Westlake and Westside: The 'Nocatee' of Jax Industry

July 2, 2015 9 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

For those of us who remember Tupac's "California Love," the west side is the best side. In Jacksonville, when it comes to industry, the west side is hard to beat. Today, Metro Jacksonville takes a visit to what could be called the "Nocatee of Industrial Jacksonville"-- Westlake and Westside Industrial Parks.

Westlake Industrial Park

Westlake, the larger of the two, is a 3,298-acre development by the Norfolk Southern Railway (NS). NS is the "other" Class I railroad operating in Jacksonville. A major competitor to CSX, the company operates over 22,000 route miles in 22 eastern states and the District of Columbia. Like Nocatee, what's now Westlake, was originally proposed to be a completely separate city from Jacksonville. In the early 1970s, the Mid America Corporation had plans to build a city called New Duval.

Approved as a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) in 1973, New Duval was to include 1,700 acres of industrial development, 43 acres of commercial land uses, and 13,000 residential units. It was to include its own downtown with skyscrapers and an internal monorail system. In addition, Sawgrass and the Tournament Players Club were anticipated to be held at New Duval. At the time, NS was brought in to provide rail service to the industrial areas of New Duval. Recessions, later that decade, put an end to Mid America's dream, but not before NS had constructed a five-mile industrial spur to the property off their main line. Rather than let the development fall apart, NS acquired the entire property, growing pine trees, while waiting for development to reach their vicinity.

After decades of waiting, development at Westlake began in the early 2000s with the construction of major hubs by BJ's Wholesale Club and Southeast Toyota. About 80 percent of the Toyotas processed by Southeast are sent by rail to their Westlake facility from the auto manufacturer's four domestic assembly plants in Kentucky, California, Canada and Indiana. The remaining 20% arrive by ship at JAXPORT. Other companies with distribution or manufacturing centers operating at Westlake include Unilever, Standard Precast, PenserSC and Georgia Pacific.

Westlake's biggest asset could end up paying huge dividends for the region in the future. It is one of two mega-sites in Duval County (the other being Cecil Field). A mega-site consists of at least 500 contiguous acres, with services and utilities for the likes of accommodating an auto manufacturer or semiconductor plant. Observing Westlake's potential, a portion of the DRI was sold in recent years to protect the Navy's neighboring Whitehouse Field from encroaching development. Build-out of Westlake is now expected by 2032.

Westside Industrial Park

Stone Mountain, GA-based Pattillo Industrial Real Estate's Westside Industrial Park is located just east of Westlake and 1.5 miles west of I-295 West Beltway. Amenities include the United Parcel Service's 100-acre distribution center at the park, CSX's Jacksonville Intermodal Terminal literally across the street and direct access to both I-10 and I-295. Pattillo is the largest privately held industrial development operation based in the Southeastern United States, with 20 million square feet of industrial buildings located in master-planned industrial parks in Florida, Georgia, south Carolina and Tennessee.

With it's manicured landscape and red brick buildings, Pattillo's Westside Industrial Park is about as posh as it gets for distribution and manufacturing in Northeast Florida. Westside Industrial Park is designed to handle 9 million square feet of developed space. Located at Imeson and Pritchard Roads, the first building in Pattillo's 969-acre master planned development opened in 1990. By 1999, 3.5 million square feet of space had been developed, with the park generating $2 million annually in ad valorem taxes. By 2006, 6.5 million square feet had been developed and occupied by a Who's Who list of tenants ranging from BMW to Liz Claiborne and Heinz.

As of May 2015, more than 7 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution space has been developed at Westside. As the park's approaches buildout, recent infrastructure investments in the vicinity will increase Westlake's development potential. Sensing the time is right, NS recently extended Pritchard Road to Chaffee Road, providing both industrial centers with direct access to I-10 and I-295. Perhaps that dream of "New Duval" isn't as far fetched as it seemed 42 years ago.

Next Page: Photo Tour of Westlake and Westside Industrial Parks

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