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Hillwood working with ‘Project Big Box’

By Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

Trader Joe’s didn’t choose AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center for its Southeast distribution center, but developer Hillwood Investment Properties ended the year by dealing with at least three other significant, although unidentified, projects at the city-owned Westside business and industrial park.

In its fourth-quarter report Friday to the city, covering Oct. 1-Dec. 31, Dallas-based Hillwood provided a two-page marketing and development list. Hillwood had 150 days to provide the report to the city, which was Friday.

The three projects involve:

• “Project Big Box” is described as an undisclosed prospect. Hillwood said it prepared and delivered to the city a conceptual site plan for the project consisting of two separate distribution-center buildings, each about 1 million square feet in size.

The city didn’t immediately provide the conceptual plan to the Daily Record.

It’s unclear whether “Project Big Box” is related to the unidentified project designed on the mega-site at Cecil Commerce Center, a former naval air station in West Jacksonville south of Interstate 10. The center stretches south to Normandy Boulevard and below.

The jaxcecilcommercecenter.com website features a plan of the top half of the mega-site, a high-profile location bordering I-10, that shows two 2 million-square-foot manufacturing facilities and a future rail spur, with a rail product support yard between the buildings, along with a headquarters office building and a training facility. No name or type of industry is referenced.

That project isn’t as clearly outlined on the hillwoodinvestmentproperties.com site.

• Hillwood said representatives “continued our discussions with a confidential project for an e-commerce distribution center of approximately 1,000,000 sf.

“We believe this requirement to not be a near-term requirement, but we remain engaged with the client on a regular basis in case their timing changes,” Hillwood said, emphasizing the word “not” by italicizing and underlining it.

The confidential project could be Amazon.com, although Hillwood did not identify it. However, Hillwood has referred to the confidential e-commerce center in previous reports to the city before the Internet retailer confirmed in October it would open two Florida fulfillment centers in Hillsborough County and Polk County, with each topping 1 million square feet of space. Both locations offered incentives.

The two locations were considered front-runners for months before the announcement. Jacksonville did not officially bid for one of the centers, but city Office of Economic Development Executive Director Ted Carter said in July that “if there’s a second round, we want to be a part of it.”

Amazon.com has been opening 1 million-square-foot fulfillment centers nationwide to speed up delivery times to customers. Jacksonville’s location makes it convenient to north and west Florida as well as south Georgia.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Seattle-based Amazon.com intends to open its 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse in southeastern Hillsborough County by the end of the year and was raising its hiring projections for the facility from 1,100 to about 2,500, including seasonal hires.

• Hillwood received and responded to an initial inquiry from an undisclosed hotel developer interested in building a 150-room hotel. No other details were provided.

As for Trader Joe’s, Hillwood reported that it received word in early November that “Project Alpha,” a code name for the Trader Joe’s distribution center, eliminated Jacksonville from its list of prospective locations.

“Their transportation studies determined that the ideal location should be further south in Florida,” Hillwood reported.

Trader Joe’s chose a site in Daytona Beach. The Monrovia, Calif.-based company negotiated incentives to develop the 76-acre project, with a first phase of 631,520 square feet and a later expansion of 178,275 to create 809,795 square feet of space. It intends to create 450 jobs.

Among other Hillwood activities at Cecil Commerce Center:

• Wetlands permits were received from the Army Corps of Engineers for the FedEx project site.

The city Building Inspection Division approved three construction permits for FedEx Ground Package System Inc., totaling $19.1 million, at Cecil Commerce Center for three buildings comprising 311,900 square feet of space. The architect is Randall-Paulson Architects Inc. of Roswell, Ga. FedEx has said it expects completion in summer 2015.

FedEx confirmed a year ago it would build the distribution center and transfer 180 employees from its 2480 Lane Ave. N. facility to the new, larger hub that will serve the Jacksonville area.

• Hillwood completed site work and building pad construction for the “Parcel A Speculative Building.” It hired the architect to create the permitting and bid documents for the completion of a 400,000-square-foot shell warehouse on the site, and submitted documents for permitting in early December. The general contractor put the work out for bid and numbers were due back in January with a target notice to proceed in February.

Hillwood said the site work and building-pad construction was completed prior to the contractual benchmark completion date with the city.

The Daily Record reported in December that Hillwood applied for a building permit that shows its first speculative building at Cecil Commerce Center carried a construction cost of almost $12.9 million. The Conlan Co. is the contractor and Fernando Andrade Architect of Dallas designed the 510,433-square-foot tilt panel warehouse on almost 41 acres between Normandy Boulevard and 103rd Street.

The initial plans for the building showed a 400,000-square-foot structure but civil engineer Prosser Hallock stated in a Dec. 2 submission to city reviewers that the “client has a need to revise the property boundary and building.”

The plans are for JCCC Parcel A – Phase I and previous drawings referred to it as “Project Z.”

As a speculative building, no tenant was identified. The permit calls for construction of the warehouse and completion of the site work for auto and truck parking.

The building is designed to be the first phase of a 1 million-square-foot structure.

• Hillwood monitored the status of open wetland permits for the “Parcel D Speculative Building.”

Hillwood concluded its two-page report by assessing “the steady market improvement displayed in Q3 has continued into Q4 and will continue into 2014.”

In addition, Hillwood reported it maintained and updated its website for AllianceFlorida and also updated the master plan and incentives fliers; promoted AllianceFlorida with industrial real estate brokers; and responded to general requests, as opposed to deal-specific requests, for information from prospects and their brokers.

It attached the fourth-quarter 2013 industrial market report from real estate company CBRE Inc. that led with the statement: “The Jacksonville industrial market ended 2013 with strong indicators of recovery.”

In 2009, Hillwood won a competitive bid to become the master developer of the 4,474-acre Cecil Commerce Center, which is part of the closed Naval Air Station Cecil Field.

Hillwood has a long-term contract with the city to develop up to 30 million square feet of industrial and retail space there.

kmathis@baileypub.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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