St. Johns Marketplace LLC wants to turn 283 acres of high-profile property at the northeast corner of Interstate 95 and Florida 207 into a commercial and residential "landing pad for businesses."
It's about 25 miles south of Downtown Jacksonville, close to the same distance as the 4,200-acre mixed-use development planned 20 miles north at I-95 and Florida A1A in Nassau County by a Rayonier Inc. subsidiary.
In St. Johns County, property owner St. Johns Marketplace, led by John Alexon of Ponte Vedra Beach, proposes turning the undeveloped land into 500,000 square feet of commercial space, 500,000 square feet of light industrial space, 500 hotel rooms and about 300 residential units, of which 250 would be multifamily. It also reserves the right to build an adult congregate living facility.
"The property and adjacent parcels will serve as landing pads for businesses that need to locate along major arterial roads, with easy access to Interstate 95," says a St. Johns County project overview.
It also will provide housing for residents who work in businesses on the property and "is uniquely positioned to serve the needs of both residents and tourists who visit the Ancient City" of St. Augustine.
The land is used primarily for agricultural and related purposes.
"From the county's perspective, it is important to diversify our tax base by increasing the number of our commercial accounts. It is equally as important to grow our employment base in an effort to provide new jobs for our residents," said Melissa Glasgow, St. Johns County director of economic development.
"A healthy business and commerce park accomplishes those goals, while perhaps providing more flexibility for a developer to attract and finance synergistic projects. When fully developed, it certainly has the potential to make a very positive economic impact for the county," she said.
St. Johns County Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson said the plan amendment replaces approved residential units on the site with the commerce designation, "which is so well suited for business."
"This is a great site for businesses to locate with frontage on I-95 and rail access," she said.
I-95 borders the west property line and Florida East Coast Railway owns a feeder line to the northwest of the site, according to a project overview.
Details are outlined in a St. Johns County Comprehensive Plan Text Amendment that was sent last Wednesday to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for expedited review.
The St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency and St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners held public hearings and both voted unanimously to forward the amendment. The commission's vote was Sept. 3.
It amends the property to "business and commerce park and mixed use," a land use designation created to promote economic development. The county expects the hearing to adopt the amendment in December or January. It is the first time the designation has been used in St. Johns County.
Alexon said he would comment later. The location is probably best recognized for the flea market on part of the site.
In a previous filing, St. Johns Marketplace has been pursuing regulatory reviews for an expansion of its flea market property that could include commercial and residential properties and a waterfront retail open-air market.
St. Johns Interstate LLC is asking for a 20-year permit from the St. Johns River Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to combine the existing 80-acre flea-market property with the 280-acre Old Field Subdivision, the property involved with the amendment.
The project area includes more than 124 acres of wetlands.
"The proposed project would result in a waterfront retail open air market and several commercial and/or residential parcels," says the permit application's environmental narrative filed with the water management district.
Of the combined 360 acres, the southern portion is used by The St. Augustine Flea Market and St. Augustine's Marketplace, and the northern portion is described as a recently harvested pine plantation.
For both filings, the property owner and applicant is St. Johns Interstate LLC of Ponte Vedra Beach. The agent is Carter Environmental Services Inc. of St. Augustine. The consultant is Matthews Design Group Inc. of St. Augustine.
The existing marketplace comprises the flea market, a farmer's market, an RV park and outdoor storage, according to the staugustinefleamarket.com site.
The site has potential for a commercial storefront "as well as a transportation/distribution hub" given its location near I-95, it says.
The narrative says the wetland impacts would be managed based on needs. "All prudent and necessary steps will be taken during construction, and for the duration of the project, to ensure that no adverse impacts to water quality will occur," it says.
St. Johns and Nassau county officials want to create jobs within their borders, which keeps residents closer to home rather than commuting to Duval County. Jacksonville has been the area's dominant job center.
In Nassau County, Rayonier subsidiary TerraPointe LLC wants to break ground as soon as possible on what it calls the "East Nassau Employment Center," which is designated for 7.1 million square feet of office, commercial, medical and industrial as well as 4,038 residential units.
Steve Rieck, executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board, told the Daily Record the center had the same regional potential as Jacksonville's commercial employment areas.
"It will become Nassau County's 'Town Center' at some point," he said, comparing it to the St. Johns Town Center that has become Jacksonville's retail focal point at Butler Boulevard and the Interstate 295 East Beltway.
Another high-profile Northeast Florida site is targeted for major economic development, this one with more than 1 million square feet of commercial and industrial uses along Interstate 95 in St. Johns County.