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Jax Daily Record Friday, Feb. 22, 201911:06 AM EST

Skinners negotiating with two buyers for its 1,000-acre site at Butler, I-295

The family sees “a walkable, mixed-use community.”

Jacksonville's Skinner family is negotiating to sell about 1,000 acres in Southside to two buyers that members chose after careful review.

That's because the property, at southeast Butler Boulevard and Interstate 295, is the last large piece of land that the family owns. The family declined to identify the prospective buyers.

Most of the land is targeted for residential development and much of the rest is for commercial uses, indicating that it will be sold to groups with those focuses.

A. Chester “Chip” Skinner III

“We really spent a lot of time getting what we think are the best builders and developers involved, so at the end of the day you will see that we have taken great pains to ensure the quality of the project,” said family representative A. Chester “Chip” Skinner III.

He said the family looked at three main factors in choosing buyers:

Their history in the marketplace; the quality of the product that they build; and their willingness “to embrace the vision that we have for the community, which is a walkable, community-friendly development,” Skinner said.

A news release Friday announcing the pending deal said the buyers were chosen after a careful selection process “to ensure that any development there will be unique and serve as an enduring legacy.”

Skinner represents the land ownership group, Sawmill Timber LLC. The land has been owned by the family for more than 100 years.

Skinner said the land probably will be sold in 2020. “We need to complete our contracts and let them do their due diligence,” he said.

A 2020 sale gives the family one more year to celebrate Thanksgiving at a site on the land.

“There's a lot to be done before a shovel gets into the ground, so I am hopeful we have at least one more year,” he said.

Once sold, build-out depends on the market, he said.

“The developers are going to be driven by the market, so if we hit a good period in the market, then the build-out will be shorter,” he said.

Assuming no recession, “we think it could be a 10-year build-out,” he said.

The family hired Town Planning & Urban Design Collaborative of Nashville, Tennessee, to work with planning firms representing the buyers.

A family statement said the assignment was to design a walkable, mixed-use community with distinct residential neighborhoods, a village center, and regional office and commercial uses.

The family submitted an application to the city Friday to rezone the property for a planned unit development, which proposes what it said is “a distinctive character-based approach focusing on development form and pattern.”

The Rogers Towers law firm is handling the application. England-Thims & Miller Inc. is the civil engineer.

“The document reflects the family's vision for a place with neighborhoods and businesses that will serve and benefit the people of Jacksonville for many decades to come,” said the statement.

Skinner said the application “is the product of many hours of effort by our family, our buyers, and our consultants.”

"We want this place to be as special for the community as it has been for our family,” Skinner said.

He said the family looks forward to working with city officials.

The Skinner property available for development is southeast of Butler Boulevard and Interstate 295. Kernan Boulevard can be seen dead-ending into the property. To the northwest is St. Johns Town Center.

The property is used for forestry operations and also is the site of regular Skinner family gatherings.

“It feels like we are closing the book on a lot of good memories,” Skinner said.

Kernan Boulevard ends at the site and Sawmill Timber LLC wants to extend it into the property south of Butler Boulevard.

The 1,063-acre property is the last large undeveloped Duval County site that remains of the Skinner family’s original 50,000 acres from the early 1900s. The rest has been sold and developed.

The family has been working on plans to sell the property for development of housing, offices, retail and other uses.

Skinner said in May the ownership group is optimistic the plan “will create something in Jacksonville that it hasn’t really experienced yet, something that is a little more urban in a suburban area.”

“This is our last large holding in the area. We are trying to cast a vision and hopefully get some parties that buy into that vision that we can bring into the property to develop it,” Skinner said.

A conceptual site plan by the England-Thims & Miller Inc. civil engineering firm shows an employment center, retail and mixed-use, a mixed-use village and residential. The firm is the consultant and agent on the water management district application.

Plans show Kernan Boulevard will be extended to connect to Gate Parkway to the south.

Skinner said previously the family’s Transportation Management Area agreement with the city requires it to connect Kernan Boulevard and Gate Parkway by 2023, which is in four years.

The road system opens the property for development.

The development is not a surprise.

City Council enacted an ordinance in 2005 to rezone 1,068 acres there for uses including office, commercial single-family and multifamily homes.

Access to the site will be via Kernan Boulevard and Gate Parkway. Skinner said the Florida Department of Transportation plans to improve the Kernan interchange as part of the I-295 work program.

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