2017 was a year of major additions for St. Johns Town Center.
Already the biggest mall in Northeast Florida, it expanded rapidly this year with the addition of new adjacent developments such as The Strand and Town Center Promenade.
By this point, with well over 1 million square feet of retail and restaurant space built out, you would think the Town Center would have everything it could possibly need. That being said, there are definitely still a few things missing that you’d expect to see in such a massive shopping and lifestyle complex.
We’ve put together our list of 5 things we think the Town Center still needs – and we’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section (or on social media) as well!
A PARKING GARAGE
We’ve actually brought this up before, but the Town Center pretty desperately needs a parking garage. Parking is often difficult to find during peak hours, and the spaces available sometimes require a long walk to get to the area you were aiming for.
A parking garage – or multiple garages – would make much better use of space than the various large surface lots. Think about the massive lots out in front of the area spanning from Target to Old Navy. Wouldn’t a garage – with potential ground-floor retail or mall office space – be a much better use of that space?
As of right now, the only garages in the mall belong exclusively to apartment complexes, including one being built across the street between The Strand and Town Center Promenade.
It might not be such a big deal to have to park far away, though, if the Town Center offered consistent internal transportation. Trolleys and carts have been tried on occasion in the past, usually around the holidays, but there’s a strong need for a permanent trolley system.
This is especially true as the mall continues expanding outward from its original footprint. The walk from Target to Maggiano’s isn’t bad at all, but a walk from Target to the new Best Buy in The Strand would be a major hike. And for families with young children, or older relatives, making that kind of walk can be extremely impractical.
Solid, consistent internal transportation would allow Town Center visitors to park once, then browse the entirety of the mall without facing an unexpected workout.
A GOOD SPORTS BAR
Sorry, Buffalo Wild Wings, but you’re not going to cut it.
For the burgeoning sports city that Jax is, and has been for years, we have a surprising lack of quality sports bars. This is particularly true at the Town Center, where the recently-added BWW is essentially the only such venue around. Topgolf is a nice place to watch games as well, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark either.
A legitimate sports bar, along the lines of Duffy’s Sports Grill in central and south Florida, would make a killing at the Town Center. Between college kids from UNF, impatient husbands looking for a break from shopping, and the ever-growing bandwagon of Jags fans, the market is there.
Now someone just needs to capitalize on it.
MORE ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS
The Town Center strives to be more than just a mall – it’s more of a mall/lifestyle center hybrid. That being said, there’s not a whole lot to do out there other than shopping.
The addition of Topgolf, and the pending addition of an indoor skydiving venue, have at least shaken things up a bit, but there’s still a lot missing. A permanent outdoor stage could allow for consistent live music and block parties, something the mall has experimented with in the past. A movie theater could allow for a nice respite from shopping, especially on rainy days when being outside isn’t super practical. A bowling alley would provide family entertainment as well as something for bored UNF kids to do with their friends.
Those are just a few examples of entertainment options that would add some variety to the somewhat monotonous Town Center.
It’s kind of amazing that the Town Center’s developers managed to build a massive lifestyle center right next to a fast-growing college without bothering to include a nightlife element.
That shortsightedness was somewhat corrected later on with additions like Whisky River, Blackfinn, and SUITE. But as of this article, two of those three shut down and the third, Blackfinn, is perpetually struggling.
There are two key reasons why those additions failed. First, they built them as far away from UNF as is possible within the confines of the Town Center. Second, they chased the wrong audience. They thought Town Center shoppers would end their day of shopping by doing some partying.
In reality, nightlife developments would make more sense being located closer to the UNF entrance, allowing students the option to walk to their bar or club of choice instead of driving. Safety improvements along that stretch would help to make this practical as well. It would be an opportunity for the mall to stay active past stores’ closing times and to draw in a new audience.