cluster of bedrooms housing hundreds of guests ready to spend money in downtown’s restaurants, bars, and retail storefronts will bring an extra level of pedestrian scale vibrancy that hasn’t been seen in the area since the close of downtown’s flagship department stores.

4. Rail Yard District Activity Heats Up

Located west of Interstate 95, the Rail Yard District has long been one of the most overlooked historic areas in the city. Well those days are long gone. Over the year, area property owners, businesses and residents have banded together in an effort to promote the district for the economic and cultural powerhouse that it is. Bursting with local flavor, gritty and authentic, the Rail Yard District offers a pure slice of Jacksonville in a contextual environment that can’t be replicated in the rest of the state. It’s also an officially designated Opportunity Zone. With a re-branding effort underway, expect to see this wholesale district continue it’s push into becoming a notable market oriented district in 2019.

3. Gentrification Exposes Black History

Jacksonville has long been a city that hasn’t respected its past. This is evident in the number of building demolitions that continue to take place in the downtown without much debate or oversight. Because of a tendency to downplay its rich African-American heritage, many residents in town have no idea of the city’s true traditional cultural identity. However, the popularity of Brooklyn and the recent emergence of LaVilla have resulted in the exposure of the area’s past and the importance of their remaining building stock. Expect this trend to continue to pick up steam as the City updates the downtown zoning code, the DIA releases its LaVilla Development Strategy Master Plan and infill development and land speculation pushes into the Eastside and west of Park Street in Brooklyn.