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Jax Daily Record Friday, Apr. 15, 201612:00 PM EST

'Project Rex' to plant big footprint

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More details are emerging about the confidential North Jacksonville project widely believed to be an Amazon.com fulfillment center, including that the Jacksonville development needs about 2,800 employee parking spaces.

RELATED STORY: What 'Project Rex' could mean for the Northside

That number likely is built to accommodate a large seasonal workforce to handle holiday deliveries.

The center’s employment base is expected to reach at least 1,500 by year-end 2019, according to City Council legislation.

Plans filed with the city show the project is designed as 855,000 square feet on 180 acres at Duval and Pecan Park roads.

That size is the footprint of the building and doesn’t show if there is mezzanine or other space that could increase the size to 1 million square feet, the typical space associated with an Amazon.com center.

Applications filed with the city also show Atlanta-based Seefried Industrial Properties Inc. is the developer. Tetra Tech Inc. in Jacksonville is the agent’s engineer.

Tetra Tech Senior Project Manager Gregory Kern said Tuesday he was under a confidentiality agreement and could not comment about the project, but called it “a huge win for the community of Jacksonville and for the region.”

Seefried Industrial Properties has developed two Amazon.com centers that each total 1 million square feet in size.

Seefried Chief Development Officer Jim Condon said by email Wednesday evening he could not comment “if we are or are not involved in the referenced project.”

A preliminary site plan details the site as being west of the Pecan Park and Duval roads intersection, north of Interstate 295.

That location was part of the legislation filed Tuesday with City Council in which the project seeks $18.4 million in city and state incentives for an e-commerce fulfillment center that would create 1,500 jobs by year-end 2019.

A parking summary filed with the city shows parking for 2,814 employees and 342 trailer spaces, 10 tractor spaces and 80 bay spaces.

Called “Project Duval” in the filing, the applications clearly match those of the “Project Rex” in the city legislation.

Broward Signature LLP owns a 148-acre site shown on a preliminary site plan for Project Duval that comprises the bulk of the project.

The legislation is on the city’s fast track, which means it is slated for a final council vote April 26 for the city’s $13.4 million share of incentives. The state is asked for $4.95 million.

Ground-breaking for the estimated $200 million project is anticipated this summer, according to the legislation.

The property identified in the legislation is owned by two groups — Broward Signature LLP of Yulee and CRM Florida Properties LLC of Atlanta, which owns almost 23 acres, records show.

Steve Leggett, president of Signature Land Inc., said Wednesday the property is under contract and he is bound by a confidentiality agreement.

He said his group bought the property in 2007, speculating on the industrial market. The recession and real estate downturn of 2008 changed those plans.

“We were sitting on that, being patient,” he said.

Leggett said his group sought and received some environmental and resource permitting in anticipation of the recovery, “and we just put it on the shelf.”

The St. Johns River Water Management District has extended an environmental resource permit for the property for five years.

Leggett is the son of the late Max Leggett, a former council member who represented North Jacksonville.

Leggett said his group chose to buy the property because it is next to the air cargo section of Jacksonville International Airport, “and you can see the UPS planes.”

He believed the logistics tie-in and the site’s proximity to I-295 as well as JaxPort facilities further east would pay off.

“We knew that sooner or later, a big project would come along and see the value of that land. And when those types of projects come, they are always in a hurry,” he said.

Leggett said the deal came by way of a broker and the location then made the list by a site-selection committee. He said it “hasn’t been long” since the project was under contract.

The council legislation says Jacksonville is one of several sites under consideration.

Amazon.com hasn’t returned calls or emails for more than a month, when the world’s largest online retailer resurfaced as a potential Jacksonville prospect.

The company had been considered a possible prospect in 2013 when Amazon.com chose two Florida sites for 1 million-square-foot fulfillment centers.

Those opened in 2014 in Lakeland and near Tampa, together employing 2,000 workers.

The Orlando Sentinel reported in August the company was adding 2,000 more jobs at the two centers.

Jacksonville did not formally bid on the centers.

The order-filling centers are part of the company’s efforts to provide next-day and same-day delivery for customers.

Amazon.com opened online in 1995 and now employs 230,800 people worldwide.

It does not list the number or locations of its fulfillment centers on its website and its Securities and Exchange Commission filings don’t outline future locations, but it continues to grow.

An industrial real estate blog reported in early 2015 that Amazon.com had at least 50 operational centers in at least 21 states.

In the past several months, the company has opened or announced centers in several more states for projects from 500,000 to 1 million square feet.

[email protected]

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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