Jacksonville, FL — The Jacksonville Jaguars want to move forward with redeveloping Lot J near TIAA Bank Field, and they believe that effort will total around $500 million.
During the annual "State of the Franchise" event, Jaguars President Mark Lamping contended that the effort is already underway, through the pending removal of the Hart Bridge ramps in Downtown. The City, State, and federal government have committed equal funding shares to demolish those elevated lanes and bring traffic right down to Bay Street.
“This is really the project, the necessary first step, to unlock the full development potential of the Shipyards and Lot J,” Lamping says.
Lamping says they believe work will get underway after this upcoming Jags season, and the City is hoping the project will be done by the end of 2021. Developers see the ramps as a visual barrier between the Complex and the River, and as a road that brings prospective customers up and over the development, as opposed to through it. The hope is that bringing traffic down to Bay Street will support retail, restaurants, and other development in that area.
As for the development of Lot J itself, Lamping outlined the four components- a live arena, 200-room boutique hotel, more than 300-unit residential tower, and office building. He says they have a hotel operator prepared, and Cordish Companies- the partner on this whole project- would manage the live arena. To move forward, what they need now is City approval.
“I’m confident, given the Mayor’s agenda and belief in having Downtown grow and have it be significantly more desirable for people to work, for people to live, and for people to visit, that as long as we focus on their shared goals, I have no doubt that we’ll reach an agreement, and then it’ll be up to the City Council to hopefully ratify that,” Lamping says.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is, in turn, signaling support.
“I look forward to the city being involved in solidifying a development agreement with the Jaguars and their plan for Lot J. This is a very important piece of the puzzle for the continued growth and expansion of our sports and entertainment district, downtown Jacksonville and the overall economy,” Curry says in a statement to WOKV.
The push to develop Lot J hit a recent hiccup. JEA had been considering Lot J, Kings Avenue Station on the Southbank, and West Adams Street near the County Courthouse as possible sites for their new corporate headquarters, and they ultimately chose Ryan Companies' proposal for West Adams Street. JEA and its hundreds of employees would have been an anchor for the Lot J development, also creating a customer base for surrounding development.
GALLERY: JEA headquarters proposal for Lot J
In announcing its decision, JEA’s Board concluded the Ryan Companies had been more responsive and presented a bid that would best suit customers and employees. Board Chair Alan Howard tells WOKV the role of JEA is not to be any kind of economic catalyst.
“What I personally believe is it’s not like Jacksonville Downtown has so much going for it, that we can afford to lose the opportunity to bring a catalyst, something that will deliver other development,” Lamping says.
He says he thinks JEA could have been a part of that vision, but says he nonetheless wishes them the best of luck and hopes for their success. Lamping says, at this time, they do not have a tenant committed to the proposed office space, but they have some entities who have shown interest.
Lot J is just one part of the overall redevelopment of the Sports Complex that Khan is pursuing. For years, he has contended a healthy Downtown- especially in and around the stadium- will mean a financially healthy football team.
That effort has led Khan to twice pursue redevelopment of the Shipyards, along the St. Johns River. While the first effort faltered, he was selected for a second time as the Master Developer of the site, which was expanded to include Met Park. Khan's team continues negotiations with the City on that proposal, and they have through mid-next year to come forward with a plan.
“This has been a little bit slower and, yeah, you could say a bit frustrating, but you know I think we’re as determined as ever, ready to get it done. Because I believe in it, I think the Jaguars and the community really need it. It’s like anything else, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. And we need that, and we need to keep the momentum going,” Khan says.
While the overall Shipyards effort has taken a long time, Khan has pulled elements out of the plan. Daily's Place- the amphitheater and flex field at TIAA Bank Field- are examples of that, as Khan separately partnered with the City to build those, instead of waiting for the broader development. He also separately put forward a proposal for a Convention Center and hotel on the Shipyards property, as a competing bid when the Downtown Investment Authority was looking to put up a Convention Center a few blocks away at the old Courthouse and Annex site. The DIA not only did not take up Khan's bid, but recently, at the request of Mayor Lenny Curry, decided to put aside the Convention Center plans altogether.
Khan says a lot of the heavy lifting for the Shipyards has already been done behind the scenes, through coordination with various levels of government. He hopes to have visual proof of progress soon.
As for Lot J specifically, there will be an ask for public dollars, but the exact amount is not yet clear. Khan says they will look at areas like parking, environmental work, and infrastructure. The development plan itself- including some of those financial details- has not yet been put forward.
Lamping says time is of the essence, because they want to ensure Downtown is healthy in to the future. He says the population has been shifting to the Southeast, and they need to balance that out before there is a tipping point that leaves Downtown behind.