Vintage homes, trendy coffee shops, eccentric restaurants and hip breweries have made Jacksonville’s 32204 ZIP Code — Riverside, Five Points and Brooklyn — a haven for millennials, young people between 18 and 38 years of age.
Anyone who has walked these neighborhood’s streets in recent years has noticed the appeal, but now statistics published by RENTCafe.com solidify such observations.
The nationwide apartment search website says 32204 has the highest percentage growth in millennials over the last five years of any ZIP Codes in the state — topping locations in Fort Lauderdale (No. 2), Pompano Beach (No. 3), Orlando (No. 4 and 5) and Miami (No. 6 and 7).
Nationally, 32204 ranked No. 6 behind ZIP Codes codes in major cities long identified as millennial favorites, including Los Angeles (No. 1 and 2), Manhattan (No. 3 and 5) and Portland, Ore. (No. 4).
What are the reasons for Riverside, Five Points and Brooklyn leapfrogging other popular millennial destinations?
“There’s a few,” says Beth King, a Broker-Associate with Traditions Realty who employees over 30 agents in its Jacksonville Riverside office. “The first was the downfall of the real-estate market seven or eight years back.”
King says the housing bubble, which peaked in 2006 then reached an all-time low in 2012, increased renter demand resulting in a more competitive Jacksonville market.
“People were afraid to buy, so they rented instead and this put more pressure on landlords to upgrade units,” explained King. “Now many of the apartment complexes and quadruplexes in 32204 are more appealing to millennials because they offer renovated living spaces with better amenities.”
Along with these housing upgrades, King says city officials have improved Downtown Jacksonville to ensure millennials are here to stay.
“There’s a lot to do in Riverside,” King adds. “Restaurants are on every corner, the area is walkable and weekly events like the Arts Market on Saturdays draw big crowds. I don’t think millennials are leaving anytime soon.”
Hawkers Asian Street Fare is one 32204 restaurant giving millennials a reason to stick around. Situated on Park Street across from Riverside Park, guests say it embodies the area’s unique energy.
“Hawker’s atmosphere is why I keep coming back,” says FSCJ student Stephanie Strasser. “Like a lot of restaurants and bars in Riverside, it has a different feel compared to places in the Town Center or near Jacksonville Beach.”
Strasser shared a meal with her friend and classmate Jade Nanan, who says she hopes to move from Orange Park to Riverside in the coming years.
“I love it here,” Nanan adds. “It’s the kind of place I want to live because it’s at the center of everything happening in Downtown Jacksonville.”
Researchers say the millennial migration patterns have a noticeable impact on businesses development and social dynamics.
“Millennials, the largest living adult generation in the United States with a population of more than 79.8 million, will determine the economic and cultural future of the nation,” writes University of North Florida Professor Matthew Corrigan in J Magazine’s Millennial Issue. “If Downtown Jacksonville is to thrive over the next 30 years, millennials will have to lead the way.”
JP Salvat, co-owner of Southern Roots Filling Station, which is located along the southwest border of 32204 in the Riverside neighborhood, agrees with Corrigan, saying the recent influx of millennials continues to affect his family’s vegan café on multiple fronts.
“Since we opened in 2014, revenue has doubled as millennials have moved to the area,” says Salvat, who relocated to Riverside in 2013 from Jacksonville Beach. “This growth has allowed my wife, Mariah, and I to expand our business space and target a variety of age groups.”
Though Salvat is excited to see Southern Roots grow, he admits there are challenges to serving younger clientele.
“It’s hard to keep up with all of the latest trends especially on social media,” Salvat says. “Millennials love to take pictures for platforms like Instagram, so we have to make sure our venue and menu items have the atheistic they’re looking for.”
Like Southern Roots, Hawkers has benefited from the rise of millennials in 32204. Manager Devin Campbell says the restaurant’s Riverside location has consistently outperformed its Neptune Beach counterpart.
“Our year-to-date sales are up 23 percent and a lot of that has to do with our popularity downtown,” says Campbell. “It has had the highest amount of food sales this year because of its close proximity to the younger downtown crowd.”
As millennials continue to shift the economic and cultural landscape of Jacksonville, their influence is expected to supplement projects by city officials who look to double Downtown’s population within the next few years.
Click here to read the Florida Times-Union story.