City proposing $2.25 million for design, engineering of Landing site

Jacksonville, FL — As a phased demolition of the Jacksonville Landing gets underway, the Mayor's Administration is looking at what the next steps for the site will be. WOKV has confirmed they're proposing a "starter fund" to get moving on a market study and early design and engineering, for what happens once the building is down.

In March, the Jacksonville City Council approved an $18 million package to settle long-running disputes dealing with the Riverfront property. $15 million was used to bring an end to a lease dispute between the City, which owns the land, and Jacksonville Landing Investments on behalf of Sleiman Enterprises, which owned and operated the building itself- with the City buying out JLI and taking over ownership of the building. $1.5 million was for dealing with settling the leases and potentially aiding the relocation of the remaining tenants, and the remaining $1.5 million was set toward demolishing the building.

The Capital Improvement Program put forward by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, as part of his annual budget proposal, earmarks $2.25 million for a “Riverfront Plaza”, which has the address of the Jacksonville Landing property. Seeing this, WOKV went to the Mayor’s Office to get more information on what this funding is for.

GALLERY: Jacksonville Landing awaits demolition

Curry's Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes confirms the money deals with the Landing site. The CIP shows $250,000 in proposed borrowing in the upcoming fiscal year for "design and engineering". Hughes says this is for a market study for the property, which will involve receiving public feedback as well. While he says they still intend to have two land pads for private development along with public green space, the market study is intended to show the best use within those parameters, including the best balance of residential, office, entertainment, and retail space in the private developments.

“How much green, how much hardscape? Is it nodal, in that we have little areas that are grassy for dogs and little areas that are splash pads for kids, or do we have a more integrated, flowing piece that rolls next to the Performing Arts Center and really connects one way versus the other to the Riverwalk,” Hughes says.

The CIP shows an additional $2 million split between Fiscal Year 20-21 and 21-22, to use for land acquisition and site prep. The City already owns the land, and part of the contract for the demolition of the building involves sodding the property. The $2 million, according to Hughes, is for the City to design and engineer those public, green spaces, as the developers are also putting their plans together for the private pads.

“We expect a process that has development experts, our Parks and Rec folks, and Council members, and community stakeholders all to be weighing in together, so that the development feels like a single space, even though components of it will be privately owned and other components public,” Hughes says.

He says the City will look at the possibility of food trucks, kiosks, splash pads, and other features in the public access space. The developers will also be expected to include ground-level dining and entertainment options to complement the St. Johns River and green space activation, although the market study will influence what exactly that ratio looks like. Hughes says setting aside the $2 million now will allow for a collaborative design and engineering process, and if there is any additional funding, they can use that to actually start some of the work relating to what the City’s obligation with the green space will be.

FULL COVERAGE: Inside the Mayor's nearly $1.4 billion budget proposal

We asked Hughes why this market study and engineering funding wasn’t included in the initial $18 million deal put in front of the City Council, which did include some non-settlement elements, like the demolition funding. He says the timeline was built to start rolling this out now, since they have now settled everything with tenants and are getting underway with that demolition. The final tenant is set to move out in October, and Hughes says they should have the market study going out at that point. If all goes according to plan, he hopes to see movement in terms of the development bids and design early next year.

This proposed $2.25 million over three years is still subject to approval as part of the annual budget review process. The City Council will vet the proposal and vote ahead of the start of the next fiscal year, October 1st.

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