Downtown Investment Authority to solicit Riverfront Convention Center plans

Jacksonville, FL — The City of Jacksonville and stakeholders have long talked about the need for a new, more centrally located Convention Center as a step for Downtown development. Now, that concept is poised to take a big step toward reality.

Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority will vote Wednesday on whether to solicit bids for a Convention Center, affiliated hotel, and parking garage to be built at the site of the former Duval County Courthouse and Old City Hall Annex.

“The DIA envisions a new Convention Center, Hotel, and Parking Garage, if developed, to be an immediate enhancement to the financial viability and dynamism of surrounding facilities in the Urban Core and the Sports Complex, and to the City of Jacksonville in general,” says the resolution that will be considered by the DIA.

The project would include a full service restaurant, space for wedding receptions and banquets, retail and recreation, at least 350 hotel rooms, at least 20,000 square feet of public exhibit hall, a ballroom that’s at least 40,000 square feet, and a parking garage with at least 400 spaces for the hotel and 1,300 spaces for the Convention Center.

The bids must include plans for how to finance to project, with the DIA resolution saying they may be open to public participation. The DIA also wants to see “environmentally sustainable technology” in design, construction, and operation of the project. They will be scored on executive vision and strategy, detailed team organization, program management plan, financial analysis and financial plan, and site activation and design.

The DIA emphasized that the bids need to show connectivity and interaction with both the Riverfront and the Sports Complex. They cited a recent study they commissioned about the need for a Convention Center in doing this solicitation, and that study also noted that a successful Convention Center would need to be aware of some of the other big projects that could be coming, including the Shipyards on the Northbank and The District on the Southbank.

There’s nothing in this resolution that indicates the expected impact on the Prime Osborn Convention Center.  The resolution says the DIA belives this project could create additional Convention Center demand, promote larger events in the Urban Core, and potentially spur more development in the area.

If the DIA approves the resolution, there would then be a 60 day period for interested developers to respond. A special evaluation committee would score the proposals, with the top three brought in front of the DIA for a decision on which should proceed to negotiations.

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