Wanted: Ideas for developing Cecil; The city Aviation Authority wants a national firm to create an umbrella plan.

July 20, 2007

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is looking for a national company to come up with a long-term plan for the development of Cecil Commerce Center, a job that could cost up to $1 million - and it hopes to fill the spot by Wednesday.

The development plan would come about 7 years after the former military base was turned over to the city, with the bulk of the land being split between the city and the authority. Since the Navy vacated the site, development of the 6,000 acres on the aviation side of the commercial park has exceeded the authority's expectation, with several tenants moving into the hangars and office buildings that were left behind.

But as development in the park moves forward, Aviation Authority Executive Director John Clark said, it's important to have an overarching plan to work from. "If we do it project by project, it will cost more," he said. "We want to engage in planning."

The authority's board decided Monday to hire a developer, voting unanimously to send out a Request for Qualifications and Experience. The board amended management's recommendation and will require the contract to come back to the board for approval.

Responses to the request, which appears to have been posted on the authority's Web site since July 9, are due by 2 p.m. Wednesday.

As well as the roughly 6,000 acres the authority owns, the planning process will also take a look at the city-owned 2,174 acres, including a 756-acre conservation parcel. That land, as well as all of the authority-owned property, lies to the north of Normandy Boulevard, with the rest of the city-owned property to the south of the road.

The authority is discussing taking over control of that land, either by leasing it, buying it or having the city deed it to the authority, Clark said.

No one from the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, which oversees development on the city side of the center, were available to discuss those negotiations Monday.

The city, meanwhile, is in the midst of a marketing campaign for the Commerce Center, having AXIA Public Relations and Marketing work up print ads, logos and other promotional materials.

timothy.gibbons@jacksonville.com (904) 359-4103