Just 20 miles north of Downtown Jacksonville, a 4,200-acre development is planned that will change the face of Florida east along Interstate 95 to Florida A1A.
Visitors to Florida, entering Nassau County along I-95 as they cross the Georgia border, can expect to greet offices, light manufacturing, medical and educational facilities, housing and perhaps even a regional shopping center at the site.
Its core is at northeast I-95 and Florida A1A.
"Our goal is to break ground as soon as possible with the right users," said Daniel Camp, director of project management at TerraPointe Services Inc.
TerraPointe LLC is the real estate subsidiary of Jacksonville-based Rayonier, a major Nassau County landowner and the owner of the I-95/Florida A1A property.
TerraPointe Services Inc. manages the master planning, permitting, sales and marketing.
Called the "East Nassau Employment Center," the mixed-use development is designated for 7.1 million square feet of office, commercial, medical and industrial as well as 4,038 residential units.
It's part of the East Nassau Community Planning Area, 24,000 acres owned by Rayonier that include 8 miles of bluffs along the St. Marys River.
Nassau County officials see the opportunities.
"I think the East Nassau Employment Center has the same regional potential for employment that Southside, Baymeadows, and Hodges/JTB had several years ago," said Steve Rieck, executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board.
He is referring to the office parks that developed in south Duval County, drawing jobs from Downtown and also landing large white-collar companies that relocated to the area.
"It will become Nassau County's 'Town Center' at some point," he said, comparing it to the St. Johns Town Center that has become Jacksonville's retail focal point at Butler Boulevard and the I-295 East Beltway.
Nassau's growth-management director sees possibilities, too.
"Considering its proximity to the interstate and to Jacksonville, this first phase of the ENCPA has the potential to become a large employment center along with supporting commercial and residential uses," said Nassau County Growth Management Director Peter King.
Camp said he is talking with several buyers interested in property at the employment center to develop their projects.
"The market has really accelerated," Camp said.
Rayonier isn't in a hurry, however.
Camp said it's a 50-year project.
The East Nassau Employment Center fronts along I-95 between the first two exits in Florida, as well as U.S. 17 and Florida A1A.
Camp and Russell Schweiss, director of communications at Rayonier, said the property has completed zoning approvals and offers a 30-day County permit process. They said all public hearings have been completed.
"We built this plan with a lot of the community," Camp said. The plan is consistent with Vision 2032, Nassau County's growth management plan.
"Overall, Nassau County has really positioned itself to be ready," Camp said. "The county has been really pro-growth," he said.
He said a mobility-fee system paid for by development with the East Nassau Community Planning Area will fund transportation improvements within the project.
The name of the East Nassau Employment Center could change. TerraPointe currently plans to move its headquarters from Fernandina Beach, which is on the coast of Nassau County, to the employment center.
TerraPointe lists the Nassau County Economic Development Board, the JAXUSA Regional Partnership of the JAX Chamber and Enterprise Florida as its economic development partners.
"It is a very significant development for Nassau and Rayonier and will spur job growth now that great development sites will be available," said Jerry Mallot, president of the JAXUSA Partnership economic development division of the JAX Chamber.
Mallot said the site will be part of the regional real estate portfolio that JAXUSA markets in job recruitment.
"Nassau County is really positioned for future growth and is ready to grow," Camp said.
The Planning Area is designed to add another I-95 interchange.
Camp said TerraPointe has spent six to seven years to position and entitle the project for development.
"We've set it up so we're competitive," Camp said.
The property also could accommodate a regional shopping center. "It's set up to allow that," he said.
Marketing materials say the site offers rail connections to the ports of Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach and is within 13 miles of Jacksonville International Airport and Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport.
The St. Johns River Water Management District is reviewing the first phase of the East Nassau Employment Center. The petition for a formal wetland determination is for a 294-acre site within the boundaries.
Rieck said the project gives Nassau County the opportunity to pursue economic development projects that the county couldn't compete for in the past.
He said the Class A office space provides a location not far from the airports as well as a 20-minute commute to the oceanfront and residential developments on Amelia Island.
Rieck and Camp also said companies could set up their offices at the employment center and their manufacturing plants at the Crawford Diamond Industrial Park, 16 miles west along U.S. 301.
King, the county planning director, explained that the 24,000-acre Sector Plan includes up to 24,000 residential dwelling units and 11 million square feet of nonresidential uses, including office, light industrial, and commercial.
King said the Planning Area also includes an extensive network of wetland and upland preservation totaling about 9,000 acres that will be held
in a permanent conservation easement. The conservation network and road network will include pedestrian and bicycle amenities.
King said that by Florida law, a Sector Plan must be developed in phases called "Detailed Site Area Plans" that must be at least 1,000 acres.
The East Nassau Employment Center is the first site-area plan and was approved in July by the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners. King said it awaits review comments from the state.
Rieck said the mixed-use development provides a "live close to where you work" opportunity.
Camp said that with 50 percent of Nassau's workforce leaving every day for jobs in other counties, the employment center can generate jobs to keep residents closer to home as well as expand the tax base.
"The key is the need for jobs and sustainable growth," he said.
Crawford Diamond Industrial Park preparing for development
TerraPointe’s Crawford Diamond Industrial Park encompasses 1,814 acres in west Nassau County and was certified as a mega-site.
The park has been approved for up to 10.5 million square feet of industrial uses, including manufacturing, assembly, warehousing and distribution as well as an intermodal inland port or logistics center.
The site is west along U.S. 301 and south of U.S. 1, between Interstates 95 and 10. The CSX and Norfolk Southern rail lines cross at the property.
“We have people looking at it,” said Daniel Camp, director of project management for TerraPointe Services Inc.
He said Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, and Gov. Rick Scott are supporting the project.
The megasite certification by McCallum Sweeney Consulting of Greenville, S.C., is considered a significant step for marketing industrial properties, setting up standards that allow a user to be operational with 12 months.
Camp said Crawford was able to accommodate large users. “One could come in and take 500 acres,” he said.
Russell Schweiss, director of corporate communications for Jacksonville-based Rayonier, said the entitlements were in place. TerraPointe is Rayonier’s real estate subsidiary.
Those provide Crawford “the ability to accommodate a really large user,” he said, “to land a marlin.”
Camp and Steve Rieck, executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board, don’t confirm rumors that Volvo, the automobile and truck manufacturer based in Sweden, might be interested in Crawford property for a plant.
Rieck said he had no comment. “It’s just an interesting rumor,” he said.
Camp said only: “It’s a fantastic rumor.”