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A site plan for the 1 million-square-foot distribution center planned in Cecil Commerce Center.

Cecil Commerce Center is targeted for 1,200-job Project Velo; similar to Amazon.com

By Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

In a project reminiscent of the recently announced Amazon.com center, a company identified only as Project Velo is considering AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center for a 1,200 job, 1 million-square-foot product distribution center.

Of those jobs, 325 jobs would pay an annual average salary of $50,675. All of the jobs would be created by Dec. 31, 2019, according to city legislation filed Wednesday.

The company requests incentives of almost $8.3 million, comprising nearly $7.1 million from the city and $1.2 million from the state.

While there is no name attached, the company is described as “one of the leaders in the product distribution marketplace.”

It is considering Cecil as a distribution hub for its “diverse array of products” and plans to make a final decision this year whether it will select the site for one of its distribution centers.

It anticipates an estimated capital investment of about $115 million in equipment, furniture, land and real estate improvements.

The bill, 2016-654, would be fast-tracked. It is scheduled to be introduced Tuesday. The bill would then be heard Oct. 5 by the City Council Finance Committee and, if approved, move for a full council vote Oct. 11.

The city would provide a $6.7 million Recapture Enhanced Value grant, a $200,000 training grant and a Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund of $195,000 for the 325 jobs.

The state would pay for the 80 percent QTI match of $780,000 and a $420,000 training grant.

According to the summary, the Cecil Commerce Center location will make jobs accessible to residents in some of Jacksonville’s high unemployment areas.

The city-owned business park is in West Jacksonville, south of Interstate 10 at Cecil Commerce Center Parkway and Normandy Boulevard.

Project Velo has been winding through public records, but hasn’t been identified.

Cecil Commerce Center master developer Hillwood Investment Properties reported in June that during the first quarter, it had drawn up a layout for a facility of 850,000 square feet that could be expanded to 1 million square feet.

It was responding to a request for proposals from a broker representing a prospect. It included hard cost estimates.

Hillwood Senior Vice President Dan Tatsch, who declined comment Wednesday, said previously a distribution center of that nature would be significant to the market, but would not identify the prospect.

Since then, Dallas-based Hillwood filed applications that outlined a 1,000-job, around-the-clock regional package facility for a national company. It would need 1,159 parking spaces for office and warehouse employees as well as truck and van drivers.

More employees would be needed on a seasonal basis.

The more than 1 million-square-foot facility, at 13333 103rd St., would include 40,000 square feet of office space. Hillwood wants to buy the 86-acre site for the project by mid-October.

The legislation filed Wednesday said if the project moves forward, Hillwood would buy the property from the city for $8,819 an acre, or more than $758,000.

The site, known as Parcel C, is described as wooded and one that will require a large amount of infrastructure and fill material to accommodate the proposed facility.

Velo’s descriptions sound similar to Project Rex, Amazon.com’s code name on legislation adopted in April.

If approved, the deal would be the second huge distribution center adopted by council in six months.

In fact, the two deals are similar in many ways and raise the question whether Project Velo is a second Amazon.com center. The Seattle-based e-commerce retailer is opening a 1,500-job fulfillment center in North Jacksonville in time for the 2017 holiday shipping season.

It’s not unusual for Amazon.com to open second centers in the same cities. Amazon.com has not responded to a request for comment.

The North Jacksonville Amazon.com center, at 12900 Pecan Park Road just off of Interstate 295, will pick, pack and ship smaller consumer goods, such as books and consumer electronics. It is about 23 miles north of the Cecil Commerce Center site.

In cities with more than one center, one typically handles those smaller items while a second packs and ships larger items, such as kayaks, furniture and TVs.

Amazon.com also operates smaller “last mile” sortation centers that sort sealed packages for shipment to local post offices for the final delivery to customers.

Compare the two projects:

Amazon.com is building a $200 million fulfillment center that will create 1,500 jobs, of which 500 would pay an average of $50,000. Project Velo is a $115 million product distribution center with 1,200 jobs, of which 325 would pay $50,000.

• The North Jacksonville city and state incentives totaled $18.4 million, including a $5.5 million road grant. The Cecil total is $8.3 million, without a road grant. Project Velo is 1 million square feet, while Amazon.com is a footprint of 855,000 square feet but a total multilevel size of 2.4 million square feet.

• Both projects must create their jobs by year-end 2019. Both anticipate a high level of seasonal hiring.

• And both companies — Amazon.com and Project Velo — said the locations were among several under consideration for multiple centers. Amazon.com has been adding many centers this year, unlike other companies that might open one or a few at time.

After Amazon.com said in July it was opening the fulfillment center in Jacksonville, the city’s interest in more of the company’s functions immediately became clear.

JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot said then the city was encouraging Amazon.com to pursue more regional projects. “Our work with them is not finished,” he said.

Mallot and other economic developers said in July that Amazon.com has been a seven-year recruitment effort.

kmathis@jaxdailyrecord.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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