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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 3, 201412:00 PM EST

Florida 9B project is another milestone for Davis family


The Davis family — which brought the community the Nocatee development, land for Mayo Clinic Florida, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. and the allure of its private Dee Dot Ranch — is creating another signature project.

Jed Davis, the son of A. Dano Davis and grandson of J.E. Davis, who both chaired Winn-Dixie, is leading efforts to turn almost 1,700 acres in Southside into an employment center whose jobs will help create demand for housing and retail within the property.

“We as a family try to be good citizens of Jacksonville,” Davis said last week at The PARC Group’s offices near Mayo Clinic. Davis, 36, is vice president of Estuary Corp., Estuary LLC and D.D.I. Inc., all Davis-family entities involved in the management and development of the family’s holdings.

The new project, called the “Davis/9B Parcel” as a prelude to a formal name, is east of the Interstate 295 East Beltway and on both sides of Florida 9B for about half its length toward where it ends at Philips Highway. It is south of where R.G. Skinner Parkway ends at Atlantic Coast High School.

It’s part of the 42,000 acres the Davises own. That total includes the 14,000-acre Nocatee project, which is primarily in St. Johns County with some land in Duval County, designed for neighborhoods, shopping, schools and recreation, and the 25,000-acre Dee Dot Ranch, which is east of the 9B property and north of Nocatee.

Among other Davis land was the property donated to bring the Mayo Clinic to town. Family patriarch J.E. Davis, pleased with the care he received at Mayo in Minnesota, led the recruitment to bring the clinic to Jacksonville, providing property along San Pablo Road near Butler Boulevard. The clinic opened in 1986 and has been expanding since.

Focus on jobs

The Davis/9B land doesn’t have a formal name yet, but it does have a focus.

“It’s all about the jobs,” said Roger O’Steen, chairman of The PARC Group and a master developer for Davis lands, including Nocatee.

The Davis/9B property is 1,684 acres, of which 839 acres is usable. Of that, 241 acres will be available for about 2 million square feet of commercial, industrial, office and retail development.

The commerce center sites are south of the I-295 and Florida 9B split. The commercial sites are east of 9B and between 9B and I-295. There is land for light-industrial purposes in the “crook” of I-295 and 9B.

Davis said the land provides “a blank slate” to plan and that the property could be attractive for companies already in Jacksonville and those from outside who want large sites for office campuses. Some already are taking a strong look.

Davis said he has had conversations with end users, referring to office projects. He said he has spoken with real estate brokers who represent companies seeking a location.

He said there was one office-campus prospect in particular, but he could not provide its identity because of a confidentiality agreement.

It’s not clear when the prospect would need a site, but Davis wants to be prepared.

“We are aware of the need to have sites that are shovel-ready to attract corporate office users and warehouse distribution. As a result, we have made the commitment to build infrastructure now to have these sites ready in the future,” Davis said.

The Davis family plans to start the development from the southern end with the employment centers. To do so, the Davises are funding construction of an interchange at Florida 9B into the eastern and western portions of the property. Superior Construction is the contractor.

Construction began several weeks ago and should be completed by year-end. That means the first job center, and possibly the confidential project, could be in place by the end of 2015.

Davis said he considers the site an option for companies that prefer a suburban location, and he doesn’t see it as competing with Downtown.

“I’m a big Downtown advocate too,” he said, adding that he is part of the JAXUSA Partnership, the JAX Chamber’s economic-development division. The chamber has been focusing on improving Downtown’s corporate growth.

Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership, said the Davis property presents choices. “Our growth, combined with little new development for a decade, has reduced our options for sites,” he said, referring to available suburban and Downtown properties.

He said the Davis project comes at a good time because commercial and industrial properties north and south of it are becoming increasingly developed.

Mallot said the Butler Boulevard commercial corridor, which is north of Davis/9B, and Flagler Center, a commercial and industrial project at Philips Highway and Old St. Augustine Road south of Davis/9B, both are well developed.

“There is plenty of additional growth at these two locations, but by the time the new Davis property is developed it will present the first major new development option for office space in some time,” Mallot said.

He said the location also can tap into the labor market in southern Duval and northern St. Johns counties.

It’s all in the timing

Working with Jacksonville land-use lawyer Paul Harden, the Davis/9B acreage is undergoing land-use changes to designate different parcels for commercial, light industrial and low-density residential uses. Harden explained that City Council approved eight ordinances proposing large-scale revisions to the future land-use map series of the 2030 comprehensive plan.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity will review the proposed revisions. After that, some properties will need zoning designations. The process could take several months, but the land then will be in place for development.

“This is long-term thinking,” O’Steen said.

O’Steen, Davis and Harden said the genesis of the project was at least 20 years ago. The Davis family agreed to donate right of way to the Florida Department of Transportation for Florida 9A, which has become the I-295 East Beltway.

The department also bought a long strip of conservation acreage from the Davises west of the beltway just north of 9B.

The interchange being developed by the Davises was first envisioned along 9A but was moved south to 9B.

Development will begin at the interchange and then continue north up through the property along the collector road, referred to as the “E-Town Parkway,” which will be built as needed.

There’s no timetable for development other than responding to users, O’Steen said.

Because the Davises own the land, there’s no pressure other than user demands.

O’Steen said while the market is unpredictable, the entire project could take 10-20 years.

Housing follows jobs

Employees need housing, so property north of the commercial sites is designated for residential development. O’Steen said from 1,200 to 1,500 home sites are being considered, with most of them expected to support the jobs generated by the economic development.

That includes the Cypress Bluff project under review by the St. Johns River Water Management District. That 342-acre site is shown as a 569-lot residential community. It includes about 0.6-mile of the four-lane divided E-Town Parkway with a two-lane roundabout.

Another residential community, called Monterey Pines, is in the long-term plan. Apartments are allowed in some of the commercial areas.

There also is acreage for future development, as well as a small site at the northern edge near the Atlantic Coast High School that could be used for an assisted-living or child care center.

Davis said the long-term plan is to build the infrastructure, position the land use and then respond to the needs of the market. “There’s a strong desire to this right,” he said.

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