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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, May 9, 201806:12 PM EST

1,000 acres near St. Johns Town Center proposed for development

Property is the last large tract of undeveloped land owned by the Skinner family.

From St. Johns Town Center, look to the southeast across Butler Boulevard and Interstate 295.

That’s where the Skinner family intends to sell another 1,000 acres of timberland for development for shopping, working and living.

The Skinner family also sold the land that became the St. Johns Town Center regional shopping destination.

A. Chester “Chip” Skinner III

“We are optimistic that a plan like this will create something in Jacksonville that it hasn’t really experienced yet, something that is little more urban in a suburban area,” said A. Chester “Chip” Skinner III, who represents the family members who own the property.

It’s also the last large undeveloped Duval County property site that remains of the Skinner family’s original 50,000 acres from the early 1900s. The rest has been sold and developed.

“This is our last large holding in the area. We are trying to cast a vision and hopefully get some parties that buy into that vision that we can bring into the property to develop it,” Skinner said.

They envision mixed-use retail, office and multifamily.

A conceptual site plan by the England-Thims & Miller civil engineering firm shows an employment center, retail and mixed-use, a mixed-use village and residential.

It also shows a central “Skinner Park.”

Through Sawmill Timber LLC, the Skinners submitted the “Southeast Quadrant Mass Grading Plan” to the St. Johns River Water Management District on Tuesday for 1,065.3 acres at southeast Butler Boulevard and Interstate 295.

The address is 5101 Kernan Blvd.

A phasing plan filed with that application shows:

• A 245-acre Town Center Planning Area at the north central part of the site.  That will include office space.

• A 128-acre North Merchant Planning Area. Drawings show three potential major anchors and other retail buildings.

• A 60-acre South Merchant Planning Area.

• A 276-acre Single Family North property.

• A 133-acre Single Family South property.

• A 25-acre Ryals Village at the northeast corner of the site.

• An almost 141-acre conservation easement with Gum Swamp, along with a 33-acre compensatory flood storage area and other stormwater facilities, buffer and mitigation facilities.

• An 11-acre south access.

Plan extends Kernan

Plans show that Kernan Boulevard, which dead-ends at the property, will be extended to connect to Gate Parkway to the south.

That’s actually the impetus for the development.

Skinner said the family’s Transportation Management Area agreement with the city requires it to connect Kernan Boulevard and Gate Parkway by 2023, which is in five years.

“We felt like it was appropriate to start working on the permits because it is a lengthy process,” Skinner said. Applications to the Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers require a site plan.

The road system opens the property for development.

“We created what we think may be a potential site plan for the property,” Skinner said, but emphasized that the family has no development partners or schedules.

“We are really just in the permitting process,” he said.

The Skinner property available for development is southeast of Butler Boulevard and Interstate 295. Kernan Boulevard can be seen dead-ending into the property. To the northwest is St. Johns Town Center.

Plans filed 13 years ago

The development is not a surprise.

City Council enacted an ordinance in 2005 to rezone 1,068 acres there for “a variety of uses including, office, commercial single-family, multi-family, and a high-school site.”

The application to rezone the property provided site development data showing acreage for commercial, office and institutional uses; multifamily use such as condominiums, townhomes and apartments;  and single-family development.

Skinner said the family will seek to modify the Planned Unit Development, but not increase densities or impacts.

One change is that the 2005 PUD called for a high school. Because of the 2007-09 recession and its lingering effects, the property was not developed and the school instead was built nearby as Atlantic Coast High School at 9735 R.G. Skinner Parkway.

The plans submitted this week were prepared for Sawmill Timber LLC, comprising members of the Skinner family.

The project will include filling wetland areas, the construction of two roadways with wetland crossings, 22 stormwater management facilities, and the clearing and mass grading of the remaining upland area.

Chip Skinner is listed as the applicant and landowner.

Consultants are England-Thims & Miller and the Peacock Consulting Group LLC environmental firm. The Rogers Towers law firm represents the Skinners on land approvals.

“We hope to have our permits this year,” Skinner said. Design and permitting the Transportation Management Area road is a yearlong process, he said.

The agreement allows the Skinners to develop half of the property before completing the road, he said.

He can’t quote a time frame for development, leaving that to “interested parties” who are talking with the Skinners about possibly developing there. He declined to identify them.

Access to the site will be via Kernan Boulevard and Gate Parkway. Skinner said the Florida Department of Transportation plans to improve the Kernan interchange as part of the I-295 work program.

The department said the Kernan Boulevard ramps, except  the westbound Butler Boulevard ramp, will see additional 12-foot lanes constructed as part of the I-295 Express Lanes project between Florida 9B and Butler.

Skinner said the family has agreed to donate about 7 acres for construction of a northbound loop off Butler Boulevard.

Those who buy the property for development likely will be responsible for some of the infrastructure improvements, Skinner said.

The conceptual and phasing plans show internal roads connecting the project elements.

District 11 City Council representative Danny Becton

A year in progress

District 11 City Council representative Danny Becton said Wednesday he has been working with Skinner for at least a year and welcomes the road construction.

“That road is a very important piece of that TMA,” Becton said.

Becton said that construction impacts on I-295 have driven traffic to use Gate Parkway as a cut-through.

He said the extension to Kernan will be “a critical component to helping traffic flow better.”

Becton said construction of Class A office space is needed considering that three office buildings in development along Gate Parkway all are committed to anchor tenants.

“It seems like we do have a lack of Class A office space. I would suspect that anything like that would definitely go fast,” he said.

Becton said Jacksonville continues to attract jobs. “We want a place for people to start companies and expand their companies,” he said.

Skinner cabin land is part of the sale

With the site being the last large piece of the family holdings to be developed, Skinner said it “absolutely” induces nostalgia.

His great-grandfather bought the 50,000 acres in the early 1900s. The land was divided among generations of family members since then.

“It’s really the last holding of any of the last remaining of the Skinner family of the original tract. Everything else has been sold or developed,” he said.

Nine members of his generation own the Sawmill Timber tract, he said.

About 175 Skinner family members gather each Thanksgiving at a cabin on the property. There might be more reunions there, depending on when that piece is sold.

The decision elicits mixed emotions, he said.

“We feel like you can’t stop growth and we’ve been very blessed with what we’ve been given and the work that’s been done in the generations before us,” Skinner said.

Editorial Research Director Scott Sailer contributed to this report.

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