Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Business News

JAX Chamber names Debbie Buckland as chair-elect of business group - Monday, October

The JAX Chamber has a new chair-elect for 2019.

Debbie Buckland was selected by the Chamber Board of Directors Friday, a chamber news release said. Buckland is no stranger to the inner workings of JAX Chamber. She is currently treasurer of the chamber’s board and begins her service as chair-elect in January.

The Chamber normally selects its chair-elect a year in advance and the person holding the post helps drive the agenda of priorities and helps implement policy of the business group.

Buckland is the market president of BB&T personal and business banking and mortgage company. Buckland will replace former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton as chair-elect who will move on to chairman of the JAX Chamber Board of Directors in 2018.

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098.

Morton’s set to reopen Tuesday after flooding from Hurricane Irma - Monday, October

Morton’s The Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, which has been closed since Hurricane Irma, is scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

The 951-room hotel was sold in late September for $109 million to a Houston corporation. It is scheduled to reopen on Oct. 30.

Morton’s serves USDA prime-aged beef, poultry, fish and seafood. The first location opened in Chicago in 1978 and there are more than 75 locations worldwide.

Morton’s returned to Jacksonville when it opened the location at the Hyatt Regency at 225 E. Coastline Drive in late June after selling its location on the Southbank five years ago.

The dining room at Morton’s The Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The bar opens at 4 p.m. daily.

Jacksonville’s Fanatics Inc. branches out into college merchandising, acquires Atlanta firm - Monday, October

Jacksonville-based Fanatics Inc. online sports apparel and memorabilia company is expanding its operations to focus more on fans of collegiate sports.

Fanatics had offered college sports merchandise for years but on Monday the company announced it is forming Fanatics College. It’s a new division of Fanatics that will focus directly on college fans and linking them up to the merchandise from college games. In a related development, Fanatics announced in a news release that it has acquired Fermata Partners. That’s an Atlanta-based division of Creative Artists Agency.

Fermata is a collegiate merchandise licensing service. Fermata will remain in Atlanta , a news release said.

Fanatics has been expanding its presence in pro sports in the past year with stakeholder buy-ins with the company from both the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098.

Renovation to begin on Barnett Bank Building this week - Monday, October

Renovations are scheduled to begin this week on the old Barnett Bank building downtown.

“The public won’t see a lot of activity at first,” said David Kottmyer, vice president of operations for Danis Construction. “We’ll be inside getting the temporary power turned out, making it safe.

“But it will ramp up pretty quickly.”

Steve Atkins, principal and managing director of the SouthEast Development Group, said the first tenants should be able to move in in 10-12 months.

The apartments, which will fill the top 11 floors of the 18-story building, should be ready by fall 2018 or spring 2019, he said.

The Barnett building at Adams and Laura streets and the three buldings across the street known as the Laura Street Trio have long been considered linchpins to downtown development.

Danis Construction has the contract for the full project, which has an estimated total cost of $90 million, Atkins said. The entire project is receiving $9.8 million in city money: A $4 million grant to each project and $1.8 million property tax rebate on new construction for the Trio.

The plans for the four buildings have not changed much in the past year:

The Barnett building is still scheduled to have 50,000 square feet of commercial space topped by 100 apartments.

A 550-space parking garage will be built at the corner of Forsyth and Main streets for Barnett residents and the public. Kottmyer said there is no start date on that, but that it is scheduled to be finished at the same time as the Barnett.

The Trio will include a 145-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel in the Florida Life and Bisbee buildings. That will require additional construction on the southeast corner of Laura and Adams that will be topped by a rooftop bar, Atkins said. The Bullbriar restaurant is still scheduled to occupy the Marble Bank Building at the corner of Laura and Forsyth streets.

Atkins said the Trio is running about five months behind the Barnett in getting its plans OK’d by the National Park Service, which has approval rights over historic buildings.

Atkins’ group bought the four historic but empty buildings in 2013 for $3 million. There was foreclosure lawsuit filed by Jaguars owner Shad Khan who had provided some of the purchase money, and his Stache Investments received the Barnett building as a result.

But last February, the Molasky Group of Companies, which had joined SouthEast in the project in 2015, paid Stache $4 million for the Barnett building.

Atkins acknowledged that many people in Jacksonville doubted whether the project would ever get done.

“Nobody heard that more than me,” he said. “At least once a day, I had someone tell me that I was crazy and never should have gotten involved. But to the naysayers, now I can tell them they can lease an apartment.”

