With the purchase of 45 developable acres near St. Johns Town Center a done deal, buyer Preferred Growth Properties is expected to soon lay out plans for the construction timeline and tenants.
“There are multiple, unique and exciting offerings that are programmed for the development and details will be forthcoming,” said property representative Chris Morgan, CEO of Cantrell & Morgan Inc. of Jacksonville.
He and Cantrell & Morgan President Jim Loftin represented Preferred Growth Properties in its $46.95 million purchase of the property from members of the Skinner family.
The deal closed Friday, according to Chip Skinner, a member of the family and one of the landowners.
Preferred Growth Properties, a subsidiary of Birmingham, Ala.-based Books-A-Million Inc., bought the property through PGP Jacksonville TC LLC, Skinner said.
The site is at Gate and Town Center parkways. The main tract is east of Gate Parkway and runs north and west along Town Center Parkway. A smaller tract is west of Gate Parkway. Both include lakefront footage.
“From the plans we’ve seen, they will make good use of that lakefront,” Skinner said.
Preferred Growth Properties executives have not returned phone calls or emails. Morgan said Sunday he is designated as the company contact for now.
The Skinner family rezoned the property as a Planned Unit Development district for commercial and residential uses. City Council enacted the ordinance in May.
Permitted uses are up to 500,000 square feet of enclosed retail and commercial space, 100,000 square feet of office space, up to 400 hotel rooms and up to 500 multifamily residential units.
While PGP has not announced tenants or users, two surfaced in November when a retailer and an apartment developer confirmed plans to open there.
Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby said it would open one of its arts, crafts and home-decor stores on the property. It would be the fifth Hobby Lobby in the area.
Houston-based Stanmore Partners said it was under contract to buy land from PGP for a 347-unit apartment community, called Ravella at Town Center Apartment Homes.
That project would be developed on about 6.6 acres at northwest Town Center and Midtown parkways.
“As you can imagine with a project of this size, there are incredible amounts of planning and design that are invested,” Morgan said.
He defers to PGP about the construction team and development schedule.
Morgan said no retail sites are being sold and that PGP or one of its entities will serve as the landlord.
“We feel like the additional activity that they are going to bring to the area from a retail, residential and hotel perspective is going to really add to the already growing and vibrant area,” Skinner said.
Skinner said $3 million to $4 million in transportation improvements are planned by the developer.
PGP plans to make traffic improvements at Gate and Town Center parkways, including adding turn lanes, access points and a trail for pedestrians, runners and bicyclists.
Nearby District 11 Council member Danny Becton said Sunday that as one of several council members representing Southside, traffic improvements are a major focus for him.
“The challenge, as with any growth-oriented area, is always traffic and the transportation network that supports it,” he said.
He said his background in growth management and transportation has been helpful in working with agencies such as the city Public Works and Planning and Development departments, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Becton is working with development of two major projects along Gate Parkway in his district — the IKEA furniture superstore and a 105-acre mixed-use project proposed by the Hines group.
PGP also will have company to the north. Its site is directly south of the Town Center Promenade, a new development by Atlanta-based Core Property Capital to include apartments, a hotel, retailers and restaurants, with several of them new to the market. Core Property Capital paid $23.5 million for 30 developable acres.
“The closing on this project continues to demonstrate that Southside will see tremendous growth over the next 10, 20 and 30 years,” Becton said.
He said the growth will bring jobs and an increased tax base to the city, and the new residents will be patrons of the area’s businesses.
Becton also believes the trend will continue to blend retail operations and surrounding residential communities near the Town Center.
Creating a retail destination
Morgan said the project is “yet another validation for the Jacksonville retail market.”
Carrie Smith, regional managing director for the Franklin Street of Jacksonville commercial real estate firm, said Sunday a deal of PGP’s scale “shows that Jacksonville is a place businesses want to invest in.”
Preferred Growth Properties has been working on the project at least since February 2015, when Skinner confirmed the property was under contract. A Cantrell & Morgan website posting showed a project there by Preferred Growth Properties.
The Skinners applied for the rezoning, which outlined a 61.35-acre site comprising 45.02 acres of upland acres and 16.33 acres of lakes and ditches.
In March 2015, as the city was reviewing the rezoning application, landowner attorney T.R. Hainline said the sale could be completed by year-end. PGP then said in September it expected to complete the property purchase in January.
That date passed with no new date from PGP, although Skinner continued to confirm the land was under contract.
“There is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes, and from the inception everyone has rolled their sleeves up and are working together toward a successful conclusion,” Morgan said.
Smith said there may be more deals.
“The area immediately around the St. Johns Town Center continues to demand some of the highest dollars, in land price and lease rates, in all of Northeast Florida,” she said.
Given the demand for commercial, residential and hotel space, she thinks more projects will be announced in the coming months.
Geneva Henderson, executive vice president of the Lat Purser & Associates commercial real estate services firm, said Sunday the project will be a significant draw for new retailers coming to Jacksonville.
The center, along with IKEA and the Topgolf project under construction near St. Johns Town Center, continues to bring “top-named retailers and restaurants into a market with the highest sales in North Florida,” she said.
St. Johns Town Center brought in Nordstrom, Tiffany & Co. and other major retailers and restaurants exclusive in the market, while Town Center Promenade will feature the area’s first Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews, among other new names.
“Retail shopping is on par with any major retail market in the Southeast,” Henderson said.
The Town Center Parkway property is PGP’s second, but by far the largest, deal in Jacksonville. PGP Jacksonville LLC paid $4.7 million in July 2014 for the Mandarin South Shopping Center at 11700 San Jose Blvd.
Its pgpcompanies.com site says Mandarin South will be redeveloped into a high-end lifestyle center “with the PGP signature style and top-tier retail branding.”
While no redevelopment construction has begun, a tenant at the 70,000-square-foot center recently relocated. A Wood You Furniture owner said PGP told the company that Earth Fare had signed a lease there for a grocery store.
Preferred Growth Properties’ website shows that it owns four properties — Mandarin South along with the two-phase Magnolia City Place in Gardendale, Ala.; Renaissance City Center in Florence, Ala.; and Lafayette City Place in Fayetteville, N.C.
Books-A-Million develops and manages commercial real estate investments through Preferred Growth Properties.
Books-A-Million became a private company again in December. Its three Northeast Florida stores are in Regency Park in Jacksonville and in Jacksonville Beach and Orange Park.