JEA considers big real estate sales to offset cost of new HQ

Jacksonville, FL — As JEA considers several different designs and locations for a new Downtown headquarters, WOKV has learned they’re trying to build the facility without changing your rates.

To do that, they may take on some big real estate sales.

JEA has put together a “Real Estate Optimization Initiative”, where they have identified parcels for which they have no current or anticipated future use. According to documents from a planned presentation to the Board of Directors, four properties have already been identified and are either being appraised or have an appraisal planned. The list includes sites on Atlantic, Normandy, Talleyrand, and the existing HQ.

Those initial four are valued around $32.5 million, but JEA projects they could sell for as much as $65 million. Several other sites could follow, with a value of more than $100 million. Senior leadership envisions using that revenue to offset the cost of a new Downtown headquarters, and the documents project that would mean not having to look at customer rates to fund the facility.

Off Southside and Atlantic sits the former Coggin Automotive dealership site. JEA acquired that property in 2011 to aid construction under the Total Water Management Plan, which involved a water transmission pipeline. Because that project has now been completed, JEA says they have no use for the roughly five acre property, although they would retain an easement for the underground utilities that were installed.

A second site is 250 acres in the Cecil Commerce Center off Normandy Boulevard. JEA’s overall claim right now is 305 acres, but that involves an electric substation, water treatment plant, and other improvements and restrictions. JEA’s analysis has determined they can reduce their acreage, and would then be in a good position to sell a “prime commercial/industrial parcel”, according to the Board packet.

In the Talleyrand area is the third property, of which JEA is considering selling 30-36 of its 48 acres. This faces up to the St. Johns River, and could therefore be attractive for industrial maritime development, according to JEA. They would retain the land that has improvements on the site- including two combustion turbine generators- and sell the rest, under the initiative.

Finally, JEA has identified their current Downtown headquarters as a property to potentially sell. The Board documents note that JEA could sell and then lease the property back, until they're prepared to move in to the new HQ. It's expected to take more than two years to get the new building up and JEA moved in.

This campus is actually three separate lots, which includes parking.

The current HQ needs substantial repair, and is too large for JEA's current needs. A September 2016 assessment- which WOKV was told is the most recent comprehensive assessment of the Tower- showed renovating the structure as it stands was at that time expected to cost between $65.3 million and $78.2 million. Problems identified with the Tower include everything from efficiencies, like the poor floor plan, to systems problems, like plumbing, electrical, and security. Just last month, parts of nine floors in the 19-story Tower experienced flooding because of several different building issues. The cost of the repairs and cleanup in that case was around $60,000.

JEA's Board of Directors has been weighing three proposals for a new Downtown HQ, and they're expected to vote next month on which plan to move forward with. The cost of each of the proposals has not been made public, nor is it clear at this time how much of that bill the real estate sales could cover.

GALLERY: JEA HQ proposal at Lot J by TIAA Bank Field

GALLERY: JEA HQ proposal at Kings Avenue Station on the Southbank

GALLERY: JEA HQ proposal on West Adams Street by the County Courthouse

JEA says an appraisal is underway at the Atlantic site, and the other three properties have appraisals pending. While these four properties have been identified at this point, JEA says they could pursue others, including two thousand acres at the former St. Johns River Power Park, around two dozen small surplus properties, and surplus areas on existing tracts.

JEA further projects they would incur operations and maintenance savings by not having to do landscaping, security, and related areas at the properties they sell. For just the four parcels identified so far, that savings is estimated around $1 million annually.

The process involves first appraising the properties, and then offering them to other government agencies at appraised value, according to JEA. If there is interest, that’s where the sale would be, but if not, there would be a public bid process and formal award. There is no timeline for how long that process could take, but the Board would have to approve any sale over $500,000, and the Board and City Council would have to approve any sale under assessed value.

The Board will be presented this initiative for discussion Tuesday, although they will not have to take any action at this point. Leasing or partnering in development on properties could also be considered, although the Board packet shows JEA’s leadership studied that and determined selling the sites would be the best move economically.

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