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Challenger Center Receives Road Paving Funds

Clay Today - July 18, 2018 - by Kile Brewer - full article here - Challenger Center receives road paving funds

OAKLEAF – A $2 million grant from the state should kickstart a development that’s been about 20 years in the making.

Last week, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced the recipients of $16 million in grants with Clay County receiving $2,065,000 for the construction of Atlantis Drive, a road that will connect newly-opened State Road 23 to Challenger Center, a mixed-use property that can’t be developed until there’s a road to the property.

“The concept is that people should be able to live, work, play and shop without getting on a major roadway,” said Challenger Center partner Ken Smallwood, an Orange Park real estate developer and lead partner on the project along with former State Senator Jim Horne of Fleming Island. “They can do everything right there in their neighborhood on a property that spans about 800 acres.”

The road would fall near Trail Ridge Road and contain about 20 percent residential, 40 percent commercial retail and about 40 percent office and high end distribution warehouses, according to Smallwood.

“The county wanted jobs but they didn’t want congestion, we think that for them to allow this kind of mixed use that it’ll be a winner,” he said. “We’ve had the property for about 20 years but everybody says, ‘We need a road.’ We were never able to develop it ourselves, we’re just a bunch of people that bought the land. We’re waiting on someone to come along and put in that road.”

According to Smallwood, the $2 million grant will solve that problem on the road which he called a “shovel-ready” project that can begin as soon as they get bids back – about 90-120 days he estimates.

Smallwood said they had committed to the state that they would add about 1,000 jobs in the first 10 years once development begins, but he is hopeful to add even more than that. “The road is going to make it all possible,” he said.

There has been some interest from businesses, including a potential 189,000 square foot office building that would house an insurance company and bring 2,500 jobs all at once. He also said the JAXUSA Regional Economic Development Partnership wants to work with the property to try and bring new businesses to the area. Once the road is built, Smallwood expects the corner lots, closest to SR23, to go first, as well as a town home or apartment complex.

“That will bring the workers, and once employers see workers then we’ll start getting some of the employers here,” he said. “Bring the road and the business will come.”

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The Clay Florida Economic Development Corporation provides concierge service for companies who want to re-invest in expansion in the county or relocate their companies to the region.

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