If you’ve ever driven through Jacksonville Beach in the area around 5th Avenue to 9th Avenue, you may have noticed something weird happening.
Whereas most of the beachfront town’s streets are on a grid system aligned with the coast – and key roadway A1A – this small stretch suddenly shifts to instead aligning with “true north,” resulting in winding roadways, dead ends, and strange street name designations like Upper and Lower 8th Avenue.
You can sense that something is off when driving through, but the difference becomes much clearer when viewing it on a map.
So what happened here? Which came first, the “true north” section or the grid aligned with the coast?
As it turns out, the bizarre-o section of the grid was developed after most of the coastal grid system – specifically, historical maps of the area indicate that it was developed sometime in the 1940s. After that, the southern part of the town filled in around it and stuck to the original grid.
But why the choice to go against the grain, or in this case, the grid? That much is hard to say. Part of it may have been the shape of the parcel of land, which could have been divided up long before any roads were developed in the area. When the property was sold for development, the way to best utilize the entirety of the land was to go “off the grid.”
The property is now densely packed with single-family residences, so this explanation seems quite plausible. Shifting the roadways likely helped the developer add at least a few more houses than the original grid may have allowed.
To city planners it may seem like a bit of a nightmare, but for Jax Beach residents it’s just another of the town’s local quirks.