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- 2008 - March - 12th -

Bay Street Station piques interest of DDRB

Mike Sharkey

Everyone involved insists the proposed Bay Street Station project that will most assuredly serve as the catalyst for the redevelopment of LaVilla is not another one of “those” projects. You know, the kind that are courteous of an out-of-town developer who talks a big game and doesn’t make good.

“We don’t want to be ‘Kuhnized.’ We don’t want to promise things we can’t deliver,” said Mike Langton, referring to the recent revelation that several Downtown buildings purchased by Orlando developer Cameron Kuhn are now in various states of foreclosure or sale.

Langton is president of Langton Associates and a one-third partner in Bay Street Station, a mixed-use development that recently received conceptual approval from the Downtown Development Review Board.

Langton — who is operating as LB Jax Development for this project — has been talking about such a project for several years and within the past year or so joined forces with Bill Sulzbacher of Atlantic Coast Development and Chris Jones (son of well-known developer Carleton Jones) of Renaissance Design Group. Together, the three have solid personal and professional reputations — a fact not lost of DDRB Chairman Chris Flagg.

“I don’t think anyone in the development group can afford to not do this,” said Flagg, adding he was impressed by the fact the entire DDRB was impressed by the development group’s presentation and the individual projects within the development. “We all wish them the best and see the positives in the project. This will be a tremendous asset to that part of Downtown and really all of Downtown. We like to see aggressive projects.”

Langton said ideally Bay Street Station will come out of the ground during the first quarter of 2009. In between, the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission and the City Council will have to give their approval. While a couple of variances will need approval and challenges met, Langton said the project does have one major factor going for it.

“There is no City money in this,” he said. “What we would like to take advantage of, however, is some empowerment zone bond money. This project will be in excess of $200 million. It’s huge.”

When completed about 24 months later, Bay Street Station will consist of 115,000 square feet of ground floor retail or restaurant space, a 250-room full-service hotel, a 125-room limited-service hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, a 50,000 square foot national chain health club, a 250,000 square foot office tower and a parking garage with over 1,300 spaces.

“We could have some pieces done earlier,” said Langton, adding the plan is to build everything at one time with the exception of the office tower, which is contingent on an anchor tenant.

Langton said the idea behind the project is to build a “transit-oriented development” — one that will complement JTA’s planned multi-modal transportation center that incorporates the Osborn Center, Amtrak, Greyhound and all of JTA’s transportation options. “We want to take the top off the Jefferson Street Skyway station and build over it. We are working closely with JTA to build a transit access village.”

Although there are numerous details to sort out, that concept sits well with JTA officials.

“Our development, with the exception of the Amtrak portion, is north of their development,” said JTA spokesman Mike Miller. “We feel it’s absolutely consistent with the type of development going on around there. If they expand the Prime Osborn as a convention center, it will be a real economic shot in the arm for the area.”

Jones will serve as the project manager and oversee the day-to-day operations of the development.

“It’s moving very quickly and DDRB went very well,” he said. “It will go back in front of them in 90 to 120 days.”

Jones explained that under the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission’s new Development of Regional Impact guidelines, the project will still require both JEDC and Council approval before construction can begin.

“It’s going to happen,” said Jones.

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