New JEA HQ is more than two years away

Jacksonville, FL — With their current building too large and in need of substantial repairs, JEA has been working through the process of soliciting bids for a new headquarters. As the Board heard from the three "short-listed" plans Tuesday, they learned even the quickest proposed construction would take more than two years to complete once the award is made.

And, when all is said and done, JEA also may not have ownership of the building they choose.

IN DEPTH: Public bids released for JEA HQ proposals

WOKV has been following this process for months, and the Board vote is slated for April. While the information that's publicly available about those bids is limited at this time, including how much they would cost and how much public financing would be expected, we're learning more from public packets that JEA has asked each team to assemble and presentations that were made by those teams to the Board today.

Lot J, near TIAA Bank Field

Jaguars President Mark Lamping acknowledges that it’s unusual for an NFL team to be involved in a bid like this, but he says they see the success of Downtown as vital to the success of of the franchise.

“In addition to providing an exceptional work environment for your employees and an efficient and pleasant experience for your customers, you have a decision in front of you that, in many respects, put you in a position to be the catalyst to help Downtown Jacksonville realize it’s full potential,” Lamping says.

GALLERY: Lot J JEA headquarters proposal

The Jags have partnered with the Cordish Companies in their proposal, which would have the new HQ ready for occupancy about 29 months from the award date. While the proposal doesn’t specifically address building ownership, Cordish Companies Principal and Vice President Blake Cordish says they still own and operate every project they have built. He did say their hope and intent would be that the company manages the site.

“Our perspective is not of one to build and sell quickly. It’s to develop projects and partnerships with our clients that will be lasting. Make the decisions up front to create the best possible product and experiences for our clients, and ones that are the most cost-effective in the long term,” he says.

Cordish touted their team's experience specifically in projects that join with sports teams to create broader entertainment districts. They are planning for this to be a kickoff for the redevelopment of Lot J, which will also include a parking garage and "live arena". That development in itself is hoped by the developers to be a springboard for their overall vision to redevelop the Sports Complex and Shipyards. Jaguars owner Shad Khan is the Master Developer of the Shipyards, but negotiations with the City have been ongoing for a long time.

“This vision is one that is once in a generation for Jacksonville. This is an opportunity to transform 80 city blocks, an opportunity to create billions of dollars of development and millions of square feet that will become a new catalyst for the future of your community, of Jacksonville,” Cordish says.

Their plan centers on the amenities that development could ultimately provide- restaurants, retail, residential space, and more- as being big conveniences for customers and employees alike. They also believe another separate proposal by JTA for the Bay Street Innovation Corridor would provide good transportation solutions, and the stadium and new proposed garage provide ample parking.

And, for the building itself, the proposal is a transparent sort of facade, solar panels, and collaborative and flexible work spaces.

Kings Avenue Station, Southbank

Aiming to highlight things that make this property unique and-in their belief- easier to get in motion, the developers behind this proposal say this is a “generational” decision.

“It will take careful analysis, courage, and conviction to find the right location for JEA, its employees, and its taxpayers,” says Chase Properties President and CEO Michael Balanky.

GALLERY: Kings Avenue Station JEA headquarters proposal

Balanky says the City has made mistakes in the past by locating government buildings, like the Duval County Jail, on prime property, so this is not a decision that should be taken lightly. He says they have a team with substantial local roots and presence, and they will be accountable to the decisions they make.

“We are not going to leave this community. The legacy of that we do on your behalf is going to be something that we are going to live with and that we are going to be proud of,” says Ervin Lovett Miller Principal Steve Lovett.

This development team is already in full ownership of this property, and they say the zoning is already in place, no environmental remediation is needed, and the pad-ready site already has some infrastructure installed. They believe, from the time of award, they could deliver the project completely in 30-31 months. That delivery could be a complete hand-off, as the proposal contemplates a long-term lease, lease-to-own agreement, or purchase of the building outright.

In terms of the location, the development team thinks there is a distinct advantage is being right off I-95, in terms of the visibility of the signage and access to the area. They are also near Skyway and Bus Rapid Transit routes and intend to tap in to the Kings Avenue Garage on the property, which they say is currently under-utilized. More parking is available under I-95, with the team in talks with FDOT to add more.

Lovett says they also have walkability to existing amenities, including restaurants and hotels, as well as some that are in development, like The District. The site plan allows for business expansion at the property as well.

“The success of JEA will stand alone here, regardless of what happens around it, and we think that’s very, very important,” Balanky says.

325 West Adams Street, near the County Courthouse

The Ryan Companies wants to keep the HQ in the heart of Downtown, only a few blocks from the current location. They think the best opportunity for customers, employees, and the City alike is to contribute to an active, urban environment.

“We build stories. As we engage with every one of our customers, we recognize we’re building a building, we’re pulling together financing, we’re constructing, we’re designing. That’s what we do. What we’re really doing for you is building the story of who JEA is,” says Ryan Companies President of Southeast Region Doug Dieck.

GALLERY:West Adams Street JEA headquarters proposal

Dieck says, with Ryan’s in-house experience and team, they have the knowledge and experience to pull off the plan. Their estimated construction timeline would have occupancy in the shortest amount of time- 25 months from the award- and they intend to lease the property to JEA.

The property itself would include flexible and collaborative work spaces, natural light, outdoor space on the ninth floor, near the cafeteria and fitness center, and similar measures. There would be a separate parking garage on the property with separate entrances for employees and customers. Customers would have similar public transportation options for this site as they do now, which is another benefit of remaining in the core, according to the team.

“It will be right in the center of everything that we call Downtown,” says Mandalay Real Estate Partners Principal and Chestnut Hill Investments President JJ Conners.

They see this proposal as an overall marriage of a capable team and a vision for the future of the company and city.

“Great cities, you go around the world, have great, strong cores. If a city doesn’t have a strong core, it is never going to be able to attain greatness as a city,” says Ryan Companies Chairman of the Board Patrick Ryan.

He says they want to ensure they deliver what JEA wants, though, so they see this whole process as a dialogue.

Next steps

What was not discussed at these presentations to the Board was the overall price tag for each plan, and what they would ask in terms of public contribution. That is some of the information that is in the full proposal packages, which are not considered public record at this time.

JEA, their real estate consultant, and these three short-listed proposers continue negotiations, with the deadline for Best and Final Offers on March 11th. The JEA Board will then vote during the week of April 8th, with the intent of approving the final contract in the summer.

WOKV will continue to follow this process and bring you bid details as they’re available.

JEA is looking for a new headquarters, and there are three proposals on the short list. I’m breaking down what we know about each, the questions remaining, and what happens next.

Posted by Stephanie Brown, News 104.5 WOKV on Tuesday, February 5, 2019

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