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Jax Daily Record Friday, May 8, 201512:00 PM EST

Palencia developer finds new project in area

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Hines building Markland in St. Johns County
by: Carole Hawkins

We know them for Palencia.

But international real estate firm Hines expects to develop property in Northeast Florida long after the last lot in Palencia is delivered.

The company has started construction on Markland, a 345-home community on International Golf Parkway just east of the Interstate 95 interchange.

Its community center “Markland Manor House” will celebrate the 19th-century Greek revival style, with two-story columns and surrounding formal gardens. Home prices will initially range from the $300,000s to more than $600,000.

Given its global focus, one might not assume Hines would stay on in Northeast Florida after its flagship project, Palencia, is complete. Markland is a sign it will.

Managing Director Walt O’Shea said Hines has a positive outlook on Jacksonville real estate.

“We like the market and we continue to find things to do,” he said.

Who is Hines and what role will it claim?

Founded in 1957, Hines is a privately owned Houston-based real estate firm that has a presence in more than 115 cities around the globe.

With $30.7 billion in assets, it is one of the world’s largest real estate organizations.

The company builds skyscrapers, corporate headquarters, mixed-use centers, industrial parks, medical facilities and master-planned resort and residential communities.

Its strong emphasis on aesthetics has produced iconic buildings for downtown skylines, like Miami’s Southeast Financial Center.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Hines will build high-rise offices in Jacksonville.

Regionally, Hines is managed by local partners, who determine the right investment plan for their geographical area.

In Northeast Florida, the opportunity has been land.

Markland isn’t Hines’ first real estate deal outside of Palencia. It also acquired and repositioned land for two other St. Johns County subdivisions — Glen St. Johns off County Road 210 and San Salito off Woodland Road in St. Augustine — both of which it resold to builders.

Those deals speak to what is different about Hines. Some firms are experts in finding the best investments based on macroeconomic trends. Others execute and manage those developments well.

Hines combines both.

In addition to its residential deals, Hines dabbled in Downtown Jacksonville real estate with The St. John, a planned high rise condominium on the South Bank. It was 2005, right before the condo market crashed. Thankfully, O’Shea said, it was never built, though Hines still owns the property.

In Markland, Hines sees a new opportunity.

The area’s two largest projects — Palencia and World Golf Village — are finishing up. Homes left there are very high-end, $600,000 and above.

“We felt like there was a gap in the marketplace for that executive, move-up buyer,” he said.

The Hines team liked the Markland site for the 26,000 acres of state conservation land that surrounds it and for its access to Interstate 95. The area’s other corridors, for example County Road 210, are pushing development farther and farther away. Travel time is becoming more of a decision factor for local buyers, O’Shea said.

In Markland’s first phase, Hines will develop about 160 lots. The lots will come in three widths –– 93, 73, and 58 feet — in the “village neighborhood” section adjacent to the amenity center.

Amenities will include walking trails, a zero-entry pool, tennis courts and a fitness center and yoga studio. Model homes should open late this year.

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