Gatlin has historical past with Jacksonville, desires to assist construct the long run | Jax Every day Report | Jacksonville Every day Report
Frank and Frankie Gatlin moved their development headquarters, families, and futures to Jacksonville three months ago to settle in quietly and have significant growth in their sights.
Father and son see the potential for a downtown grocery store, redeveloped community centers now struggling with vacancies and new shopping centers.
Their focus ranges from Fernandina Beach in the south to St. Augustine and from the beaches in the west to OakLeaf.
“I see a very bright future for Jacksonville,” said Frank Gatlin, a native of New Orleans who has developed residential, hotel and business projects from his New Orleans headquarters for the past 40 years. Del Mar, CA; Tennessee; and most recently Fort Lauderdale.
Frank III and Frank IV are clients of Gatlin Development Co., a statewide developer with a commercial portfolio of 2.5 million square feet of retail space owned or under development.
Since 1984 the company has developed more than 15 million square meters of shopping malls.
The Gatlins are new to Jacksonville, but Gatlin Development is not.
The portfolio includes six properties in the Jacksonville area, including five shopping centers refurbished with Walmart Neighborhood Markets and a new Walmart Supercenter project under construction in southwest Jacksonville.
A Walmart developer for nearly 30 years, Gatlin introduced the Jacksonville neighborhood markets to Arlington, Westside, Mandarin, St. Johns County, and Clay Counties.
Gatlin Development bought half-filled malls with empty grocery stores from Food Lion and rebuilt them with neighborhood markets and other tenants, bringing occupancy to nearly 95 percent. The first two stores opened in 2013.
Gatlin Development owns 700,000 square feet in northeast Florida.
The Gatlins see the opportunity to develop at least 1 to 2 million square feet more in the area. Here’s what you plan to do:
• They plan to redevelop mostly empty shopping centers that need rejuvenation, possibly some with Walmart Neighborhood Markets. Gatlin said they are looking at several options ranging from 100,000 to 150,000 square feet but declined to identify them.
• Gatlin said he was determined to find a downtown location that he hopes Walmart would approve for a neighborhood market. He also hopes to identify several more locations for markets in the metropolitan area pending Walmart, city and community approvals.
• They are looking for opportunities to develop or redevelop municipal shopping centers to attract the tenants their neighbors want.
“There’s nothing I like more than a community service and bringing with me renters and restaurants that are needed and that they want,” Gatlin said.
The Gatlins work with many well-known retailers, including Home Depot, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, PetSmart, Michaels and others, and Walmart.
They also want to bring new names to Jacksonville. Frankie Gatlin creates “invalid reports” to evaluate which retailers are not in Jacksonville and where they might want to locate.
Frank Gatlin said every website they develop undergoes a void review to determine which retailers might be the best fit.
Gatlin Development’s experience also includes homes, hotels, light industrial and self storage facilities.
Frank Gatlin doesn’t rule out any kind of opportunity. He also intends to continue development in other communities.
One of Gatlin’s largest redevelopments is Shingle Creek Crossing in the Minneapolis area. Much of the large indoor Brookdale Mall, a 65-acre project built in 1962, has been demolished and rebuilt as an open-air retail space, a popular move even in the winter that freezes in the upper Midwest.
Ken Wilson, vice president of Gate Petroleum Co. in Jacksonville, a major landowner, said he met Gatlin “by chance” four years ago when Gatlin called to discuss potential locations in northeast Florida.
He said Gatlin sees the long-term potential of a development site, “knows exactly what to look at and how to get it off the ground faster than anyone I’ve ever met.”
Wilson said Gatlin’s reputation with major national retailers is another plus. “I think Frank is going to upset the Jacksonville retail economy,” he said.
Wilson said that in his 35-year career, Gatlin “is possibly the fastest, most efficient retail developer I have ever come across”.
Move north to return south
The Gatlins hadn’t visited Jacksonville prior to their development in the neighborhood market. They liked what they saw, but it wasn’t until they rented a house in Ponte Vedra for Thanksgiving last year that they decided to move.
It’s been a long road for Frank Gatlin, who will turn 60 in May. He grew up in Metairie, La., Near New Orleans and dropped out of school in 10th grade.
Gatlin said he worked as a bricklayer at $ 1.65 an hour and started a bricklaying business, which led to housing construction and then hotel and commercial development.
“Those houses became real estate, and that’s where I am today,” he said.
He has been self-employed since he was 17. He never returned to school.
His father, a disabled veteran, sold insurance but quit work in his 50s and died in his 70s. His mother died of breast cancer at the age of 54 when Gatlin was 25.
Gatlin said he grew up in a middle-income family with a sister but didn’t see an opportunity to go to college.
He married when he was 18 and had two children, Frankie, now 34, and his older sister, Shay, 38.
He founded Gatlin Development in 1976. “I’ve been a visionary all my life. I had a passion for development, ”he said.
Relations with northeast Florida began then.
He said Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., based in Jacksonville, anchored the first center he developed in New Orleans in 1984.
Gatlin and his young family left New Orleans in 1989 for California, its development base for 20 years. Then he returned to the southeast and stayed for a few years in Nashville, where he owned a farm.
That was during the recession. He said he saw a lot of opportunity in Florida and the Southeast.
In 2011 he moved to Fort Lauderdale, where he has had his headquarters for the past four years. Looking to move north but still southeast, he said they were considering Charleston but decided to spend a week’s vacation at this rented house in Ponte Vedra.
He was familiar with the area due to his Walmart developments.
The Gatlins said Jacksonville offers the oaks, historic architecture, and waterfront scenery like New Orleans, while temperate weather offered a taste of four seasons.
Frank Gatlin is from Louisiana and was also familiar with the Panhandle and its beaches. Still, Jacksonville was different.
“I never thought we’d travel 300 miles north to come back south,” he jokes.
Both Gatlins say Jacksonville’s lifestyle and educational opportunities for their children were driving factors in their decision to move.
Gatlin, who is divorced from Frankie’s mother, married Christina 10 years ago and they have two sons, Dylan, 6 and Elton, 3.
Frankie Gatlin and his wife Jenna are raising 2-year-old Franklin Charles Gatlin V and are expecting another child in March. His older sister stays in California.
Frank Gatlin’s move to Jacksonville appeared publicly when office space was being prepared for the company on the 19th floor of the Southbank Riverplace Tower.
He also made news in June when he and Christina bought the Swisher riverside property along River Road, built in 1931. The $ 4.2 million purchase was the largest single-family home sale in Duval County that year.
Frankie and Jenna Gatlin also bought a house in San Marco, and an entourage of relatives and employees also moved.
Frank Gatlin’s sister, two nephews and a niece; his father-in-law; and Christina’s grandmother moved to Jacksonville. Frankie Gatlin’s mother-in-law moved from Georgia.
Frank Gatlin said 15 employees followed him on a third corporate move while some stayed in South Florida.
During his first week on River Road, four neighbors came by to greet the family.
“We are very humble and grateful for the welcome we have received from the personal and business community here,” said Gatlin.
“It was a very warm welcome to Jacksonville.”