Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hillwood Has 'To Deliver' at Cecil; the New Master Developer Has Benchmarks It Must Meet

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hillwood Has 'To Deliver' at Cecil; the New Master Developer Has Benchmarks It Must Meet

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BAUERLEIN

After winning the Jacksonville City Council's support for becoming master developer of Cecil Commerce Center, Hillwood's next moves will be the meat and potatoes of industrial development.

Open a marketing center, step up talks with prospects considering Cecil, and beat the bushes for other customers.

But Hillwood's development faces an added dimension of high expectations from city officials banking on the company to energize the lackluster pace of development at Cecil.

"We've got to deliver on our promises now," Preston Herold, vice president of Hillwood Investment Properties, said after the City Council voted for the master development agreement Tuesday night.

Hillwood, a Dallas-based company that is among the nation's largest industrial developers, will be in charge of bringing businesses to land where the city attracted just two companies in the past 11 years.

Herold said Hillwood has talked with a couple of businesses about locating at Cecil Commerce Center. He said Hillwood wanted to get the agreement with the city wrapped up before moving ahead with those discussions.

"That will be job No. 1 - getting back to those folks," he said.

Herold will move to Jacksonville to lead Hillwood's marketing of the commerce center. He said Hillwood will set up its office in a former Navy building at the commerce center.

The city and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority obtained thousands of acres of land from the federal government in 1999 after the Navy base closed. Hillwood's contract covers city-owned land but doesn't extend to the aviation authority's property.

One change that will take effect immediately when Hillwood takes over as master developer is real estate brokers will be able to earn fees when their clients decide to locate at the commerce center. The city hasn't paid broker fees, but brokers will have a financial incentive to have their clients consider Cecil when Hillwood is on board.

Hillwood will erect large signs designating the city-owned portion of the center as Alliance Florida at Cecil Commerce Center. Hillwood considers Alliance its premier brand and uses it for two other massive developments, Alliance Texas and Alliance California.

The master development agreement with Hillwood can run for up to 25 years, but it establishes a series of benchmarks for development that Hillwood must meet along the way. Those requirements are based on the square footage of construction.

Within three years, Hillwood must construct a 400,000 square foot building, regardless of whether Hillwood has tenants for the building or not. In 10 years, it must have built 2 million square feet, and by the end of 20 years, the total tally must be at least 7 million square feet.

Since 1999, the city has struck two deals at the commerce center by selling land for the 1 million square foot Bridgestone Americas Tire Operation center and the 235,000 square foot Saft high-tech battery manufacturing plant. …

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