A pair of real estate reports found positive news for Jacksonville’s office and industrial markets.
Cushman & Wakefield of Florida Inc. and CBRE Inc. both forecast stability and improvements in the area markets.
In the fourth-quarter reports, Cushman & Wakefield found that Jacksonville’s office market ended the year with an overall vacancy rate of 18.6 percent, while CBRE calculated 19 percent.
“Jacksonville’s office market remained stable over the course of 2014,” said Cushman & Wakefield.
As it has been for some time, Downtown’s rate was the highest — with Cushman & Wakefield finding a 22.2 percent vacancy rate and CBRE, 22.1 percent.
Looking closer, the Downtown Northbank’s office space was 26.4 percent vacant, with the Southbank at 11.2 percent, according to Cushman & Wakefield’s MarketBeat report.
CBRE spoke optimistically about the market.
“The largest amount of positive activity occurred in the Downtown submarket,” said CBRE’s MarketView report.
Among larger new deals Downtown in 2014, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority leased 33,000 square feet of space at 121 Atlantic Place on the Northbank and Adecco leased 30,000 square feet in the Riverplace Tower on the Southbank.
The 2014 report didn’t include the 232,000-square-foot Citizens Property Insurance Corp. lease at EverBank Center, which was approved this year by the insurance company’s board. The lease is expected to start Sept. 1.
Moreover, sales of Jacksonville office buildings were much stronger last year, including several large deals in the suburbs and especially the six Downtown towers that changed hands between December 2013 and year-end 2014.
“The overall sales volume considerably exceeds the figures from the previous three years, exhibiting increased confidence in the future of the market,” said CBRE.
Each report said Downtown improved, although it remains at a higher vacancy rate than offices in the suburbs.
The suburban vacancy rates were 17-17.7 percent among the two reports.
While the reports don’t align their submarket definitions, each counts the Butler/Baymeadows area as the largest office submarket — at 10.2 million square feet by Cushman & Wakefield and at almost 10.7 million, called the Interstate 95/Florida 9A Corridor, by CBRE.
Cushman & Wakefield found vacancy in Butler/Baymeadows at 13.8 percent and CBRE found vacancy at I-95/9A at 15.8 percent.
Overall, “several significant lease deals are still pending and indicate a strong level of activity for the beginning of 2015,” Cushman & Wakefield reported.
CBRE concurred. “After closing 2014 with positive fundamentals, the Jacksonville office market has a strong foundation for growth in 2015.”
In the industrial market, the overall area vacancy rates ended the year below 10 percent.
Cushman & Wakefield reported a rate of 9.8 percent and CBRE’s rate was 8.9 percent. Both said the rates dropped.
The submarkets don’t necessarily align, but each says West Jacksonville is the largest — from almost 40 million (CBRE) to almost 46 million (Cushman) square feet of space.
Each also found vacancy rates in Westside the lowest – 4.4 percent (CBRE) and 5.9 percent (Cushman).
Cushman & Wakefield said rental rates and leasing activity rose to their highest levels in years.
Among the largest leases was GE Oil & Gas, which agreed to rent 510,000 square feet in AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center in West Jacksonville.
Each company found the large North Jacksonville market at notably higher vacancy rates — 19.7 percent by Cushman and 15.9 percent by CBRE.
This year should find more buildings coming online, including some large warehouses designed as speculative structures in Westside Industrial Park and in North Jacksonville at Imeson International Industrial Park.
CBRE noted the Mile Point project, designed to correct a navigational hurdle at the St. Johns River and Intracoastal Waterway, likely could lead to more industrial business because more ships could call on JaxPort.
Cushman & Wakefield also anticipates positive growth in the market through the first half of 2015.
“Jacksonville continued to be on the radar for many firms’ site location strategies due to the lower business costs and close proximity to many major markets,” it said.
Amkin buys 47 acres at Dames Point
Miami investor Ramon Llorens bought about 47 acres of vacant industrial land along New Berlin Road at Dames Point just days before he bought the former Ford auto plant Downtown.
