Creating spaces for entertainment, nightlife, and the future of office space will turn Town Center into the downtown area the city has always needed.
When Sam Perkovich purchased her office in Town Center for her company ParkSide Realty Group in 2016, everyone thought she was nuts. With only City Hall and few doctor’s offices nearby, foot traffic was nearly nonexistent — but she knew “the future was going to catch up with Palm Coast.”
And with Douglas Property & Development creating more housing, partnering with major institutions, and expanding opportunities for local businesses, it looks like it finally has. But because of the ever-changing landscape of our modern world, that future has to be adaptable.
“We have to rethink the retail experience because there isn’t much of a retail experience anymore,” said Walker Douglas of DPD, noting that both e-commerce and coronavirus as reasons why. “So we have to create another reason for people to go somewhere, gather, shop, spend money and socialize.”
Instead of offering the traditionally coveted corner space for businesses to open up shop, DPD has carved out the corner of the retail district and created two open-space, paved courtyards. It includes benches, landscaping, string lights, and multiple gazebos for both small and large performances.
“It’s something that invites you in. When you look at it, you wonder what’s going on there.”
In addition to giving people a reason to come to Town Center, DPD is also making sure that people have a reason to stay in Town Center. In addition to the educational institutions like the Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida Mednexus, Douglas says they’re providing spaces that will meet the needs of future workers like co-working spaces.
“The future of office, like retail, is totally in flux,” Douglas said. “We want to be forward-thinking and progressive in terms of development. When you think about places like the Research Triangle—Raleigh Durham, Chapel Hill, Duke, and UNC—they’re institutions, but the real value in those places is all the ancillary stuff that comes off. The people that come there to take advantage of them and all the businesses that serve those people.
“We had to turn Town Center into a destination, and that’s what these institutions have done.”
And part of that is bringing in more varieties of food services, nightlife, and other entertainment businesses that will finally give residents a downtown area.
“Palm Coast has been waiting for a downtown since it was designed,” said Douglas. “And all we’re trying to do is fulfill that vision.”
While there are a few breweries and some great local restaurants, Douglas says it’s not the same as having them in a centralized location. Not only does creating a downtown area allow other businesses to “feed off of each other and enjoy each other’s success,” but it also makes more foot traffic for other activity-based businesses to open up. Something Perkovich—who jokingly refers to herself as a “pioneer of Town Center—is particularly excited to see.
“We need some coffee shops and restaurants,” she said. “And with all the residential that’s coming in, we’re going to need hair salons, spas, barbershops, cleaners, all that. And it’s kind of beyond the wildest dreams that we’re going to have some universities there.”
But no matter what the future holds, Douglas says they’ll be ready.
“We’re not shoehorning anyone into a square-foot unit,” he said. “We’re letting the market dictate. If someone comes to us and says, ‘We need 762-square feet,’ that’s weird, but we’ll figure it out.”