Investors typically sink money into upgrading the commercial properties they buy, some more than others.
In the latter category, Josh Edwards, vice president of Crocker Partners, is operating in the middle of the $8 million in renovations underway at Prominence in Baymeadows.
Edwards, whose office is in Building 100 there, calls the work an “extreme makeover” of the 27-year-old office center. Boca Raton-based Crocker bought the seven-building, 54-acre office park in December 2012 for $27.8 million.
There’s the new name. “Prominence” takes over “Freedom Commerce Centre.” A major signage and landscape change, which Crocker calls “dramatic,” is planned at the main entrance along Baymeadows Road, just off Interstate 95. Construction should start this month and be completed in the summer.
There are the upgrades of the buildings. All seven are slated for exterior and common-area improvements, including lobbies, restrooms and elevator cabs, as well as installation of new lighting fixtures throughout the properties. Building 100 is almost completed; work on Building 400 should start in May; Building 500 is next. Buildings 300 and 600 are completed, and work on 200 and 700 should start by early next year.
There is the removal of the building’s names. Freedom Commerce Centre comprised the Osborn, Gunti, Jackson, Hamilton, DeSoto, Nassau and Suwannee buildings. Now they go by numbers. Exterior signage is available for anchor tenants, but the generic identification is now 100 through 700.
Then there are the tenants. Edwards said the buildings, totaling more than 750,000 square feet of space, are collectively almost 50 percent occupied. The newest tenant is NGA Human Resources, which will move its U.S. headquarters and 450 jobs into 21/2 floors of Building 400 by March.
Edwards said Crocker is finalizing a full-floor lease of about 25,000 square feet in Building 500 and is actively working with prospective tenants for the entire 160,000-square-foot Building 200. He declined to identify those prospects.
Edwards said the smallest of the seven buildings, the almost 22,000-square-foot Building 700, also would be available for a single tenant.
“Activity is very good,” he said. JLL, formerly known as Jones Lang LaSalle, is the park’s leasing agent.
Crocker Partners has become a major commercial player in Jacksonville. Since 2012, it has invested more than $160 million in the area. It has acquired and is managing properties totaling more than 2 million square feet.
In addition to Prominence, it owns a dozen office and industrial buildings at Flagler Center. In a joint venture with Investcorp, Crocker paid $133.2 million in September for the Class A office space that was 81 percent occupied.
It continues looking at more expansion and development opportunities.
Edwards said the phased renovation at Prominence is about a third of the way through. He said most of the work is visible inside the park, which is between Philips Highway and I-95 from the Baymeadows Road interchange to the Philips Highway interchange.
“Once we start that exterior signage in the next few weeks, that will make it that much more noticeable,” he said. “That will help us with rebranding in the market.”
Edwards runs the Crocker Partners portfolio in North and Central Florida.
Edwards said Crocker wants to improve Prominence from a “Class B-plus” to a “Class A” park. The park was developed from 1988-98 by Koger Equity Inc.
Prominence is in the Baymeadows/Butler office submarket, which is one of the largest and busiest in the area.
“We are seeing lots of activity in that park, specifically because the park itself has very efficient large floor plates,” said Jesse Shimp, the JLL vice president who represented Crocker in the NGA Human Resources deal.
Shimp said a lot of Jacksonville’s back-office type users are looking for the efficiencies found in larger floor sizes. “There aren’t many options,” he said.