News Article | 4/14/2010

Hillwood wins Cecil Recommendation


The Jacksonville Economic Development unanimously recommended Wednesday morning a contract with a Cecil Commerce Center master developer.


Under the contract, which still has to be approved by the City Council, Hillwood Investment Properties will buy the 2,700 Westside acres ready for construction for about $21.2 million. The JEDC said it will cost about $233 million to ready the often uneven and wetland-filled site. The contract with Hillwood has to be approved by the City Council.


Opponents counter that it’s worth far more than that and the deal will depress surrounding land values. Peter Anderson, vice president of Pattillo Construction Co., estimates the city is selling the property at 80 percent less than market value.


Opponents say the city will lose out on property taxes that could be drawn from the site and get less taxes from surrounding sites since they’ll be undervalued.


The city has spent about $180 million to improve the land, but Hillwood won’t have to incur these expenses. Hillwood won’t be penalized if it walks away from the project, nor will it have to pay for past investment, because the city wants to create a favorable partnership, not a traditional land sale, said JEDC Executive Director Ron Barton.


About 2,700 of the center’s 4,400 acres are economically feasible to develop and their value is dependent on finding a developer willing to invest in the property. Of those 2,700 acres, about 800 acres will require wetland mitigation.


The Cecil property will be sold at three different prices depending on the condition of the land. The pricing schedule is as follows:


• Property on high-and-dry sites and with little utility and infrastructure needs will sell for about $23,470 per acre. Bringing this land to build-ready condition will cost roughly $35,900 per acre.


• The middle-grade land that is low-lying and has more significant utility and infrastructure needs will cost about $8,800 per acre. The cost of bringing this part of the property to build-ready status is about $62,700 per acre.


• The most troubled land, which is filled with wetland and requires significant utility and infrastructure investment, will sell for about $1,000 per acre. It will cost about $112,900 per acre to make these sites ready for development.