By Carrie Resch, Contributing Writer
Model homes in the first village of the 24,000-acre Wildlight development in Yulee should be open this summer.
It is the first of several villages Rayonier plans to build in the multiuse development, a public-private venture between Rayonier and Nassau County.
The development will ultimately include 24,000 residential units and about 11 million square feet of commercial space.
Charles Adams, vice president of community development for Raydient Places + Properties, shared details at last month’s Northeast Florida Builders Association Sales & Marketing Council breakfast.
Raydient is a subsidiary of Rayonier, a Jacksonville-based timberland real estate investment trust company.
Located in Yulee near Interstate 95 and Florida A1A, Wildlight Village will be unlike any development in Nassau County, Adams said.
The community design, he said, will be similar to developments he has worked on, including Celebration, a master-planned community near Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
“It will have a little bit of everything that you would find in a new town,” Adams said.
That includes schools and churches. Wildlight Elementary School, a K-5 school, is scheduled to open in August.
On the commercial front, the first occupant will be Rayonier itself.
“We’re kind of putting our money where our mouth is about this is going to be a good place for business,” Adams said of Rayonier’s choice to move its corporate office to Wildlight.
The 55,000-square-foot office building is nearing completion. Employees are expected to begin moving in about the first week of June.
Developers are in negotiations for other commercial businesses, including retail, restaurants and hospitality.
The first phase of residential development will include about 1,000 homes — 700 single-family homes and town houses and about 300 apartments.
Prices are expected to range from $175,000 for townhouses to $400,000 for single-family homes.
To imitate a more conventional hometown feel, Adams said developers will be “mixing product types side-by-side and back-to-back.”
Small and large homes will be intermixed to give the neighborhoods a more “organic” feel.
When looking at architectural styles, the developers wanted to represent a style indigenous to Northeast Florida, what they call “Florida Low Country.”
“If you had to pick a precedent for what we’re doing, another team did an outstanding project called Amelia Park in the Fernandina Beach area,” Adams said. “You’ll see a lot of similarities in the architectural styles that will show up in Wildlight.”
Residents will be able to choose from bungalow or cottage-style homes.
The bungalows will have elements such as broad and deep porches, steeply pitched roofs, exposed rafters and asymmetrical door and window arrangements. The style will reflect the summer cottage movement in the late-1800s.
The builders will be announced soon and be highlighted in the “Storycenter,” a marketing center scheduled to open about July near the Rayonier office building.
Amenities in the development will be geared toward an active lifestyle.
In addition to a full-scale fitness and wellness center with a pool, ball fields and playgrounds, the developers plan to integrate Rayonier’s timber roads to be used for activities such as hiking or biking.
The roads also will be used to connect the villages.
The developers hope to open a YMCA in 2018 in the heart of Wildlight.
Residents will be able to stay connected while on the go at the village’s parks or while on the trails with community Wi-Fi.
Technology will play a key role in attracting both potential residential and commercial occupants, developers anticipate.
They will have access to gigabit-plus speeds through fiber optic networks and a choice of AT&T or Comcast.
“You can’t recruit today’s companies –– whether it’s a relocation or a startup –– if you don’t have a robust technology infrastructure,” Adams stated.
The development is of interest to Carrie Budds, a NEFBA Sales & Marketing Council board member and imortgage loan consultant.
A resident of Nassau County, Budds was instrumental in bringing the developers in to talk to SMC.
“I’m in Nassau County every single day, so I want to make sure that everybody knows how much big stuff we have going on up there too because I always think of it as so sleepy,” she said.
Budds commended Rayonier for its commitment to the project and bringing jobs back to the county. It’s something, she said, that is “huge” for the community.
“Over 50 percent of our workforce gets on I-95 to come to Jacksonville to work every single day and we all know that communities don’t sustain themselves by doing that,” Budds said.
“Being able to live and work in the same community is what everyone is so excited about,” she added.