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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Feb. 13, 201806:30 AM EST

Rayonier sells 7,000 acres in St. Johns

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Company: $25.24M deal with buyer was unsolicited.

Rayonier Inc., through Rayonier Atlantic Timber Co. and Rayonier Forest Resources L.P., sold up to 7,000 acres in St. Johns County last week for $25.24 million.

Rayonier, based in Yulee, sold the property to New York-based First Coast Land and Timber LLC, formed in November. The property is between Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 from St. Augustine to Hastings.

Alejandro Barbero, Rayonier director of strategic development and communications, said the property was 6,500 to 7,000 acres of timberland in southern St. Johns County.

“We are a timber REIT and we continuously evaluate our portfolio,” he said Monday.

Barbero said the offer was unsolicited. “Sometimes we receive unsolicited offers. When it makes sense, we execute on transactions,” he said.

He declined to comment on the buyer’s identity or plans for the property.

The deed shows that First Coast Timber’s New York City address is the same as Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb Inc., a privately owned hedge fund sponsor.

It manages Sequoia Fund Inc., described by Bloomberg as an open-ended equity mutual fund begun and managed by the firm.

First Coast Land and Timber LLC Manager Greg Alexander did not return two telephone calls.

The sequioafund.com site says Bill Ruane and Rick Cunniff launched the fund in 1970 and that it remains a concentrated, long-only equity fund that invests primarily in domestic mid- and large-capitalization companies.

Ruane, Cuniff & Goldfarb describes itself on ruanecunniff.com that it is a registered investment adviser best known for managing Sequoia Fund. It also runs separately managed accounts according to the same strategy.

Rayonier is an international real estate investment trust with about 2.6 million acres in the United States and New Zealand. Its U.S. land holdings include about 1.8 million acres in the South.

Rayonier says in its corporate profile that its growth “is boosted by an excellent portfolio of properties suited for higher and better uses in the fast-growing US Southeast region, primarily in the coastal corridor between Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia along Interstate Highway 95.”

Its Real Estate operation develops strategies to transition timberland “for higher and better uses” while its Forest Resources operation sells timber to markets that include pulp, paper, building products and energy production.

In September, Rayonier sold 1,311 acres at its Crawford Diamond Industrial Park in Nassau County to Florida Power & Light Co. for $13.1 million. The utility has not said what it intends to do with the property. Rayonier retains almost 500 acres there.

Rayonier also is developing the 2,900-acre Wildlight mixed-use development at northeast I-95 and Florida A1A in Yulee.

Office-retail planned on land near Durbin

Atlantic Beach-based New Era Development Co. Inc. intends to develop 55,000 square feet of space for retail or office uses in southern Duval County just across Racetrack Road from Durbin Park in St. Johns County.

City Council will review Ordinances 2018-68 and 69 to rezone 6.43 acres and adopt a small-scale amendment to the future land use map.

The site is among two tracts east and west of Florida 9B and north of Racetrack Road.

The western tract of 3.5 acres is designed to accommodate 30,000 square feet of space and the eastern tract of 2.93 acres would be for 25,000 square feet.

New Era seeks to change the uses of the property, whose address is 5239 Racetrack Road. It wants to change zoning from Agriculture to Planned Unit Development and the land use designation from Agriculture to Neighborhood Commercial.

 “We have proposed to allow for office and commercial uses on the property in response to the changes underway in the area, including the new interchange at State Road 9B and Peyton Parkway, the Durbin Park project, and extensive residential growth,” said developer Sina Venus, representing New Era Development.

He said New Era does not have a definitive time frame for construction or specific tenants.

Connelly & Wicker is the project architect and planner. Agents are Michael Holbrook with Connelly & Wicker and lawyer Thomas Ingram with Akerman.

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