Lowe’s new direct fulfillment center in Coopertown, Tennessee. By 2023, Lowe’s expects to have approximately 600 employees at the facility.

Speculation for Project Jaguar's 1.5 million-square-foot warehouse centers on Lowe's

Home improvement company recently opened a similar-sized facility in Tennessee.
By: 
Aug. 1, 2018

Large code-named distribution centers generate speculation about their identity and the proposed 1.5 million-square-foot Project Jaguar at Cecil Commerce Center is doing just that.

The primary name surfacing the past two weeks is Lowe’s Companies Inc., the North Carolina-based home improvement company that recently opened a similarly sized fulfillment center in Tennessee.

“We are always evaluating possible locations, but we don’t have anything to share at this time. We’ll be sure to connect with you if we have any announcements about the First Coast,” said Lowe’s spokesman Steve Salazar by email last Wednesday.

Given the local interest and asked for a yes or no – is or isn’t Lowe’s a prospective tenant or user of the Cecil Commerce Center project – Salazar didn’t elaborate.

“We don’t have any additional information to share at this time,” he said.

Like other big projects – Amazon.com, in particular – prospect names often, but don’t always, circulate before construction begins or city and state incentives are requested.

Sometimes, names circulate for projects that don’t take place, like Walmart Stores Inc. as the Project Zeus that didn’t take place.

In that case, public documents in spring 2017 showed that a prospect was interested in a 1.3 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Jacksonville.

Walmart did not respond then to a request for comment. A request for comment about the Cecil site was submitted online Tuesday and Walmart was asked to respond by Wednesday.

For Project Jaguar, the city and its Cecil Commerce Center master developer, Dallas-based Hillwood, submitted plans July 23 to the city Development Services Division and July 20 to the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Project Jaguar is proposed on almost 107 acres in Hillwood’s AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center along 103rd Street next to the 1 million-square-foot Amazon.com fulfillment center.

While it is called Project Jaguar on the Water Management application, the Development Services plans refer to it as Cecil Commerce Center Parcels A2 and B and labeled them as “early clearing.”

The district application includes those clearing plans.

The city plans provide an address of 13483 103rd St. adjacent to Amazon at 13333 103rd St.

Hillwood Senior Vice President Dan Tatsch said Tuesday that he does not talk about potential users.

“We don’t comment on our prospect list and who may or may not be on it,” he said.

The “early-clearing” for the land indicates Hillwood wants approval to prepare the property for eventual but not necessarily immediate development.

“We feel strongly enough about the Jacksonville market that we’re taking steps for quicker delivery should we encounter a user for the site,” Tatsch said.

No city legislation has been filed for incentives for Project Jaguar. Such requests usually outline significant details about a project.

The city owns Cecil Commerce Center, but it isn’t the only site in the area that can accommodate a large warehouse. Several existing and proposed sites could do so.

For example, a conceptual site plan for the 167-acre Park 295 business park in Northwest Jacksonville shows a prospective 1.16 million-square-foot warehouse.

It is next to a 553,000-square-foot warehouse that developer NorthPoint Development of Kansas City, Missouri, intends to build to launch the development.

NorthPoint proposes to buy and develop the property and conceptual plans show four buildings.

Typically, major projects like a fulfillment center will choose among developers and sites.

Hillwood reported to the city June 29 that near the end of the first quarter in March, a broker asked about sites for a 1 million-square-foot distribution facility at Cecil Commerce Center.

Hillwood said that it received and responded to the broker’s preliminary inquiry but did not disclose the identity of the prospect. The client seeks to identify sites to accommodate the facility.

Tatsch said upon filing the report that he couldn’t offer details, but that the prospect remains active at the park.

“The deal is still alive. We and others are still chasing it,” he said June 29 of Jacksonville developers.

“I know the prospect is paying serious attention to Jacksonville. Whether or not they are paying serious attention to another city, I don’t know,” Tatsch said.

As for Lowe’s, it’s not clear what sort of facility it would consider for Jacksonville, such as whether it would distribute to stores and other company warehouses, serve as a direct-to-consumer location or be a hybrid.

Lowe’s went by “Project Ally” when it chose Coopertown, Tennessee, near Nashville, for its first direct-to-consumer fulfillment center. The 1.1 million-square-foot, $112 million, 600-job center on 110 acres is expected to open this year.

It is billed as Lowe’s “first” fulfillment center, indicating it is looking for more sites.

It’s been a two-year process. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced the project in July 2016 and the grand opening is in a few months.

It will ship orders directly to Lowe’s customers and fulfill orders for 15 regional distribution centers and 1,750 stores when fully operational, according to Tennessean.com.

That, of course, raises the question – would Lowe’s need another fulfillment center in the Southeast?

Lowe’s operates almost 2,400 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Spokeswoman Tia Ford said Tuesday the city had no comment at this time.