News Article | 6/9/2010

Jacksonville City Council selects Hillwood as developer of Cecil Commerce Center


The task of bringing long-awaited jobs to Cecil Commerce Center officially fell on Dallas-based Hillwood when the Jacksonville City Council voted Tuesday to make Hillwood the center’s master developer.


The 16-0 vote capped a year of negotiations that started last summer when the city tapped Hillwood as the top-ranked applicant for the role of master developer.


Despite opposition that came mainly from businesses doing industrial development in Jacksonville, council members have said the commerce center needs a master developer and Hillwood has a track record of success.


“We’re looking forward to them getting busy out there,” Councilman Ronnie Fussell said Tuesday night.


The master developer contract will last up to 25 years and cover as many as 2,800 acres. As Hillwood attracts businesses, the company will purchase tracts of land from the city for construction of distribution centers and warehouses.


Hillwood will call its project Alliance Florida, the same “premier brand” the company affixed to its Alliance Texas and Alliance California mega-developments. Alliance California is at a former Air Force base in San Bernardino.


Opponents of the contract argued the negotiations between Hillwood and the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission resulted in the city agreeing to sell land on the cheap.


Though some council members said the price would probably be higher if the city were just selling land in a straight land deal, they said the price is part of a much larger agreement that requires Hillwood to develop the center or lose its right to the contract.


Mayor John Peyton has supported making Hillwood the master developer, saying the city cannot afford to maintain the “status quo” at the commerce center.


The city and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority took ownership of the commerce center in 1999 from the Navy after the federal government closed the military base. Hillwood will be the master developer of city-owned land at the center. The aviation authority’s land is not covered by the contract.