A first-of-its-kind, family-oriented venue featuring an outdoor food hall, unique children’s play area, live music from local artists and a spacious private dog park is in the works not far from St. Johns Town Center.
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The Block Jax is planned for the corner of Gate Parkway and Village Crossing Drive just a half-mile north of IKEA near JTB and Interstate 295.
Promising to be “pet-friendly and kid-approved,” the multi-faceted, $8.5 million venue spanning 2.5 acres will focus on “Food. Family. Fun.” as its motto promises, founder and owner Daniel Moffatt told the Times-Union.
“It’s something that Jacksonville needs. We have so much space here in Jacksonville but we don’t have an entertainment venue like this where families can come, kids can play, dogs can run and people can listen to live music. They can have a beer, they can eat dinner or lunch and hang out with friends for a whole day,” Moffatt said.
Moffatt said they hope to begin construction soon and are shooting to open in the fourth quarter of 2024.
‘Going all in’
“What I want is, I want people to get together and I want people to be able to socialize rather than just going out and staring at their phones or, you know, not doing the whole social interaction thing,” he said.
The Block Jax will be unlike any other Northeast Florida venue, said Moffatt, the entrepreneur who established Kanine Social, 580 College St. in historic Brooklyn near downtown Jacksonville.
Opened in August 2018, Kanine Social was Jacksonville’s first one-stop dog park, daycare and boarding facility that also had a bar where pet owners could kick back with a craft beer, coffee or other beverages while pups played, were bathed and groomed or just socialized with their doggie pals.
The idea for The Block Jax took root and evolved as their clientele changed. Moffatt and his wife, Megan, who have three children under 6 years old, changed their focus and also noticed the focus of many customers changed, too.
“We noticed customers who came out with their dogs all the time then they ended up having kids and were looking for different places to go and different activities to do,” he said. “We knew we wanted to expand Kanine Social, and with that expansion, we decided to add a little bit more.”
The Block Jax is designed to be a “bigger social experience intended to offer something for everybody,” he said.
The original Kanine Social will remain open. The new one at The Block Jax will be about a 4,500-square-foot building for daycare and boarding.
There’s another 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of fenced-in outdoor space for dogs to play. The rest of The Block Jax is about 20,000 to 30,000 square feet including a 10,000-square-foot covered pavilion and 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot Kids on the Block play area and open space and walking area for people to hang out. Finally, there will be about 127 parking spaces, he said.
“We’re going all in,” said Moffatt, noting they looked at about 10 to 12 similar complexes nationwide, including Tampa, Orlando and Greenville, S.C., as they planned The Block Jax.
Outdoor food hall ‘pods’
Eight food vendors including an ice cream concept are planned for the food hall inside a covered pavilion, he said.
The Bearded Pig is among the local restaurants planning to open in one of the food hall “pods” — shipping container-style storefronts.
Barbecue co-owner Chad Munsey said they plan to open The Bearded Piglet at The Block Jax. The new restaurant will offer a “scaled down” menu featuring some of the most popular offerings found at the two main Bearded Pig locations: 1808 Kings Ave. in San Marco and 1700 Third St. S. in Jacksonville Beach.
“It will allow us to expand our brand but do it on a much smaller basis. … It gives us an opportunity to get into that market without having to do a full restaurant, and find out if it’s a viable market for us on a long-term basis,” Munsey said.
They’ll smoke the meats at their Jacksonville Beach restaurant and bring it to the Piglet every morning, he said.
“Pulled pork will be on the menu no doubt. … We don’t know yet if we’ll have ribs. We might just keep it simple with turkey, pulled pork and sausage,” Munsey said. “We believe in the concept and love the idea. But it [the menu] depends on the size of the kitchen out there.”
Moffatt said the Bread & Board, based at the VyStar Credit Union campus on West Bay Street downtown, is interested in offering a new concept at The Block Jax. However, the concept hasn’t been finalized.
The Bread & Board family of restaurants currently includes the Bread & Burger offering gourmet burgers, fries and milkshakes, as well as Estrella Cocina. The Bread & Burger operates in a shipping container-style building in the breezeway at the VyStar campus. Estrella Cocina is on the rooftop of the building which also includes Bread & Board and its Provisions Market on the ground floor.
Moffat said San Marco Chz Fry Co. food truck, which features loaded French fries, will be able to do an expanded menu with a permanent location at The Block Jax. It currently has a spot at Kanine Social, he said.
Canopy Road Cafe is planning a breakfast sandwich concept. And 1928 Cuban Bistro plans to open a similar but smaller version of its six existing Jacksonville-area restaurants, Moffatt said.
In addition, adult beverages such as craft beer and wine will be available.
Other amenities will include a 30-foot LED screen to watch sports, including college and NFL football, as well as movies. Karaoke and stand-up comedy acts also are planned, according to The Block Jax website.
‘Kids on the Block play area’
Adjacent but separate from the dog park, the Kids on the Block Play Area will be “a little bit different” from a traditional playground, he said.
“We’re going to have these big hills that kids can climb up, roll and slide down. And there are tunnels through them. We’re going to have life-size Candyland and Chutes and Ladders,” he said.
Moffatt expects The Block Jax will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily but those hours may change depending on special events. Admission to the complex will be free. However, Kanine Social will be for members only, he said.
Teresa Stepzinski is the dining reporter for the Times-Union. Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, @TeresaStepz or reach her via email at [email protected].
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