Jacksonville's Downtown Investment Authority puts convention center plans on hold

Jacksonville, FL — A new convention center in the heart of the city will have to wait.

The Downtown Investment Authority board made a move to scrap plans for a new convention center this afternoon inside City Hall.

“A convention center would be nice,” said Charles Webb who lives in downtown Jacksonville. “It would bring more tourists, it will bring more jobs.”

Brian Hughes, interim DIA Board CEO and Mayor Lenny Curry’s chief of staff tells Action News Jax Ryan Nelson there is a desire to bring a convention center to downtown, but now isn’t the time.

Action News Jax reported in September when the DIA voted to move forward with negotiations from proposals made by the Jacobs Engineering Group.

But in November we told you when Mayor Lenny Curry sent a letter to DIA Board Chairman Jim Bailey questioning if it was the right time to act on the plans.

“So, where we are is that, for now, the convention center RFP is terminated,” said Hughes.

DEEP DIVE: THREE PLANS FOR A NEW CONVENTION CENTER IN DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE

He says the DIA is taking the advice of a feasibility study done a couple of years ago.

They say there’s more work to be done in making downtown more of a destination before prioritizing a convention center. “If you look at the feasibility study, which was which was done for the city, and for DIA, and really relied on a lot of research with marketing experts in the convention business, what you're looking for is a vibrant urban core downtown,” said Hughes.

He tell us hotels will play a big part in the development to come --- including a new hotel across from the Landing, and the Ambassador Hotel project near City Hall.

Hughes went on to say the board also wants to grow the number of people living downtown, with the goal of having about 10,000 in the urban core.

As of the DVI’s 2017 state of downtown report, there were about 4,800 people living multifamily housing downtown.

“As you get to that number, restaurants, entertainment options, all the other things that feasibility study talks about will fall in behind it,” said Hughes.

Hughes believes it’s not a matter of if, but when, the city will have a new downtown convention center.

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