NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – A development some are calling the Nocatee of Nassau County is now underway after the groundbreaking of the first phase of the new Wildlight community, which includes a state-of-the-art elementary school.
The 260-acre community is bordered by I-95 and State Road 200 in Yulee.
This groundbreaking Monday focused on children with several performances by local students.
Nassau County School Board members said Wildlight Elementary School will educate students in kindergarten through fifth grade and will have a STEM-focused curriculum.
"A lot of work and a lot of effort has already gone into it at this point in the planning,” Nassau County Superintendent John Ruis said. “Now we get to implement these plans. We will start to see these buildings coming out of the ground, which will create more excitement."
The price tag for the project is $26.1 million, paid for by state and local tax dollars. Money locals said the development is well worth it to help with burgeoning overcrowding in the county.
"Seeing the portables at the schools, it'll be exciting to alleviate that and spread the children out so it's not so crowded,” said resident Akers, who declined to give her first name.
The area is currently covered with trees and dirt, but developers said by the time Wildlight Elementary is completed, they expect the area to be booming with residential communities, shops and businesses. Some are comparing it to the Nocatee community in St. Johns County because of its upscale nature and close proximity to amenities.
Developers have been bidding and working with Nassau County officials for several years to make Wildlight a reality.
"It's going to get housing in a place where it's a lot easier to commute to a lot of their work locations than where they live today and give some people convenience as well to shopping and restaurants and things like that," said Charles Adams, vice president of community development for Raydient Places & Properties.
Adams' company is working with Rayonier, a real estate investment company, to manage the development. Wildlight is expected to include more than 3,000 homes, in addition to the new elementary school, while the village surrounding the area will be home to grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants, offices and a new YMCA.
"Coming down A1A, it was all pine trees and a two-lane road and there was nothing, so seeing it grow over the years, it's been pretty amazing,” Akers said.
Wildlight Elementary School is expected to open for the start of the 2017-2018 school year with about 600 students.