Danis Construction has actually had the contract on the project long before Atkins group bought it.

“As a native of Jacksonville and someone who’s been involved for a long time,” said Gordon Steadman, Danis vice president of buiness development, “I can tell you it’s a reality now.”

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

Gasoline prices keep plunging across Florida and the nation - Monday, October

Gasoline prices posted yet another plunge at the pump, dropping for the fourth consecutive week.

The American Automobile Association reported Monday that Florida gas prices fell to an average of $2.47 for a gallon of regular unleaded as of Sunday, a drop of 7 cents per gallon over the past week, or about 25 cents cheaper than a month ago. That average price per gallon has declined for the past 31 days in Florida, a AAA news release said. The national average price for a gallon of gas was also $2.47.

In Jacksonville, the average price for a gallon of gas remained below the state average, coming in at $2.43 as of Monday morning accorging to gasbuddy.com, a website that tracks gas prices in metropolitan markets across the U.S. The lowest price per gallon in Jacksonville as of Monday was posted at the Welcome Food Store at Wilson Boulevard and Jammes Road. There were several other gas stations and convenience stores that were selling gas at $2.24 and $2.29 per gallon around Jacksonville Monday.

AAA officials say the gas prices continue to rebound after a heavy hit with higher prices following Hurricane Harvey that pounded the Gulf Coast in August and Hurricane Irma slammed Florida in September causing a spike in prices.

“Oil and wholesale gasoline prices inched higher last week, but not high enough to stop the downward trend at the pump just yet,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins in a prepared statement. “Retail prices are still inflated by a little more than 10 cents [compared to this time in 2016], thanks to the hurricanes. So motorists should expect another round of discounts this week.”

The highest price for an average gallon of gas was in Miami, where the fuel was selling for $2.62 per gallon, and West Palm Beach was just behind that at $2.61.

The Tampa area saw the least expensive price for an average gallon of gas in Florida at $2.34, AAA officials said.

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098

Sunday Notebook: New apartments for Skinner Parkway, new homes … just about everywhere - Saturday, Octobe

While most of the new home developments I write about are the larger ones, particularly in St. Johns County, KB Home continues to find small parcels of land here and there to build new single-family homes. It has three more in the works:

Summerlyn is a 13.45-acre parcel at the corner of Belfort Road and Bridges Street. It’s going to have 55 lots that are 50 feet wide, with homes 1,541-3,016 square feet and prices starting in the mid-$200s.

Opening is planned for next spring. KB paid $1,398,000 for the land.

Wyndham Place is 12.39 acres at 7275 Old Middleburg Road. It will have 31 lots at least 60 feet wide with homes 1,494 to 2,648 square feet and prices starting in the high $100s.

It opens this fall. KB paid $1,375,000 for that land.

Oakwood Manor is 10.82 acres on Orange Picker Road, next to Flynn Park and just west of San Jose Boulevard in Mandarin. It will have 34, 60-foot lots, homes from 1,769 to 3,016 square feet and starting in the mid-$200s.

It’s expected to open in April. KB has the property under contract, but has not closed on it.


If you missed the news Thursday, Ikea has announced its Jacksonville store will open Nov. 8. And if you’ve been answering my phone for the past month, you would know that a lot of people are really anxious for it to open.

I’ve been averaging at least a call a day, maybe two, from people asking if I knew when. It’s obviously important to a lot of people.

And for those people, Ikea is allowing customers to begin lining up 48 hours before the store opens. But I’m not sure what to say about that.

The store is at Gate Parkway and Interstate 295, if you want to bring a sleeping bag.


A Savannah restaurant will be the next addition to Nocatee. Treylor Park, which has one location on East Bay Street in Savannah, is scheduled to open next spring on Marketside Avenue, just south of Publix and near the newly opened Timoti’s Seafood Shack.

The Savannah menu primarily features sandwiches, tacos and Southern-influenced plates such as biscuits Benedict. In 2015, it won an award for best new bar in Savannah. Its owners also own Hitch in Savannah’s historic district.


Construction started this past week on JTB, a 350-unit apartment complex at 8876 A.C. Skinner Pkwy., just west of Southside Boulevard and south of Butler Boulevard. It’s being developed by Presidium Group, LLC, recently partnered with Jacksonville firms Killashee Investments, Schmidt Development and Tomo Development on 13.3 acres that sold last year for $3 million.

