By: Phillip Heilman
When we announced our plans to move the VyStar Credit Union headquarters to downtown Jacksonville just over two years ago, our ambition had two main pillars. In addition to increasing the overall visibility of the organization by putting our name across the skyline, we also made a commitment to be a leader in the improvement of the city’s core by infusing people, energy and aspiration into the neighborhood.
We continue to make great strides in the first part of that endeavor. Drive across the Main Street bridge in the evening and it’s impossible to miss our electric blue lights. From San Marco to Riverside to Springfield, the glow of our building and the VyStar name stands out along the St. Johns River. Combine that with our state-of-the-art branch located on the first floor of the VyStar Tower, as well as the forthcoming addition of food and retail options at our 100 West Bay building, and we are pleased with how we have reintroduced ourselves to the downtown community.
The second part of that endeavor — our commitment to being a community leader — is also making progress, as seen by the recently released State of Downtown report from Downtown Vision. Downtown Jacksonville has 2,387 businesses with 56,000 employees and a total of 7.5 million square feet of commercial office space. As of the first quarter of 2020, downtown’s 14.2% vacancy rate was its lowest in more than a decade, according to Downtown Vision. For comparison, the vacancy rate in downtown Jacksonville hovered near 25% in 2010 and was close to 20% just five years ago.
A lower vacancy rate means we are making good use of our beautiful architecture and seeing a decrease in blight while also welcoming new minds to our area. VyStar is available to help our local entrepreneurs start new businesses and grow existing ones with a variety of competitive business loans and solutions.
Similarly, more people are opting to live downtown as the neighborhood improves. In one year, the number of downtown residents increased 18% to more than 6,100, and the number of multifamily residential units increased 20% to more than 3,800, the report showed. This sort of growth allows VyStar to carry out our vision of bringing credit union services to more people through programs such as VyStar@Work, our High School Branch Program and more. (Shameless plug: We are excited to open our 17th high school branch later this year at Bradford High School.)
We are pleased to see so many new faces in the community. Whether you are renting or owning a home, VyStar can help you protect your home and everything under your roof with one of our high-quality insurance packages.
Lastly, downtown Jacksonville had more than 20 million visits in 2019 as people came to see many of our local gems. We are proud of our partnerships with several of these institutions, such as the Museum of Science & History, and remain committed to providing opportunities for enrichment for locals and visitors alike through our work with organizations such as the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.
These are important signals of growth and together they reinforce our belief that a thriving downtown will improve other aspects of Jacksonville, where many of our members and employees live and work. VyStar is proud to be part of downtown Jacksonville’s development and we are excited for more successes to come.
The information in this blog consists of the opinions and ideas of the author alone and should be used for informational purposes only. VyStar Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.