Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Poised for Growth Westside Anticipates Cecil Field Closure

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Poised for Growth Westside Anticipates Cecil Field Closure

Article excerpt

It doesn't take much to see that Arnold Whisenant is excited that the Westside is finally getting some of the development limelight that has bathed the Southside area these past few years.

With the Navy moving out of the 17,224-acre Cecil Field Naval Air Station and the city actively pursuing economic growth and development for that area, the 30-year Westside resident is confident that the area will come into its own.

So Whisenant -- who intended to retire from the Westside insurance agency where he works five years from now -- said he won't retire until 2009.

The Navy's move "just opened the ears and eyes of many of our leaders," Whisenant, 52, said yesterday. "We were like a sleeping lamb."

While other parts of town have grown more quickly than the Westside, Whisenant said the area is getting more attention now. The difference, he said, is that there's more "aggressive" action by city leaders to bring businesses to Normandy Boulevard, Commonwealth Avenue and other Westside arteries.

But Whisenant, who is president of the Confederate Pointe Civic Association -- a neighborhood group made up of homeowners residing about 10 miles east of Cecil Field -- said it was only a matter of time before the business and commercial development edged westward. The Navy moving out only sped things up.

Earlier this week, consultants from BHR Inc. hired by the city to create an economic development plan for Cecil Field presented their blueprint for how the naval base could look 20 years from now.

Using Normandy Road, which intersects Cecil Field, as the north-south dividing line, the consultants envision the north tract becoming a hub for manufacturing and commercial users.

They also say that office and commercial space could thrive there, if the Florida Department of Transportation approves preliminary requests to move the planned Brananfield-Chaffee connector -- which would provide a north-south link between residential housing just south of the Duval County-Clay County line and Interstate 10 -- eastward onto Cecil Field. That would allow for a hub of commercial development around the four-way interchange that Brananfield-Chaffee would bring. …

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