LandSouth Construction is building the $39 million project, which will consist of four, five-story buildings with elevators and seven carriage buildings with garages.

The first buildings are expected to be completed in 14 months, the full project in 20 months.

Clay County

Two apartment complexes will go before Clay County’s Development Review Committee next Thursday. They’re both proposed by TVC Development for the corner of Old Jennings and Branan Field roads. But they’re just proposals hoping to get state funding later this year, so nothing’s definite even if the county OKs them.

Macie Creek is a 96-unit complex for seniors, Madison Palms is a 108-unit complex not restricted to seniors.

Palm Valley

Freedom Boat Club has opened a location at Palm Valley Outdoors, where County Road crosses the Intracoastal Waterway in St. Johns County. The club, in which members use its fleet of boats, has 145 locations across the country, including Julington Creek Marina in Jacksonville and Camachee Cove Marina in St. Augustine.

The Palm Valley location opens in December.


Broxton Bay, a 324-unit apartment complex near River City Marketplace, will hold its ribbon-cutting Oct. 17. The first tenants moved in last month and the project is expected to be finished next April. It was 13 percent pre-leased and is located at 12900 Broxton Bay Drive.

Readers keep asking about the Waffle House that I’ve said is coming to 11839 San Jose Blvd. in Mandarin. The company still says it’s coming and has even been assigned a number. It’ll be store No. 2256. But no construction date has been set.

BeBalanced Hormone Weight Loss Centers will hold the grand opening of its first Northeast Florida location on Oct. 26 at 12740 Atlantic Blvd. The local franchise is owned by DeArcy Vaughan.


1544 22nd St. W., adding fellowing hall to Bethsadia Temple, $40,000, 940 square feet, Alpha &Omega Builders.

11512 Lake Mead Ave., tenant buildout for Ponte Vedra Plastic Surgery, $300,000, 4,809 square feet, Moducomm Development.

7641 Powers Ave., installation of prefabricated restroom building at T-ball field at city’s Baker Skinner Park, $75,000, 170 square feet, WFO Construction.

3606-3643 Baxter St., four new single-family homes in Arbor Mill, off Oakleaf Plantation Parkway, $65,000 each, D.R. Horton.

9000 Normandy Blvd., tenant building for new Subway restaurant, $121,000, 1,924 square feet, Petroleum Construction.

1403 Dunn Ave., tenant buildout for Lucky Times Arcade, $1,000, Advanced Design and Construction.

12311 N. Main St., new McDonald’s restaurant, $800,000, 5,278 square feet, Venture Construction. The existing McDonald’s is being completely rebuilt with side-by-side drive-through and self-order kiosks.

1325 San Marco Blvd., renovations at Baptist Medical Center to include new operating room, $1814914.00, 3,434 square feet, Perry-McCall Construction.

14701 Philips Highway, tenant improvements on first and third floors for Dream Finders Homes office, $1.1 million, 26,500 square feet, Brasfield &Gorrie.

4888 Town Center Parkway, tenant buildout for TD Ameritrade retail space, $450,000, 4,333 square feet, Rollins-PCI Construction.

5110 Lourcey Road, Valera Center remodel, $596,078, JPC Construction and Building.

9143 Philips Highway, tenant buildout for EHHI, $124,430, 4,361 square feet, Dav Lin Interior Contractors.

1233 Lane Ave. S., tenant buildout for Lane Arcade, $12,500, 2,389 square feet, Prism Design &Construction.

7051 Collins Road, new building at Collins Plaza, $1 million, $9,870 square feet, J. Raymond Construction. AT&T will take one storefront, the others are still uncommitted.

12547 Bartram Park Blvd., tenant buildout for Mod Pizza, $308,055, 2,489 square feet, Dakenna Development.

8601 Youngerman Court, change of use to the Church 320 Academy of Excellence, no work required.

1301 Riverplace Blvd., tenant buildout for Freedom Mortgage, $21,658, 1,594 square feet, Duckworth Construction.

13333 103rd St., install shelving for Amazon, $233,000, Racine Construction.

14810 Old St. Augustine Road, improvements to Aschi sleep lab, $68,750, 7,000 square feet, Pro Construction Group.


DR Horton paid $5,509,875 for 136 lots in Villages of Westport Phase III. The community is located on Braddock Road, off Dunn Avenue west of Interstate 295.

