June 24, 2020 (Courtesy of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record)
Ascension St. Vincent’s terminated its contract at World Commerce Center in northern St. Johns County to build a hospital, leaving the 40-acre parcel available for development.
The health system initially became interested in the property in October, said Frank “Duke” Steinemann, CEO of Steinemann & Co., which is developing World Commerce Center along International Golf Parkway.
World Commerce Center is a 996-acre commercial and residential center. Ring Power Corp. and Rulon Corp. established their headquarters there, and Publix Super Markets Inc. is developing a GreenWise Market.
Ascension St. Vincent’s signed a letter of intent and then a contract to build a hospital on the land, Steinemann said. He said the health system looked at the market “intensely” before putting it under contract.
The parcel is along World Commerce Parkway, across from Ring Power’s headquarters. It is west of Interstate 95.
Ascension St. Vincent’s spokesman Kyle Sieg confirmed in an email that the hospital was looking at the land, but terminated its contract. He did not say why.
Sieg said March 24 Ascension St. Vincent’s was planning to construct a hospital in northern St. Johns County along I-95. At the time, it was “in the preliminary planning phase.”
“Our plans continue as scheduled and we are still assessing multiple location options,” he said in an email.
Steinemann said he suspected that once it became apparent the property may not be zoned for a hospital, Ascension St. Vincent’s became wary of moving forward.
He said he was confident it was zoned properly, but St. Johns County officials told him it was not. He then applied to rezone the property, which was approved by the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners 5-0 on June 2.
“They wanted to be sure they could build a hospital,” Steinemann said.
There already are potential buyers for the property, he said. While he couldn’t disclose who they were, he said there were buyers interested before Ascension St. Vincent’s moved to acquire the property.
Given the property’s location, Steinemann said it would make a great place for a hospital. There is also “a good bit of activity” in other areas of the World Commerce Center, he said.
“I think it’s a preeminent site in Northeast Florida and St. Johns County,” he said. “It does have ease of access and it’s got visibility on I-95.”