These companions , each with their own diverse needs and abilities , support each other for the collective growth of the community , and a thriving garden blooms . Just off I-95 Exit 82 , the seeds of a new kind of crop have been planted ; a diverse community is beginning to sprout , a companion for the City of Richmond Hill , and it will be called Heartwood .
Richmond Hill residents welcomed the Belfast Keller I-95 interchange in 2021 with the anticipation of a true mixed-use walkable community — a place to live , work , shop and recreate . Well , the plans have been laid , and the ground broken for what will soon be Heartwood at Richmond Hill .
Heading the project is Bill Cunningham , Vice President of Real Estate for Raydient Places + Properties , the taxable Real Estate subsidiary of Rayonier , a leading timberland real estate investment trust . Raydient thrives on purposeful development and placemaking !
While plans for this multi-use community have been in the works for years , the foundation for Heartwood has been growing for decades . In the 1980s , Rayonier purchased over 30,000 acres along the coastal corridor to grow , harvest and replant loblolly and slash pine . As they make way for new growth , Raydient maintains the same sustainable practices as their parent company in regards to growing and cultivating trees , though in this case they will be cultivating a lifestyle .
Left : Bill Cunningham , Vice President of Real Estate for Raydient Places + Properties . Right : Blake McMichael , Resource Land Manager at Rayonier .
“ We replant nearly every acre of planted land we harvest ,” says Blake McMichael , Resource Land Manager at Rayonier . Blake has his boots on the ground to make that mission a reality .
“ If you see someone logging on our pine plantations , you can be pretty confident that within 2 years , all those trees will be replanted .”
Every year , Rayonier plants more than 30 million trees across the U . S . South , the U . S . Pacific Northwest and New Zealand . Even as we speak , they ’ re building what Mc- Michael refers to as the future of the industry . That ’ s because here in the U . S . South it takes about 20-25 years to harvest one single tree .
Some of the most innovative practices in silviculture — the art and science of managing trees — are happening in Rayonier ’ s very own seedling nursery , where trees are grown specifically for improved timber quality . Rayonier ’ s genetics and growing practices ensure
that they manage some of the most productive timberland in the Southeast . Rayonier ’ s forest research team helps ensure that these seedlings have faster growing rates , are more disease resistant , and produce higher quality timber at harvest than each previous generation of trees being harvested .
“ You won ’ t come on our property and see a whole class of 10 year old trees ,” says McMichael .
“ You ’ ll see trees that are 0-5 years , 5-10 years , 10-15 years , and so on . That means within just one landscape , you get all different types of habitats that host different types of animals and forest life .”
According to McMichael , each stage in a tree ’ s life cycle is a companion to different walks of life . Just as the low foliage provides food and shelter for squirrels and racoons or the dense canopy of adult trees intercepts rain flow to keep our water clean these trees will provide the foundational roots for the Heartwood community .