Thirty years ago the trip from St. Augustine to Jacksonville was an isolated drive through an uninhabited dense forested area. Today, the northwest sector of St. Johns County is in the midst of explosive growth. A report conducted a year ago ranked St. Johns County 15 on the list of fastest growing counties in the country.
Much of this growth is centered around master-planned communities like Shearwater, Nocatee, Rivertown, and Bannon Lakes. The permit numbers are staggering for these communities ranging from 850 homes for Bannon Lakes and extending to 12,000 for Nocatee.
These new super neighborhoods have become the poster child for today’s modern families that insist on amenities, good schools, outdoor recreation, and an interactive experience with their neighbors. Expect to find high-end fitness centers with cutting edge equipment, kayak clubs, bicycle paths, and tennis courts. Of course, the most elaborate features are pools, lagoons, and slides that often rival water-themed parks.
Some families may find the immensity of some of these neighborhoods overwhelming. Realtor K. Jennifer Cook said, “There is a lot of buzz about Markland recently due to the quality of construction and aesthetics of the community. It is a much smaller community than Nocatee and Palencia, which appeals to homebuyers looking for high-end amenities in a more intimate setting.” Another builder, AV Homes, has Stone Creek, a 44-home neighborhood for those not interested in HOA fees, yet looking for elegant wooded estate lot homes.
There is no shortage of big name builders jumping on the growth train in the county. Mattamy Homes has several projects in the works, which include Segovia Townhomes (220 units) and Reserve at Greenbriar (271 units) as well as the large 5000 home RiverTown.
Some of the larger developments have a variety of builders to choose from. For example, Shearwater’s builders include Lennar, Drees, and David Weekly, all of which offer different plans and pricing. Other neighborhoods include luxury developers such as Dream Finders Homes and Landon Homes.
The impetus for this remarkable growth surge stems from many factors. With the location of northwest St. Johns County right smack dab in the middle of Jacksonville and St. Augustine, it literally offers the best of both worlds. The growth of nearby Jacksonville offers an abundance of job opportunities while the charm of St. Augustine offers history, natural beaches, and authenticity.
Realtor Peggy Gachet said, “The northeast and northwest parts of the county are growing at a faster pace than others. Quality schools, family activities and proximity to jobs in Jacksonville drive the decisions for many families.”
Growth is exciting for communities for a plethora of reasons including business opportunities, entertainment choices, and the influx of unique grocers and retailers. On the flip side of that coin is loss of natural beauty, traffic concerns, and overcrowded schools.
Attention to infrastructure is key when an area reaches this height of development. Communities in the works and on the horizon have already permitted tens of thousands of home sites. It certainly presents a challenge to local building and zoning boards to ensure the county keeps in touch with preserving the elements that are driving the influx of families choosing to relocate to beautiful St. Johns County.