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North Florida Development Projects Signal Remarkable Turnaround Story

North Florida commercial and residential developments are making a renewed run of prosperity, centered in Jacksonville but emanating to outlying areas such as Nassau County..

Steve Nicklas
Steve Nicklas

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.

_STEVE’S MARKETPLACE_

In case you haven’t been watching or listening, the development industry in North Florida is making as much news as Edward Snowden.

While the informant/traitor Snowden is on the run from authorities, commercial and residential developments are making a renewed run of prosperity here. And it’s a run that has been much publicized and documented in the local media.

It ranges from new high-rise condominiums to spacious office complexes to major mixed-use projects, centered in Jacksonville but emanating to outlying areas such as Nassau County. The news of these projects is indeed worthy, and promising. Here is a condensed list of some of the major North Florida developments:

— In Nassau County, the industrial park known as the Crawford Diamond in Bryceville and the enormous mixed-use development by Terra Pointe (a subsidiary of Rayonier) in Yulee have received attention and accolades. In fact, Terra Pointe’s project is considered to be one of the largest of its kind in the southeastern U.S.

— In recent months, five apartment complexes have sold in Jacksonville at a combined price tag of $134 million. These include the Registry at Windsor Park ($33 million), Village Walk Apartments on Gate Parkway ($30 million), and Paddock Club on Merrill Road ($34 million).

— Commercial real estate is rebounding with the might of Dwight Howard, with more than $180 million in recent sales of office space. Also, vacancy rates are improving dramatically.

— Nocatee, the massive planned community in northern St. Johns County, is on fire – with flames of multi-faceted growth. Builders are expected to complete 800 homes this year, while 300 apartments will be breaking ground next year. Meanwhile, significant price increases for single-family homes have occurred across all ranges (from $100,000 to $800,000).

— Deutsche Bank will sublease 70,000 square feet of office space in Butler Plaza III on Belfort Road. This deal is gargantuan when you consider the majority of office deals in this area average less than 10,000 square feet.

— Sauer Inc. has won a contract to build a $4.5 million radiation vault for Cancer Specialists of North Florida. Jacksonville is quickly becoming a celebrated health care metropolis.

— Over the past year, Jacksonville has increased its residential building by more than 50 percent for single-family homes, eclipsing all major cities in Florida. Some 100 builders have a presence in North Florida.

— The Jacksonville Beaches are exploding, bolstered by the luxury housing market as well as commercial projects such as: Carter USA finishing Valencia, a half-built condominium project; Richmond America is building 60 single-family homes on South Beach Parkway; and Paradise Valley Enterprises LLC is planning a 10,000-square-foot retail development on Beach Boulevard. In addition, TriBridge Residential plans to construct 170 apartments on the former George Moore Chevrolet site; Atlantic Beach Partners LLC is developing 170 single-family homes and will redevelop the adjacent Selva Marina Golf Course.

— An $11 million project is scheduled for expanding the docks at the Blount Island terminal to accommodate the next generation of large container ships.

— A Kentucky company is bringing 50 engineering jobs to Clay County. The R.J. Cormain Railroad Group will invest $100,000 into a headquarters for a new division. The company chose North Florida for its highly trained labor force – particularly high-tech talent from Florida’s universities.

— An unfinished condominium project, The Cove at St. Johns, has been sold to Prospect Property Group of Orland for $2.6 million. The project is located at Bay Meadows Road and San Jose Boulevard and is another indication of the market rebounding.

— Flagler County, once decimated by the housing downturn, is bouncing back in a big way. Five new businesses have moved into the county — highlighted by Aveo Engineering Group, a global manufacturer of LED lights. Aveo plans to build an airport hangar and manufacturing plant, creating 300 jobs primarily in engineering. In addition, a cloud computing company will occupy a 30,000-square-foot office space and deliver 100 new jobs there.

— In downtown Jacksonville, the Old Republic Title building is under contract to a developer, with plans for a ground-floor restaurant and for an arts group to occupy the second floor.

— Last, but hardly least, Hallmark Partners Inc. are moving forward with designs for a 16-story waterfront luxury condominium tower in Riverside — as an epicenter for downtown Jacksonville.

Whew. Now that’s a news summary with some positive substance. The kind of substance that equates to a remarkable turnaround story for North Florida – and you can put that in the headlines.