New school is 'linchpin' to Rayonier's Nassau project

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  • | 12:00 p.m. February 19, 2015
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Dan Camp, director of project management for TerraPointe, explains why the school being built in the first phase of Rayonier's East Nassau Community is key to the entire project.
Dan Camp, director of project management for TerraPointe, explains why the school being built in the first phase of Rayonier's East Nassau Community is key to the entire project.
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By Carole Hawkins, [email protected]

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

In the case of Rayonier’s 24,000-acre mixed-use East Nassau Community, planned just east of Interstate 95 at the Florida A1A exit, the first – but not so obvious — bite is a school.

That’s because great schools attract great employees. And employment is exactly what Nassau County needs.

“The school is much more than a regional benchmark school. It’s the linchpin to this project,” said Dan Camp of TerraPointe Services Inc., Rayonier’s real estate subsidiary.

Camp, who is director of project management for TerraPointe, spoke Thursday at a gathering of Nassau builders. The school will be the first project tackled in the first phase of the East Nassau Community, a town center about 2,900 acres in size.

Amelia Island gets 500,000 tourists a year, Camp said, about one-fourth that of St. Augustine, an international tourist destination.

The quality of life in Amelia Island is high. What’s missing are jobs.

About half of Nassau’s workforce commutes to Duval County and surrounding areas.

“It’s not sustainable to the county’s economy,” Camp said. “The tax base cannot sustain that.”

An Employment Center, featuring 6.8 million square feet of commercial space and equal to the size of Downtown Jacksonville, is part of the East Nassau Community’s master-plan.

But it takes more than land to attract companies. It takes infrastructure, business-friendly policy and an attractive lifestyle.

Infrastructure will come in the form of the current widening of Florida A1A and the building of additional roads parallel to it, which is in the master plan. Also, another exit is going to be built off of I-95, Camp said.

On policy, Nassau County is working to reduce its permitting process to 30 days, giving businesses more certainty and leveling the playing field with Georgia, Nassau’s neighbor to the north.

When it comes to lifestyle, Nassau County is already attractive, with its miles of beach frontage and historic downtown.

That’s huge, because having places to play nearby is considered a competitive factor when it comes to retaining employees, Camp said. For example, companies at North Carolina’s Research Triangle, one of the largest research parks in the world, are now having trouble retaining employees. The area has become so built out, residents have to drive long distances to enjoy the outdoors.

Finally, Nassau County has A-rated schools.

“Schools are key catalyst for growth,” Camp said, “because, workforce is becoming a bigger issue, as companies compete to recruit and retain the best employees.”

Camp compared Nassau to St. Johns County, where A-rated schools and beaches have spurred some of the area’s fastest residential growth.

TerraPointe donated the land for the school to the county, has worked with officials on a site plan and architecture, and is sharing the cost to build a road.

It will be part of a larger “education campus,” with a county park on one side, a YMCA on the other and residential neighborhoods surrounding it. The school is expected to open in the fall of 2017.

“It will make people really proud and make them want to be here when they get off an airplane and look at this area,” Camp said.



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