With speculative warehouses in demand and at least one prospect looking for more than a 1 million-square-foot distribution center, North Jacksonville is targeted for a sizable industrial park.
VanTrust Real Estate LLC intends to buy 156 acres of industrial property in Imeson International Industrial Park for development of 3 million square feet of space among three to six buildings.
That indicates buildings of 500,000 to 1 million square feet.
“We will start next month and will deliver the first building in September 2019,” said VanTrust Executive Vice President John Carey.
He estimated a total investment exceeding $180 million.
Carey said that while there are prospective tenants in the market, VanTrust intends to start development on a speculative basis.
Plans to clear and grade the property are in review by the city and the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Imeson International Industrial Park was developed on a former airport north of Heckscher Drive and east of North Main Street.
VanTrust’s site is off Busch Drive where Whittaker Road reaches Cold Storage Drive, south of Cedar Bay Road.
A real estate purchase agreement shows that Imeson International Industrial Park Inc. and Industrial Park Investments Inc. will sell the land to VanTrust Real Estate LLC.
At the time of the sale, the sellers will sell and assign their concurrency and development rights for 3 million square feet of industrial and related improvements.
The agreement says CBRE Inc. is VanTrust’s broker.
England-Thims & Miller Inc. is the engineering consultant and Peacock Consulting Group LLC is the environmental consultant.
A report by ECS Florida LLC with the water management district application says it understands a warehouse facility is being considered on the site, called Imeson Park in the applications.
The project represents VanTrust’s first warehouse project in Northeast Florida.
“We have been looking for an industrial opportunity in North Florida since opening our Jacksonville office in January 2016,” Carey said.
At present, VanTrust, based in Kansas City, Missouri, is developing the Town Center One and Two office buildings along Gate Parkway in South Jacksonville. It also is developing in Nocatee.
Carey said VanTrust has large industrial projects in all its markets. The Jacksonville development will be the Florida office’s first major industrial project since completing a 400,000-square-foot build-to-suit structure for B Braun Medical Inc. in Daytona Beach this year.
Carey has industrial experience. He previously served as president and COO of Flagler Development Co., where his team developed industrial projects throughout Florida. That included the 1,022-acre Flagler Center in South Jacksonville.
Warehouse space is in demand in Northeast Florida, where the CBRE real estate company said the industrial vacancy rate in the second quarter of 2018 was down to a tight 3.6 percent.
VanTrust is making its plans as large projects are seeking space. For example, Cecil Commerce Center in West Jacksonville is preparing for a possible 1.5 million-square-foot warehouse distribution center, according to plans filed with the city and the water management district.
Hillwood reported to the city that in the first quarter, a broker asked about sites for a 1 million-square-foot distribution facility at Cecil Commerce Center. The park representative said in June that Cecil and other Jacksonville developers were chasing the unidentified deal.
North Carolina-based home improvement company Lowe’s Companies Inc., which recently opened a large fulfillment center in Tennessee, is considered a prospect.
A Lowe’s spokesman said July 25 the company is “always evaluating possible locations, but we don’t have anything to share at this time.”
Another name that has surfaced again is Walmart.
In April 2017, public documents outlined what was called the prospective Project Zeus, an unidentified company that sought sites in Jacksonville for a 1.3 million-square-foot, up to 800-job e-commerce fulfillment distribution center.
Two Northeast Florida sites in review were Imeson International Industrial Park, according to one public document, and possibly NorthPoint Industrial Park, both in North Jacksonville near the port.
The deal, widely described as Walmart, did not proceed.
Asked about the current 1.5 million-square-foot project, a Walmart spokeswoman responded, but not with specifics.
“Unfortunately, we can’t share business plans for competitive reasons. If there is something to share at some point, I will certainly reach out,” said Michelle Malashock in corporate communications at the Walmart Home in Bentonville, Arkansas, in an email Thursday.