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7,500-acre St. Johns development with 6 new schools planned


The Times-Union

The developers of OakLeaf plantation have announced plans for a new development in St. Johns County in a bid to provide homes for the workers employed at the county's burgeoning commercial centers.

SilverLeaf Plantation, a mixed used development sitting roughly between County Road 210 and International Golf Parkway, would be the second largest such development in the county, behind the 15,000-acre Nocatee project. The Hutson Cos., developer of the project, plans to spend the next year gaining government and community approval for the development, breaking ground in 2006.\

Built out over 15 years, the 7,500-acre SilverLeaf development would include more than $100 million in roadwork, including $55 million spent to build an arterial road running parallel to I-95, a project the county is already committed to begin work on by 2010.

The project, which would ultimately feature 10,700 residential units and 1.7 million square feet of non-residential space, would also include six schools, a regional park and a community center, according to the company's plans.


- Artist's rendering of planned SilverLeaf academic village

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Can you say "Stepford"? :lol:

I have mixed emotions about these developments. They're so suburban, but have these tiny little "town centers" within them. They're really aesthetically pleasing, which is nice.

EDIT: There's another interesting article in the T-U today. It's too long to post, but you can read it here.

Here's another pic:


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  • 2 weeks later...

St. Augustine project could transform city


The Times-Union

ST. AUGUSTINE -- The San Sebastian development project promises to transform St. Augustine, despite a decade of colossal setbacks that included a depressed market after the terrorist attacks and a multimillion-dollar cleanup necessitated by the toxic by-products of a 19th-century gas plant.

If the project is approved when the City Commission meets today, 14 acres along the San Sebastian River off King Street downtown will house an 85-room hotel with 106 condominium units, 18 lofts, a 65-slip marina, a 10,000-foot spa and 25,000 feet of retail space. It will include a riverwalk with some parking.

The project has already received initial approval from the commission. If finalized, work will begin in 2005 and conclude in 2007.

"We consider the development a landmark and something that we would be proud of and recognize throughout our careers as unique," said Matthew Merritt, a partner in the developing business, San Sebastian Harbor Properties, LLC.

Before the harbor partners bought the land for $3.6 million in May, the project stalled numerous times. Most recently, Vestcor Corp. pulled out of a proposal to develop in 2002, citing a depressed market after 9/11. The company had discussed buying the property from the city for $3.7 million and developing a $50 million project.

The city had started buying pieces of the San Sebastian property in the 1980s, eventually making five purchases from five owners, said Tim Burchfield, chief administrative officer for the city.

Discussions about development in the 1990s were complicated by the discovery of coal tar, a by-product of Atlanta Gas Co., which operated from 1885 to the 1950s. A cleanup organized by the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was fast-tracked and completed in 2002 for about $7 million.

Atlanta Gas paid for most of it. The manufactured gas plant, which closed about 50 years ago, had produced toxic hydrocarbons as far as 29 feet below the surface of the land.

In 2002, Suzanne Sitherwood, vice president of Atlanta Gas, said 85,000 tons of contaminated soil were removed. The company also removed 22 million gallons of water.

"The work took 55,000 man hours, and the crews created a hole 30 feet deep and 100 feet wide," Sitherwood said at the time.

Harbor partners became involved in January 2003. Merritt came to St. Augustine looking for investment properties and was told about the San Sebastian land. His partner, who worked for Shell Oil with large, mixed-use projects, will bring the expertise, Merritt said.

"My partner and I looked at it and looked at it and decided on a large, mixed-use project with a marina," Merritt said. "Seeing the residential district was on the upswing, the Casa Monica was redeveloped, all the new retail shops, it kind of put everybody on notice. Once you put all those pieces together, it made a lot of sense. We have a lot of confidence in the St. Augustine market."

The project is expected to be worth $60 million, which would inject $400,000 a year into city coffers, Burchfield said. It should revitalize areas of downtown near the project, such as the historic neighborhood of Lincolnville.

"People on Riberia Street and in Lincolnville have been waiting on this for a long time," Burchfield said.

St. Augustine Record reporter Peter Guinta contributed to this report.

ken.lewisjacksonville.com, (904) 819-3546

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._17429924.shtml.

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More on St. Augustine...

St. Augustine gets holiday spread in Southern Living

A feature article in the current issue of Southern Living magazine on the holidays in St. Augustine is worth nearly $500,000 in publicity, according to St. Johns County tourism officials.

St. Augustine is the subject of a three-page article entitled 'The Season in America's Oldest City,' which includes eight color photos, including a full page image of the Bridge of Lions lit up for the holidays.

The cost of buying a similar amount of advertising in the magazine, according to officials at the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau, would be about $475,000.

