Representing more than 3 percent of the land area in Duval County (17,000 acres), Cecil Commerce Center is a significant, long-term economic development asset to the City of Jacksonville.
Naval Air Station Cecil Field History
Cecil Field was named in honor of Commander Henry Barton Cecil. Shortly before World War II, a 2,600 acre tract of land was purchased in Duval County and construction began on the "U.S. Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Cecil Field."
The base got its start in June 1941, and operations were jump-started just 11 days after the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.
VF and VSB units of Advanced Carrier Group, Atlantic arrived at Cecil Field in late 1942 to commence replacement pilot combat training.
Cecil Field was commissioned as a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) in February 1943.
In March 1943, the fighter training unit moved to nearby Lee Field, in Green Cove Springs, and NAS Cecil Field became the principal war-at-sea and dive-bombing training center for the Navy. From 1943 until the war ended, Cecil Field was a pilot's last stop before assignment to combat in either the Atlantic or Pacific fleet. It operated at full capacity during the war years and after the war.
Disestablished at the end of World War II, it was then re-established and disestablished until finally designated as a Naval Air Station on June 30, 1952. The station was rejuvenated as an operating base for fleet aircraft units which ushered in the "jet age" for the Jacksonville area. In the mid-1950s Cecil Field's growth was given further impetus when the station was selected to serve as one of four bases specifically used for the operation of jet aircraft. In 1951 the land area of Cecil Field was increased to 4,600 acres and additional new buildings and facilities were constructed. Naval Air Station Cecil Field occupied 19,664 acres, and was projected to be Navy's largest master jet base.
A-7 Corsair II
It was RF-8 Crusaders from VFP 62 out of Cecil Field who detected the presence of missiles and monitored the Soviet buildup during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Squadrons from NAS Cecil Field were aboard every Atlantic Fleet aircraft carrier deployed to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict. During this period, 13 Cecil Field pilots were listed as POW or MIA. The POW/MIA memorial located behind the base chapel has become the chosen site for retiring AGs and METOC officers to hold their retirement ceremonies. The first Atlantic Fleet Squadrons to fly the A-7 Corsair II, the FA-18 Hornet, the S-3A and S-3B Viking, and the ES-3 Shadow were all based at NAS Cecil Field. Cecil Field squadrons again made history during the Gulf War, marking the final combat deployment for the A-7E Corsair II and the first combat operations for the S-3B Viking. The first weather observations were recorded at Cecil Field in May 1949, with the first meteorological equipment installed in December of the same year. In those days, weather observing and forecasting services were provided by the Meteorology Division of the Air Operations Department. The "weather guessers" of Cecil Field first became a detachment, as Naval Weather Service Environmental Detachment (NWSED), Cecil Field when, in an effort to centralize control of support from the Navy's shore-based meteorological units, the CNO established the Office of the Naval Weather Service on December 29, 1965. In September 1979, almost 14 years later, the name changed to Naval Oceanography Command Detachment (NOCD), Cecil Field.
Base Realignment and Closure
Naval Air Station Cecil Field was identified for closure by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission ("BRAC") and approved by the Congress and the President in July 1993. Upon this notice by the BRAC, the city of Jacksonville initiated the development of a reuse plan to guide transition of base property and facilities to other uses that support local goals for economic and community development. There have been efforts to see the base returned as a Naval Air Station (NAS), but these have failed due to political and economic forces.
Cecil Commerce Center History
In July 1993, former Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida was recommended for closure by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. In response to the decision to close NAS Cecil Field, the Mayor of Jacksonville established the Cecil Field Development Commission, succeeded by the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. One of the major responsibilities of the commission was to develop a proposed base reuse plan that would guide the transition of NAS Cecil Field from a fully-operational Navy base to civilian use.
In 1996, the NAS Cecil Field Final Base Reuse Plan was approved and in March 1999, the Jacksonville City Council approved the Cecil Commerce Center Operations and Business Plan. Between July 1999 and April 2002, property was conveyed to the JEDC, JAA, the City of Jacksonville Parks Department and Clay County.
Since the time of the conveyance of approximately 8,300 acres, the JEDC has worked to promote the site as a prime location for companies in the manufacturing, industrial-related and distribution industries, as well as other uses including support retail and office space along the main roads.
Existing Users at Cecil Commerce Center
Currently, there are more than 2,500 jobs generated by the various entities located at Cecil Commerce Center. A listing of these various establishments includes:
Air Kaman of Jacksonville/Signature FBO
Air One FBO, LLC
Alenia North America
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations
Civil Air Patrol
Dept of Homeland Security U.S. Customs
Division of Forestry State of Florida
Flightstar Aircraft Services
Florida State College Jacksonville (FSCJ) Aviation Center of Excellence
Florida State College Jacksonville (FSCJ) New Cecil Center
Florida Army National Guard
Information Spectrum, Inc./Anteon
Internext Group/Cecil Pines
Jacksonville Aviation Authority
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department
Jacksonville JetPort at Cecil Field
Jacksonville Sheriffs Office
Jet Turbine Services
Logistic Services International (LSI)
M & T Co./CDI
Other DoD Activities Navy Env
Resource Consultants, Inc.
Stanley Associates, Inc.
Symphony Flight School/Sales
United States Coast Guard
United States Post Office
VT Griffin Services
Vystar Credit Union
The JEDC issued a formal RFP for a master developer of 4,499 +/- acres of City-owned property at Cecil Commerce Center. The RFP closed on March 13, 2009 and staff is reviewing the proposals. The site is ideal for manufacturing, industrial-related and supply chain logistics end users. Click here for more information on the RFP.
The U.S. Coast Guard has recently renovated its 32,000-square-foot building and added 150 new personnel to its drug interdiction operation, at Cecil. Overall annual payroll for the operation is approximately $12 million.
Alenia North America has started the construction of a $65 million final assembly and delivery center for the C-27J Spartan cargo plane at Cecil Commerce Center. The center will add 300 new jobs to the local market. The company also expects to invest approximately $42 million in new, private capital for manufacturing equipment, technology, infrastructure and furniture.
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations recently purchased 63.3 acres in Cecil Commerce Center North and constructed a 1-million-square-foot distribution center. The site will employ 250 and represents a private capital investment of $44 million.
The new Cecil Commerce Center Parkway and I-10 interchange is underway and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2009. Click here to learn more about this $60.8 million project that will provide direct access to Cecil Commerce Center.
Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) recently completed phase one of a new, 44,000-square-foot center in Cecil Commerce Center North. The new campus offers general education courses.
FlightStar, a heavy aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul contractor, added 150 more employees. This brings their employment at Cecil Commerce Center South to approximately 320.
Source: City of Jacksonville
Images by Ennis Davis