Highlights of historic Fernandina, the beaches, and coastal nature at Florida-Georgia border.

Yulee’s Growth, Emergence of Wildlight

Nassau County’s Wildlight Community

With the start of the school year 2017-2018, Nassau County School District’s newest elementary school, Wildlight, opens its doors for their inaugural year.

Fernandina schools are the “Pirates,” and Yulee is known as the home of the “Hornets.” But the kids attending school at 550 Curiosity Avenue will be the Wildlight “TrailBlazers.”

The elementary school is an integral part of the new Wildlight community being developed by Raydient Places & Properties, a real estate services subsidiary of Rayonier. The first model homes to be built are expected to break ground soon.

Huge Community To Emerge

Consider 2017 as the birth year of what will become a sizable town of its own, in the future. Wildlight is not just a new home “development.” Covering 2,900 acres, Wildlight is “approved for 7 million square feet of office, commercial, medical, industrial and residential uses…and include 3,200 residential units,” according to a news release. Besides single-family homes, apartment living will also be an option. However, Wildlight will likely take decades to approach complete build out.

Wildlight Avenue Intersection, State Rd. 200/A1A
Wildlight Avenue Intersection, State Rd. 200/A1A

Where is Wildlight?

For newcomers to Nassau County, FL the entrance into Wildlight is located just east of I-95 exit 373 (west of US 17), along State Road 200/A1A.

Rayonier’s New Headquarters

Within Wildlight, Rayonier Inc.’s new corporate headquarters has also been under construction this year, a 55,000 square foot building.

Rayonier's New Yulee Headquarters Under Construction
Rayonier’s New Yulee Headquarters Under Construction

Rayonier (stock symbol RYN on the NYSE), is “one of the largest private landowners in the USA.” …[They] “own, lease or manage approximately 2.7 million acres of highly-productive timberlands in the U.S. and New Zealand to supply timber to a wide variety of markets including pulp, paper, lumber, renewable energy production and other wood products,” according to the company’s website.

For those unfamiliar with this area, Rayonier has a long local history. A plant, Rayonier Advanced Materials Inc. (stock symbol RYAM), is located in Fernandina Beach. It was established on the riverfront long ago in 1937. This plant “produces 155,000 metric tons of softwood cellulose specialties per year,” according to its website.

Wildlight Phase I

The new community’s Phase I is “designed for about 1,000 homes across about 260 acres plus nearly 350 acres of permanently preserved open space.”

Besides the new school, residential homes/neighborhoods, and Rayonier’s headquarters, Phase I will also include the Village Center, with retail stores, restaurants, recreational parks, biking and walking trails. The Wildlight community will also have a “high-speed fiber network designed to deliver one-gigabit-per second services. “

“Healthy Living Community”

An announced partnership between Raydient Places & Properties and the University of Florida’s UF Health is another aspect of Wildlight, with news recently released about its potential as a national prototype of a “healthy living community.”

If the partnership and envisioned future of this “healthy living” ideal fall into place, the first phase would be to break ground on an urgent care facility in the vicinity of Wildlight and I-95 fronting State Road 200/A1A (potentially to occur in 2018). Also intended to be included early on is primary care services, pediatrics and imaging. Then, in later years, additional medical specialties would be introduced. Note that the final stamp of approval for this project partnership between UF Health and Raydient Places & Properties had not yet occurred, as of this writing.

Nassau’s Population Growth

Nassau County, Florida’s population is on track to have doubled in a 30-year period through 2020. This is based on a population of 43,941 (as of the 1990 U.S. Census), to the 2020 population projection (a range of 84,500 (medium) to 89,600 (high), according to the Bureau of Economics & Business Research Population Studies. Note that Nassau County’s most recent U.S. Census population estimate for the year 2016 is 80,622.

Allure of the Beach

The motivation to move varies, but many people relocate to Florida for the beaches. And when choosing between living in Jacksonville vs. Nassau County, some prefer this less populated area of northeast Florida. The US Census population estimate for Duval County (2016) was 926,255, or 1,215 people per square mile. By comparison, Nassau County has 124 people per square mile (2016 Census). Nassau’s public schools also rate in the top tier of Florida’s 67 districts statewide.

On or Off?

One of the first relocation decisions newcomers make when moving to this area is whether to live ON Amelia Island, or OFF the island. Besides affordability (with prices for Amelia Island homes typically higher than a similar home on the mainland), how long it takes to commute to jobs is another consideration for those not yet retired.

Commuting

A large percentage of Nassau County, Florida’s working residents commute to employment located outside of Nassau. As part of the greater Jacksonville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, Yulee is a growing “bedroom community” of Jacksonville’s job market. With the growing traffic of State Road 200/A1A (read related article), those commuting to employment outside of Nassau County may lean toward living in neighborhoods closer to the Interstate.

Wildlight’s close proximity to I-95 presents the sizable option of the future. For those who travel on business, there’s easy access to the Jacksonville International Airport located within about 20 minutes. For those thinking about moving to northeast Florida and the Yulee area in particular, be sure to read related article, “Yulee Growth: New Homes, Traffic & Commuting.”

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