Splitz of Jacksonville LLC, the owners of Skate Station in Jacksonville, Orange Park and Gainesville, paid $3.5 million for the 36,112-square-foot former Circuit City store at 6155 Youngerman Circle.

North Florida Land Trust paid $1.2 million for a 63-acre parcel on Bogey Creek off Cedar Point Road, near the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. It plans to open it as a public park.


roger.Bull@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4296

Amazon to add 120,000 jobs during holidays nationwide, more than 1,000 in Jacksonville - Thursday, Octobe

Amazon is gearing up for the holiday season by hiring thousands of more workers nationwide, including a bump in laborers at its new Jacksonville facilities.

Across the country, Amazon will be hiring an additional 120,000 workers for the holiday season, a company news release said Thursday. In the Jacksonville market, that means the online retail company will hire about 1,000 additional employees. In total there will be about 5,000 jobs added to Florida operations during the holidays that include other markets such as Tampa and Orlando.

In Jacksonville, Amazon just opened operations at Bulls Bay Highway, 103rd Street and Pecan Park Road this year. Combined, those so-called fulfillment centers that handle, packing, deliveries and shipping have hired about 3,000 permanent workers.

Many of the holiday jobs will be full time during the season. But there are part-time jobs also available.

Those interested in applying for the positions that will help pick, pack and ship customer holiday orders can apply online at www.amazon.com/peakjobs.

Hearing on CSX allows CEO, critics to have their say - Thursday, Octobe

CSX CEO and President Hunter Harrison apologized to customers who came to a “public listening session” by the Surface Transportation Board on Wednesday in Washington to complain in person about poor delivery, inefficient routings and service disruptions.

Since he took over in March, Harrison has advocated what he calls “precision railroading.” To that end, he has closed CSX rail yards, removed nearly 900 locomotives and 60,000 freight cars from service, and laid off 2,300 people this year.

He told the board and his critics — including representatives from steel-producing and automobile companies, chemical and agricultural firms — that he blamed various issues for the problems, including internal errors, derailments and shutting down too many railyards. Harrison told the STB his strategy needs “fine-tuning,” and could include more layoffs and other yard changes.

Harrison said his strategy was crucial to his previous turnarounds of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and Canadian National Railway Co., and added the “best is right around the corner.”

“We’ve made some mistakes. This is not a failure of precision scheduled railroading,” he said.

He promised over and over to improve service.

The Surface Transportation Board has been reviewing the railroad’s performance every week, and has been an intermediary between CSX and unhappy customers. On Wednesday, it held what it called a public listening session to air the complaints and hear the railroad’s response.

After Harrison finished, the vice president of Cargill, Inc., a global company that deals in agricultural commodities, came to the podium. Brad Hildebrand urged the STB to ensure CSX returns resources to its network.

“In a nutshell, (precision scheduled railroading) means having to do with less,” he told the board.

William Scott, vice president of Collum’s Lumber Products LLC, spoke of changes to his delivery schedules to which he was not informed. He said CSX has a “total disregard for customer service,” that oftentimes phone calls are not answered and are not returned.

A representative of Chemours Company, a global chemical firm, said that the last five months have been an exceptionally tough economic time and that it wants the STB to intensely monitor CSX’s performance as it works to fix the issues.

Sharron Moss-Higham, senior vice president of operations and distribution snacks for Kellogg’s, said delivery has been totally inconsistent, especially at its large Pringles plant in Jackson, Tenn. Rail cars expected at one location often turn up at another, she said. CSX is the company’s lone delivery option and it has been unreliable, again with no communication from the railroad.

Costs over the last five months have increased by nearly 20 percent, Moss-Higham said.

The STB members and agency staff will next review the statements made during the session, which are part of the public record, STB media officer Dennis Watson told the Times-Union.

Buc-ee’s is bringing a Texas-size convenience store to Northeast Florida - Thursday, Octobe

If convenience store competition in Northeast Florida were a poker game, the stakes are about to get raised. A big Texan is sitting down at the table.

Buc-ee’s, a Texas chain that is just expanding into Florida, plans a store and gas station on Interstate 95 near World Golf Village in St. Johns County. And the numbers are huge: A 52,600-square-foot store with 120 gas pumps.

You read that right: At 52,600 square feet, that’s a little bigger than a typical Publix or Winn-Dixie and eight or nine times the size of what Gate, Daily’s or Race Trac has been opening lately. The 120 gas pumps are about 100 more than most new stations.

