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New life proposed for old Ford plant

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If Atlanta developer James Jacoby has his way, Norfolk could soon be a center for alternative-energy manufacturing. His firm, Jacoby Development, plans to buy the 109-acre former Ford Assembly Plant. He wants to turn the site into a mixed-use development, which will focus largely on making alternative-energy products.

The project is likely to include companies making solar panels and wind turbines. James F. Jacoby, chairman and CEO of Jacoby Development, expects the sale to be completed in September.

“It really is a great step forward for us and could put us on the map as a prime place for 21st-century, green-energy jobs,” says Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim. “We expect that it will be a real boost to the economy and would hope that it would produce a couple of thousand manufacturing jobs that are sustainable and here for the long run.”

The Ford plant, which closed in 2007, boasts a number of advantages for any type of high-tech production, Fraim says. It features 2.6 million square feet of manufacturing space and has easy access to the Norfolk Southern rail system and interstate highways. The site also fronts the Elizabeth River, allowing companies that make wind turbines and propellers to use barges in transporting them to offshore wind farms.

The track record of Jacoby Development with large-scale, cutting-edge projects is likely to attract alternative-energy manufacturers and other types of green businesses, Fraim predicts.

In 2005, the company created Atlantic Station, a mixed-use redevelopment of the former Atlantic Steel site in downtown Atlanta. The project, which includes homes, stores and restaurants, is considered a national model for sustainability and smart growth.
In 2008, Jacoby De­­velopment bought a 122-acre former Ford plant near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That site is being turned into a business district for aviation-intensive activities, including office space, a hotel, restaurants and airport parking.

“We feel like we have a partner here who can deliver on their promises and is also very sensitive to the community’s needs,” Fraim says. “They clearly have a great till of credibility, and we’re excited that they’re going to bring green jobs to the region.”


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