Orange Park-based GEM Products Inc. started initial work this week on its more than $10 million headquarters, showroom and warehouse operation in Flagler Center.
“It is in my opinion the best location in town for a business like us,” said Matthew Bridgewater, president and CEO.
The company calls itself one of the world’s leading stainless-steel marine and boat hardware suppliers. Catalog items include outriggers, hinges, plumbing, deck hardware, rod holders and steering wheels.
Being at Flagler Center at Interstate 95 and Old St. Augustine Road, customers can access GEM Products at the exit “to come by to shop,” he said. It also is near I-295.
Bridgewater said a number of customers haul their boats to Florida to fish.
GEM Products primarily sells directly to boat builders and manufacturers, but it also has a retail business, “which is anyone with a boat,” Bridgewater said.
He also sees owners of older boats outfitting them with new hardware. “We are starting to see that trend growing quickly in the boat business,” he said.
GEM Products applied to the city for site clearing and a building permit for the 38,400-square-foot office-warehouse at 12770 Flagler Center Blvd.
It is the first of two phases that will total about 71,000 square feet on 5.36 acres.
Plans for the Flagler Center project show 15,818 square feet for business use and 22,582 square feet of warehouse space.
Bridgewater declined to say how many employees GEM has, although the plans indicate at least 30 and likely more.
Plans show the business space includes the president’s office, at least 27 more offices, collaboration areas, an engineering lab, a quality control lab area, an outrigger assembly area, conference and collaboration and staff areas, and other functions.
Bridgewater said the R&D business unit is a critical component because it allows engineers to develop their ideas with advanced 3-D printing technologies.
Another reason for the location, he said, is that many of the employees live east of the St. Johns River, which makes the Flagler Center location convenient.
GEM Products filed plans with the city in November for an almost 71,000-square-foot office-warehouse to be built in two phases on 5.36 acres at Flagler Center Boulevard and Corklan Drive.
A second phase would be 32,167 square feet of office and warehouse space.
Through EmBee Industries LLC, GEM’s owners took out a $6 million construction mortgage from Compass Bank.
D.W. Meyers Constructors Inc. is the contractor for the $5.5 million construction project. Rolland, DelValle & Bradley is the architect, and England-Thims & Miller Inc. is the civil engineer.
Craig Meek with The Meek Companies is the project manager and was the real estate broker for GEM.
Bridgewater said the team has been working on the project for 18 months to create the desired facility.
EmBee bought the property in November for almost $1.7 million and took out a $1.1 million loan from Compass Bank.
Bridgewater expects to move into the new operation by the end of February if not sooner. He said the corporate offices, research and development, retail and warehouse-distribution functions are designed for the emerging workforce and customers.
“It’s a much better working environment for all of our employees and all of our customers,” he said, such as being completely air-conditioned.
Bridgewater said open space, wider hallways, natural lighting and collaborative areas were designed “for the next generation.”
Bridgewater said GEM Products had run out of space at 140 Industrial Loop in Orange Park. He will keep both operations running for a while and then transition to the new facility.
He intends to lease or sell the Orange Park property. GEM Products owns a 20,846-square-foot metal building constructed in 1984 and a 3,900-square-foot building developed in 1999 on 1.33 acres, according to the Clay County Property Appraiser.
The privately held company was founded in 1961 and says on its gemlux.com site that it has grown into one of the world’s leading stainless steel marine and boat hardware suppliers.
It is privately owned and holds numerous U.S., European Union and Asia Pacific patents for its innovation in recent years, it says. Current ownership has been in place since 1980.
The site says it created the proprietary GEMLUX Electropolishing process, which provides a mirror-like and corrosion-resistant finish on stainless steel.
Bridgewater did not divulge sales but said the company is growing at a rate of 20-25 percent a year, which will create a 20 percent increase in new jobs over the next few years.
The groundbreaking ceremony will be June 2.
Old Pier 1 coming down for Chipotle
The city approved a demolition permit for Realco Recycling Co. Inc. to demolish the closed Pier 1 Imports store at 9395 Atlantic Blvd., where a Chipotle Mexican Grill is planned.
Realco will remove the 8,550-square-foot store. A 2,700-square-foot Chipotle is planned with 48 seats inside and 32 seats on the patio.
Capital Growth Buchalter of Vestavia Hills, Ala., near Birmingham, is the developer.
Pier 1 Imports closed the Regency area store in February 2016.
Chipotle is a fast-casual, fresh Mexican restaurant that sells burritos, bowls, tacos and salads.
Through CGCMG Jacksonville LLC, Capital Growth bought the property, about three-fourths of an acre, in April for $900,000. Sterling Bank of Clayton, Mo., issued a $1.8 million mortgage.
The city is reviewing permit applications for the shell building and interior renovations for Chipotle.
Self-storage coming to the Southside
Broward Southside Self Storage, which bought property from the Skinner family in January, submitted plans to the city to build a $3 million, 699-unit project at 10523 Deerwood Park Blvd.
Broward Southside LLC of Atlanta is the owner. A representative declined comment.
Plans show the three-story climate-controlled building will comprise 100,341 square feet of space.
The project is being developed in an area with a concentration of apartments and hundreds more being built.
Broward Southside paid almost $1.6 million for the property and took out a $1 million mortgage from Branch Banking and Trust Co. of Atlanta.
Skip the long lines: JIA sets up TSA Precheck office
Travelers wanting to join the Transportation Security Administration Precheck program can enroll at Jacksonville International Airport starting Monday.
The temporary enrollment office will operate 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 7-11 a.m. and noon-4 p.m. May 18-19; and 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. May 22-26.
Applicants can apply online at tsa.gov/Precheck and schedule the appointment. There is an $85 application fee.
TSA Precheck allows travelers to go through airport security without having to remove their shoes, belts and light jackets or remove liquids and laptops from their luggage.
It can take several days to obtain a “Known Traveler Number” that allows passengers to use the fast lane.
More Florida Blue
Florida Blue’s proposed $5.7 million renovation of one of its older buildings on its Deerwood Park campus is just the first.
Of the seven buildings on its campus, three opened in 1996, two in 1998 and two more plus a conference center and four-story parking garage in 2008.
The 1.3 million square feet of space was developed on 115 acres.
Spokeswoman Toni Woods said the five older buildings will undergo renovations to renew them for another 20 years.