“That’s enormous for a convenience store,” said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, “but it’s not all that big when you look at Buc-ee’s. Some have gone as big as 70,000 square feet.”

The pre-application filed with St. Johns County places the store on 13.71 vacant acres at the southwest quadrant of the International Golf Parkway and I-95, about 15 miles south of I-295. A county spokeswoman said that Buc-ee’s will need to file construction plans and have those approved before being issued a building permit.

Co-owner Arch “Beaver” Aplin said Thursday that he hopes to break ground during the first quarter of next year. Construction, he said, would take about a year. Last year, the chain announced that it was expanding outside of Texas for the first time, into Florida and Alabama. At the time, the first store in Florida was expected to be at I-95 and LPGA Boulevard in Daytona Beach, followed by Fort Myers.

But Aplin said the St. Johns store should be first now because the other locations have to work through some environmental issues. It will be the 37th or 38th in the chain, he said.

Many of the chain’s stores are typical convenience store size. But it’s been increasingly moving to the mammoth ones on interstates, which it has insisted are convenience stores and not truck stops, though Aplin conceded that it could be called a travel center.

“We sell all the convenience store items,” he said, “Cokes, chips, bottled water and we sell gas.”

Its larger stores typically hire about 225 people.


Ikea sets grand opening date for Jacksonville store

GasBuddy.com’s Pit Stop Report Card for the third quarter of 2017 ranks gas station convenience stores in six categories: Coffee, cleanliness, restrooms, customer service, outdoor lighting and overall. Buc-ee’s came in first in each one.

Wawa, which opens its first Northeast Florida stores this fall, came in third.

Last year, Bon Appetit magazine called Buc-ee’s the best rest stop in the county, raving about its brisket tacos and Beaver Nuggets, a caramel-coated corn snack.

Much of the store is apparently snacks, from every gummy candy imaginable to jerky to pickled quail eggs. But there’s more than that.

A writer for the Houston Press wrote, “I suspect it’s one of the few places on earth where you can buy pecan pie in a jar, a camo onesie, a glittery decorative vase and windshield wiper fluid all in one convenient location.

“I go to Buc-ee’s for the food, though.”

Aplin said that all their food offerings are made on site, from sandwiches to kolaches.

The question, of course, is what makes it a convenience store when it’s that big.

“It’s not as fast an experience as a typical convenience store, where you’re in and out in three minutes,” Lenard said. “At Buc-ee’s, it might take you three minutes to walk from your car.

“But the items they offer are in line with a typical convenience store. The difference is that instead of offering a choice of 10 soda fountains, they may have dozens. And the bathrooms … I was in a Buc-ee’s once and lost count at 30-something.”

For the record, Buc-ee’s store in New Braunfels, Texas, has 80 fountain dispensers, 83 toilets and 31 cash registers.

It August, it opened a store in Katy, Texas, that features what the company claims is the world’s longest car wash: A 225-foot tunnel featuring not only a conveyor belt but a light show. The company is trying to get it into the Guinness World Records. The cost of that entire project — store, gas station and car wash — was reported at $17 million.

Plans filed for the St. Johns County store do not indicate a car wash.

But they do include the two rows of 120 gas pumps.

“There are a couple of ways to make money selling gas,” Lenard said. “One is to make a lot of money per gallon, but that doesn’t happen often. The typical retailer makes less than a nickel a gallon.

“The other way is to sell a lot of gas. And pennies mean something when you’ve got 120 people pumping gas.”

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

Neptune Beach restaurant mainstay Sliders sold to Safe Harbor - Wednesday, Octob

The owners of Safe Harbor Seafood Market & Restaurant have purchased Sliders Seafood Grille at 218 1st St. in Neptune Beach.

Chris and Deanna Wooten, owners of Safe Harbor Seafood Market & Restaurant,which has locations in Mayport, Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach, officially took over Sliders on Oct. 10.

An Oct. 9 Facebook post by Sliders owners Dave and Valerie Pickett read, “Dear friends, family and wonderful Sliders guests, after decades in business, it’s time to give the mantle to others who live Sliders like we do. While we will greatly miss the incredible Sliders family we have worked with for over 35 years and all the wonderful people we have become friends with, we have begun a new adventure, Catamaran Adventure Tours.”

According to the post, Oct. 9 was the last night the Picketts owned Sliders.