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Mandarin, located about 20 miles south of downtown Jacksonville was primarily a rural area until the late 1960s. Today, Mandarin is a quiet, upscale suburban community with single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums, many of which have water views or are situated on the waterfront. The town has towering oaks dating back to its first settlers, among whom was author Harriet Beecher Stowe who called Mandarin a "tropical paradise" in her book Palmetto Leaves. The community has a fabulous array of shopping, dining, entertainment and a lively local nightlife.
Despite more than a century of growth, the community maintains its sense of history. In 1997 the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society completed restoration of the Walter Jones Store and Post Office, a circa-1911 structure that once served as the community's focal point. The building, which is still used for meetings and other functions, also displays artifacts of the region's original inhabitants, the Timucuan Indians. A new facility for the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society has also been completed at the riverfront Walter Jones Historical Park.
The town of Loretto, nestled between San Jose Boulevard to the west, and Philips Highway to the east, is also considered a part of Mandarin and offers a variety of housing options priced from the $250s to the $750s.
If it's hip and happening, you'll find it on the Southside, a designation for the area between the St. Johns River and the Intracoastal Waterway The Southside is popular with 25-34 year olds, many of whom work at nearby office parks, although residents of all ages enjoy the area's funky ambiance.
Condominiums are particularly hot in this community with offerings ranging from affordable apartment conversions to new buildings featuring every possible amenity. But the Southside also has a wide selection of old and new single family housing in a variety of price ranges; you can find a new home in the $300,000 range or splurge on a million dollar property in Deerwood County.
The Southside offers shopping galore at the St. Johns Town Center. Cinema lovers will be drawn to The Cinemark Tinseltown, a movie megacomplex with huge screens and comfy, stadium-style seating, which draws crowds from all over Northern Florida to catch a flick. The nearby campuses of the University of North Florida and Florida Community College at Jacksonville contribute lively student populations to the area.
Home to Jacksonville University and some of Northeast Florida's most important environmental and historical landmarks, Arlington is a blend of the old and new. The first French colony in North America was established here in 1562 at Ft. Caroline which is commemorated with a National Memorial. Today, Arlington is a thriving residential and commercial community, located just a short drive from downtown Jacksonville and 20 minutes from The Beaches.
Homes in Arlington range from just under $100,000 to well over $1 million along the water, but there are many properties available in the low to mid-$200s. A large number of young families live in Arlington, with nearly half the residents between 18 and 25 years of age, and another 25% between 35 and 44. Although most closer-in Arlington property has been built out, Kendall Town Center, a new project is expanding housing options. This 300-acre office, residential townhome and retail center is being built north of Regency Square Mall and south of Merrill Road, bordered by Monument Road, Florida 9A and the Southside Connector. Current plans call for up to 1,800 condos, townhomes and single family dwellings, 480,000 square feet of retail space, 360,000 square feet of office space and 280 hotel rooms.
Much of Arlington's growth is taking place in the area informally known as Intracoastal West, where the Intracoastal Waterway marks the dividing line between the city of Jacksonville and the coastal communities. Here, new multi-family developments are springing up, offering proximity to the Intracoastal Waterway, easy access to the ocean and extensive views of the marsh land.
Residential neighborhoods included within the Arlington/East Arlington/Greater Arlington area include Lake Lucina, University Club, Fort Caroline, Floral Bluff, Chaseville, Newcastle, Arlingwood, Cobblestone, Hidden Hills, Mill Cove, Regency and Kendall Town.
Originally settled by some of Jacksonville's wealthiest citizens, Riverside/Avondale is notable for its spacious Southern Mansions. From 1895 to 1929, architects and builders sought to outdo one another with impressive Colonial Revival, Georgian, Queen Anne and Tudor homes built along the St. Johns River. There are even some Frank Lloyd Wright inspired homes in the mix. The area was designated as a historic district in the late 1990s and close watch is kept on all new developments and renovations to preserve the historic character of the neighborhood.
Today, luxurious new condominium and town home projects are being built along the river in this community just south of downtown Jacksonville. In addition, architects and homeowners are restoring some of the region's most beautiful old houses to their former glory. Although there's no land available for significant new single-family home development, there are a handful of boutique multifamily projects which have recently been completed or are under construction.
With the opening of the $8 million Riverside Market Square retail center in 2002, Riverside/Avondale residents can now walk to a Publix Supermarket as well as to a great variety of restaurants and shops. The nearby Five Points retail district is comprised of funky boutiques, hip nightspots and an old fashioned newsstand offering newspapers and magazines from around the globe.
Other neighborhood retail areas include St. Johns Avenue in Avondale, the intersection of Park and King streets in Riverside and the intersection of Edgewood Avenue and Post Street in Murray Hill. Riverside/Avondale is also home to several public parks, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens and St. Vincent's Medical Center.
Springfield is emerging as the area's new arts hub as well as a residential neighborhood rediscovering its heritage. After a catastrophic fire destroyed much of downtown Jacksonville in 1901, many residents decided to build new homes just north of the city in Springfield. Since many of the displaced were quite wealthy, they built spacious homes in an array of architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School. A number of these homes have been lovingly renovated and lend abundant charm to this neighborhood.
Springfield's 12-block Main Street has also been updated and now boasts a tree-filled median with antique-style streetlamps and brick crosswalks. Along the neighborhood's primary thoroughfare, locals dine and drink at Boomtown, and listen to live jazz at the Epicurean Market and Caf. At Henrietta's restaurant there's an art gallery and a theater that screens unusual movies. New businesses are continually moving into formerly vacant Main Street storefronts and the street's renovation has jump-started construction of 80,000 square feet of retail space and condominiums in adjacent areas.
A wonderful time to see Springfield at its most appealing is during the neighborhood's annual holiday home tour, when horse-drawn carriages rumble past restored homes.
Some of the most affordable housing in Jacksonville (starting in the $200s) can be found on the Westside, a large expanse of land that encompasses dozens of subdivisions. The Westside is also home to a number of new construction developments including
â€¢ Adams Lake [KB homes]
â€¢ Dawson's Creek [Watson Custom homes]
â€¢ Glenda's Meadow [Drees homes]
â€¢ Pinecrest [by Adams Homes]
â€¢ Winchester Ridge [D.R. Horton homes]
â€¢ Watermill [SEDA homes]
â€¢ Taylor Ridge [Lennar homes]
â€¢ Creekside Oaks [Mercedes homes]
Westside neighborhoods are convenient to the Naval Air Station Jacksonville and the general aviation Herlong airport as well as to a great variety of shopping and dining options. The Westside comprises Argyle, Avondale, Cedar Hills, Confederate Point, Dinsmore, Jacksonville Heights, Lake Shore, Marietta, Maxville, Murray Hill, Normandy, Paxon, Ortega, Venetia, Lackawanna, Sweetwater, Pickettville, Riverside, Whitehouse and West Jacksonville. In addition to its numerous neighborhoods, the Westside includes four small incorporated cities: Baldwin, Marietta, Maxville and Whitehouse.
A good deal of the land adjacent to the Westside's cities is undeveloped and used for hunting, boating and fishing. Baldwin is the final stop on the 14.5-mile Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail, which follows abandoned railroad lines and is used by cyclists, inline skaters, walkers and horseback riders. The area is also home to the 509-acre Westside Regional Park which offers a nature center, outdoor classrooms, picnic areas, biking trails and an elevated platform from which to view the extensive wetlands.