It may not look like a whole lot just yet, but Wildlight is set to be the next hot spot in Northeast Florida.
The 2,900-acre multi-use project from Raydient Places + Properties is on its way to becoming its own self-contained small town along State Road A1A in Nassau County. It’s being billed as “Florida Lowcountry”, invoking the architectural stylings of South Carolina Lowcountry culture, and is just a 20-minute drive away from downtown Jacksonville.
So what is Wildlight, and what all will it entail?
A SELF-CONTAINED COMMUNITY
Wildlight seeks to embrace the Northeast Florida trend of self-contained communities, as seen in St. Johns County communities like Nocatee.
In just the immediate vicinity of Wildlight Ave.’s intersection with A1A, there are plans for the following: a new HQ building for Florida Public Utilities, a UF Health annex, a multi-unit retail development from Skinner Bros. Realty, a national grocer, and a branch location for First Federal Bank of Florida.
That’s in addition to the already-built Wildlight Story Center and the headquarters for Rayonier, the parent company of Raydient Places + Properties.
There’s already a school, Wildlight Elementary School, with 600 students and plans to expand in the near future.
A few model homes paint a small picture of what the residential part of the town will soon look like – beautiful modern Lowcountry homes built by D.S. Ware and Dream Finders Homes.
There are plans for around 1,000 houses in the first phase of Wildlight – around which there will be several parks and small community lawn spaces in between houses. A handful of homes have already been purchased, with move-ins expected to begin later this year.
Most recently, it was announced that Varden Capital Properties and Tellus Partners, in partnership with Buckhaven Construction Services, will develop a multifamily apartment complex at Wildlight.
LOWCOUNTRY MEETS MODERN CONSTRUCTION
The town is built around the idea of “Florida Lowcountry Living”. As Raydient president Chris Corr puts it, they seek to become the southern border of Lowcountry culture – whereas Charleston would be the northern border.
Lowcountry architecture dates back to the 1700s and is noted for its heavy use of timber. The homes generally have covered front porches and are designed to keep cool air circulating – a necessity in the days before air conditioning.
Culturally, the Lowcountry is associated with a laid-back, outdoor-heavy lifestyle and a strong sense of community.
Wildlight looks to embrace these traditions with a modern spin.
The town will feature over 200 acres of open air space. Neighborhoods will flow and feature varying lot sizes and open lawn spaces in between houses, promoting outdoor activity.
The architecture leans heavily on its use of wood, a natural decision for timber company Rayonier. The company’s HQ building is a testament to modern Lowcountry architecture, employing the use of timber, large windows, and open work spaces. It features a large set of wooden stairs that doubles as an amphitheater for employee town hall meetings.
Even the planned First Federal Bank branch location’s rendering shows a covered porch with rocking chairs.
But of course, there will still be plenty of modern amenities. There will be community Wi-Fi as well as direct high-speed lines to each house and business.
RAYDIENT PLACES + PROPERTIES
Raydient Places + Properties is the real estate branch of timber company Rayonier, Inc.
Rayonier was founded in Washington, but has called Northeast Florida home for decades. Their primary business is, and always has been, timber. Their real estate holdings have come about almost exclusively through their ownership of timberlands.
“Most of our holdings have historically been pretty remote,” explains Chris Corr, who heads the timber company’s real estate operations.
But as cities have grown and expanded outward, their timberlands have gradually become valuable, high-demand pieces of property. And as a result, new opportunities like Wildlight have arisen.
With much of St. Johns County already being actively developed, Corr sees Nassau County as the next big thing.
“We really feel like the market momentum is coming this way,” says Corr.
The decision was made in 2015 for Raydient to start developing the massive plot of land owned by Rayonier, with the new Rayonier HQ as the first project to be developed.
Their HQ opened its doors just last year – since then, the elementary school and story center have also opened.
Raydient developed the master plan for phase one of Wildlight, which Corr describes as setting the tone for what may follow.
The 2,900 acres being developed are just a fraction of what Rayonier owns. And the rest of it will likely get developed – just not necessarily by Raydient. That decision will be made once the first phase is complete.
For now, they will watch as what was once an undeveloped stretch of A1A evolves into a small town celebrating a new “Florida Lowcountry” way of life.