The vacant property is next to several Dames Point industrial projects on the north bank of the St. Johns River in North Jacksonville, raising questions about Llorens’ plans for the well-positioned site in the emerging manufacturing and distribution complex.
It also is near JaxPort’s Dames Point Marine Terminal.
Llorens, the manager of Amkin Dames Point LLC, paid $4.53 million for the property Feb. 13. Amkin bought it from Lafarge North America Inc. of Chicago.
Llorens has not returned numerous telephone calls.
The property is along the waterfront, east of the Interstate 295 East Beltway and close to the riverfront point. General Portland Inc., in care of Lafarge North America Land Department, is listed as the owner on property records.
Lafarge North America is a supplier of construction materials. It bought General Portland in 1981.
Lafarge U.S. Communications Director Joëlle Lipski-Rockwood said Monday the property is in the 9300 block of New Berlin Road next to the JaxPort Dames Point Terminal and was an inactive Lafarge site.
The company said the site was about 40 acres.
Lipski-Rockwood could not comment about Amkin Dames Point LLC’s plans for the site.
The property is assessed at almost $8.9 million.
Amkin has invested in property next to at least two major Dames Point area industrial projects.
The property is adjacent to the WesPac Midstream project at 9225 Dames Point Road. WesPac Midstream bought a former drywall manufacturing plant at the address in October for $11.75 million.
WesPac, based in Irvine, Calif., intends to build a liquid natural gas manufacturing plant on the 36-acre site adjacent to JaxPort’s Dames Point Marine Terminal.
A $30 million Intermodal Container Transfer Facility is under development at that terminal. The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded JaxPort a $10 million TIGER — Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery — grant toward the ICTF facility while the Florida Department of Transportation covered the remaining $20 million.
JaxPort reported in January 2014 the ICTF will help the direct transfer of containers between vessels and trains and should be completed this year. The facility will provide direct access to CSX-owned rail lines as well as interstates 95, 10, 295 and to I-75 via I-10.
It also will complement existing facilities at JaxPort’s Talleyrand and Blount Island terminals.
JaxPort spokeswoman Nancy Rubin said Monday that JaxPort has not had discussions with or about Amkin’s purchase of or plans for the property.
Meanwhile, Llorens has been actively investing in Jacksonville.
In September, Amkin West Bay LLC paid $47.4 million for EverBank Center and a parking garage Downtown.
On Feb. 17, Amkin Hill Street LLC paid $4.4 million for more than 30 acres in the Talleyrand area that includes the former Ford Motor Co. factory under the Mathews Bridge.
Llorens is a developer and investor based in 1450 Brickell in Miami. The former owner of the Ford Motor Co. property in Talleyrand said Llorens’ family is based in Madrid, Spain, and invests around the world.
State corporate records show he is the registered agent for at least a dozen Florida entities.
His LinkedIn account shows his main interest as EPSA Group, since September 1995. The main business is open-pit mining and construction and the other business is real estate investment and asset management of commercial, residential and hospitality property.
EPSA of America LLC is the manager of Park Place Holding At Brickell LLC, the holding company for 1450 Brickell, a 35-story Class A tower in Miami.
Peter Sleiman buys HQ building
Peter Sleiman Development Group LLC reported Tuesday it bought the Deerwood Park office building that houses its headquarters. Sleiman paid $7.35 million for the three-story, 45,000-square-foot building at 10739 Deerwood Park Blvd.
The group develops retail shopping centers in North Florida. Formed in 2005 by Peter Sleiman and his wife, Jennifer Ward Sleiman, the group has developed, owned, managed and operated more than 4 million square feet of commercial projects.
Duval County property records show the office structure was built in 2004. Sleiman bought the building in January through Deerwood Developers LLC, of which he is manager, from PRG Development SPE LLC of Jacksonville. Sleiman said the building is fully leased.