Among the businesses mentioned in the article are the Casa Monica Hotel, St. Augustine Toy Company, 95 Cordova, Casablanca Inn, Inn on Charlotte Street, St. Francis Inn, Bayfront Westcott House, J.R. Benet, Dreamweavers, 57 Treasury, Bistro Hypolita and Old Town Trolley Tours.

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  • 2 weeks later...

St. Johns' deal with developers good for roads

Builders foot bill for $344 million


The Times-Union

Doug Miller, an engineer whose roster of clients includes some of Northeast Florida's major real estate developers, calls it the Better Northern St. Johns County Plan.

It's a reference to the Better Jacksonville Plan, which will fund $1.5 billion of transportation projects in Duval County.

But in St. Johns County, the big dose of roadwork differs in one major respect. The Better Jacksonville Plan's funding comes from a half-cent sales tax approved by Duval County voters. In northern St. Johns County, companies launching super-sized developments would foot the bill for $344 million in road construction, based on the agreements for six communities approved since 2001 and two recent applications.

"That's a pretty robust system," said Miller, chief executive of England-Thims & Miller, a Jacksonville firm working on SilverLeaf's application for a 7,500-acre development in St. Johns County.

By using private financing to basically build a road network from scratch, developers are blazing trails to make their large timberland holdings accessible for suburban growth.

The sheer size of the master-planned communities means the financial stakes are high, especially because the applications are coming before the County Commission as if on an assembly line.

Nocatee road

In the spring, Nocatee plans to begin the first major developer-financed road construction by building a four-lane realignment of County Road 210 between the Intracoastal Waterway bridge and U.S. 1.

Big developments, big impact

Northern St. Johns County's future is being shaped by large-scale development. Here is the total impact for eight developments covering 30,500 acres. The figures below include six developments already approved: Nocatee, Durbin Crossing, Aberdeen, World Commerce Center, Bartram Park and RiverTown. Also in the totals are two proposed developments, SilverLeaf and Twin Creeks. The development would take place over 25 years.

Homes: 38,000 units of housing, mainly single-family homes.

Office buildings and stores: 5.8 million square feet for offices, 4.5 million square feet for retail and 3 million square feet for light industrial.

Roads: $344 million in private financing for regional roads.

Schools and fire stations: Land donations for 22 schools and seven firehouses.

Greenspace and parks: 14,000 acres preserved as conservation land, plus 845 acres for recreational parks. But 1,000 aces of wetlands would be damaged.

Source: Staff research, Northeast

Florida Regional Planning Council

"I would say not only for the region but across the state, it's one of the highest [numbers of applications]," said Ed Lehman, director of growth management for the Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council. "I don't really see any slowdown."

The financial obligation assumed by each developer is based on regional studies that forecast what roads will go over capacity because of traffic from residents moving into the developments. Florida's growth-management laws call it concurrency, based on the idea that development should proceed in sync with expansion of roads. But beyond the telephone book-sized traffic studies, the bottom line involves negotiations between county officials and the developers.

"Nobody knows what an exact fair share is," said Aage Schroder, head of the state Department of Transportation's Northeast Florida district. "Whether they're getting enough, I don't know. My gut feeling is that nobody [in Florida] is really getting all they can, but concurrency doesn't necessarily put it all on the developer, either."

Since 2001, the County Commission has approved six "developments of regional impact." They are Nocatee, World Commerce Center, Aberdeen, Durbin Crossing, Bartram Park and RiverTown. Those developers will do $198 million of road construction in St. Johns County, according to development orders the county signed.

The proposed Twin Creeks development would do another $46 million, and SilverLeaf Planation is offering $100 million in road construction. Ashford Mills, also a large-scale development, has not submitted how much road work it would do.

Julington Creek resident Don Beattie said the county should drive a harder bargain.

"It hasn't slowed down growth one iota," he said. "I think the county has -- maybe erred is the wrong word -- has allowed development to not fully fund their impacts."

The roads being built by private companies will link the communities being built in St. Johns but don't solve chokepoints when residents drive out of the county, Beattie said.

"They've built us onto a traffic island with no way out," he said.

But County Commission Chairman Bruce Maguire said there's a limit to what the county can get from developers. He said even before Nocatee and others entered the picture, the county was playing catch-up in road construction. He has raised the possibility of asking voters to approve a local sales tax, but he first plans to convene a committee that will look at the county's needs and current funding for roads, schools and parks.

"It's always an option to squeeze more and more money out [of developers], but we're going to get to the point eventually where they say no," Maguire said. "Legally, we can't stop them from developing. The objective is to extract as much a financial windfall as we can."

And the developers assume some risk up front because they are building multimillion-dollar roads before the first house goes on sale.

"Obviously, it makes sense, or everyone wouldn't be doing it," said Greg Barbour, president of the Parc Group, which is overseeing development of Nocatee. "The real estate market is strong, and there's good strong demand. Everybody projects that northern St. Johns County and south Duval County is the next big growth corridor."

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