Industrial park plan could add 200 jobs

The project hopes to attract warehousing, distribution and manufacturing firms.



An 800,000-square-foot industrial park planned for the Westside is expected to generate up to 200 jobs.

The development, located at Interstate 295 and Pritchard Road, hopes to attract warehousing, distribution and manufacturing companies from around the Southeast United States, Jeff Graham, the development's broker, said Wednesday.

The $50 million Perimeter West Industrial Park, which will be built over three years, is already generating buzz. The owner - ING Clarion - is in late-stage talks to get a global manufacturer to set up a parts distribution center in the park. Graham declined to disclose further details, citing a confidentiality agreement.

To put the size of the new development in context, The Avenues mall is 1 million square feet.

Businesses are seeking "significantly larger" distribution centers today, said Jerry Mallot, executive director of Cornerstone Regional Development Partnership, the economic development arm of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"Back just five or 10 years, we would have thought that 200,000 square feet was a large operation," Mallot said. "Today, we see a lot of companies interested in half a million to a million square feet at a time."

The Westside industrial park will include a 260,000-square-foot building expected to be completed in mid-2008. Four other buildings are planned ranging from 85,000 square feet to 207,000 square feet.

The site was chosen because of its proximity to the Port of Jacksonville and major arteries - Interstate 95 and I-10.

"You can jump right on the interstate," Graham said. "The cost of transportation has dramatically increased over the last several years and miles equals money."

The area is also home to CSX and Norfolk Southern facilities, a United Parcel Service bulk facility and a U.S. Postal Service bulk center.

The new park, which hopes to attract up to 15 tenants, could benefit from port developments, Graham said, echoing a similar sentiment from city economic development officials.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is creating a direct connection between the First Coast and Asia. That has led several companies to say they are locating or expanding distribution operations in the region.

Port activity could also be behind a Central Florida-based real estate developer's plans to put a 4 million-square-foot industrial park between I-95 and U.S. 17, north of Pecan Park Road.

"The Jacksonville Port Authority is really the entity that is driving the need for industrial distribution and warehouse [projects] in the city right now," said Paul Crawford, deputy executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission,

A paucity of newly built industrial space is one reason Graham is confident his property will find tenants.

The vacancy rate among Jacksonville's roughly 87 million square feet of industrial space is about 7.5 percent, Graham said. That's slightly higher than the statewide average of about 6.5 percent, but lower than Atlanta's nearly 16 percent vacancy rate, he said.