Crosswinds Communities is reaching for the sky. Well, so to speak. The Novi, Mich.–based builder and developer plans to erect three mixed-use condominium towers in Jacksonville, Fla. The 30-story project, called St. Johns Point, is Crosswinds' first sky-rise tower in Jacksonville—and its first in the Sunshine State.

The proposed development consists of nine multi-story buildings encompassing 122,421 square feet of office space, 117,270 square feet of commercial space, 980 residential units, and a parking deck, says Crosswinds' Florida division CEO Tirso San Jose.

What makes this high-rise stand out is its location. St. Johns Point is on prime waterfront property, within a stone's skip to Jacksonville's urban core.

This project is by far Crosswinds' most unique, step-outside-the-box endeavor by virtue of both location and product type. Although the builder has completed several low-rise condos in the Jacksonville market, it is best known for building and developing single-family homes, lofts, condos, townhomes, and commercial projects in markets such as Indiana, Illinois, Arizona, California, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

And sky-rise condo development isn't entirely new material for the builder either. In Miami, for instance, the builder is knee-deep in talks over a proposed high-rise condo development in an area known as Overtown, considered to be one the nation's poorest regions. Crosswinds' mixed-use project would offer more than 1,000 residential units, including a portion set aside for affordable housing, all within multi-story buildings. Retail and office space also is planned, but the details are sketchy as the builder is still going through the negotiation process. However, Crosswinds officials say they are pushing forward with the project.

OPEN SKYLINE: For Crosswinds, Jacksonville, Fla., is ripe for residential high-rise development. SO WHY JACKSONVILLE? The answer lies in the demand for location, location, location. For Crosswinds, Jacksonville seems to be the next sure thing for urban high-rise condo living.

“There is always a need and a desire for waterfront living, and Jacksonville seems to be one of the prime places right now and will be for years to come,” says Lauren Rainone, marketing and sales manager for Crosswinds' Florida division. She cites the Sunshine State's Top 10 ranking in terms of population growth by state, and she notes there's a growing number of retirees settling in the area.

While Miami offers a sea of high-rise condos, Jacksonville's less developed skyline seems to be a ripe target for such a product. In the mid-1990s, building low-rise condos in the city was the hot ticket. But within the past couple of years, more high-rise towers began popping up over the city's urban landscape.

Builders such as WCI Communities have already taken notice. The Bonita Springs, Fla.–based builder's 13-story luxury ocean-front condo—Costa Verano—in Jacksonville Beach, fared well among city residents. WCI's condo section sold out quickly in 2004, and now the builder is selling its town-home residences at Costa Verano.

It's no surprise high-rise condos are sprouting up in Jacksonville. The city is teeming with diversity, with a young, hip, urban demographic as well as a strong retiree set. According to the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the city's median age is 36.2. About 15.1 percent of the population is between the ages of 35 and 44, while 13 percent is between the ages of 25 and 34 and about 10.5 percent is in the 55 to 64 age range. The maintenance-free, downtown lifestyle that high-rise projects offer appeals to both groups.

Add to that, Jacksonville's surging job growth. The city's employment spurt increased in pace. About 50 percent of the city's population growth comes from people migrating to Jacksonville to take advantage of employment opportunities, according to the city's chamber of commerce. The city's unemployment rate was at 4.2 percent in 2004.

SO WHAT NOW? While Crosswinds takes on its upcoming high-rise development in Jacksonville, look for the builder to seek more opportunities to build this type of product, especially with land prices soaring and land availability dwindling.

Other builders are keeping pace and keeping their eyes peeled for high-density opportunities. National player KB Home launched a special division to focus on high-density and urban mixed-use developments—aptly called KB Urban. Toll Brothers also has created an urban division.