Online retail giant Amazon is planning to build two Jacksonville distribution centers — with the latest slated to go near the Cecil Commerce Center on the city’s Westside.
It’s the latest example of industrial development’s booming at the site of the former Navy base.
Together, the two Amazon facilities will employ 2,700 people, according to the company. Each one is planned to be roughly 1 million square feet, roughly the size of the Avenues Mall.
Amazon’s latest announcement marks a big move forward for Cecil Commerce Center, a 4,400-acre former Navy air base that is gaining traction as an industrial center.
To see the boom, just head west from Jacksonville on I-10, just past I-295, and take the interchange exit for Cecil.
The other relatively recent coup for Cecil was the opening of the GE oil and gas manufacturing plant about two years ago.
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When cities get a huge corporation like GE or Amazon to build a major facility in their business parks, that sends out a signal to other companies that this is a good place to do business. It’s like a seal of approval.
People in the commercial real estate business say there will be an “Amazon effect,” raising the value of industrial real estate in Jacksonville. In part, that’s because these huge operations attract spin-off businesses that supply the plants with services, from parts to transportation. So the economic impact is greater than the initial addition of jobs and construction.
As well as things are going for Cecil now, it wasn’t always such a rosy picture – in fact the city struggled to get any development out there after it took control of the land from the Navy in 1999.
Development was so slow, in fact, there was a push to bring the Navy back in 2005, when it was looking to relocate a base in Virginia. Jeb Bush, the Florida governor at the time, worked very hard to get the base for Jacksonville, and had largely succeeded, but then Mayor John Peyton pulled the plug on that idea after loud opposition surfaced from Westside residents.
In 2010, the city gave up trying to develop Cecil itself and hired Hillwood Investment Properties from Dallas to develop and market the land. But even that didn’t pick up the pace because of the recession, which pretty much killed off activity there for a few more years.
But slowly, as the national economy has improved, so have the fortunes at Cecil Commerce Center, and economic development leaders expect it to continue to grow and add thousands of more jobs as the years go on.