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- 2013 - December - 16th -

Developers behind Shipyards plan have met with Khan group

By David Chapman, Staff Writer

A Ponte Vedra-based firm pitched its $1 billion plan to redevelop the Shipyards to include the tallest building in Florida, a convention center and aquarium.

City Council members have heard the ideas. Mayor Alvin Brown has been briefed. The Downtown Investment Authority board hasn't.

Killashee Investments also has pitched to a group with a strong interest in seeing the property developed: a group led by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

Team President Mark Lamping last month said that if the riverfront property near the sports complex remained undeveloped that "we'll step in to do it." The land remaining vacant increases risk for team instability, he said.

"We commend any party interested in the advancement of Jacksonville and the shipyards property," Khan said in a statement.

Mark Farrell, Killashee founder and former executive with The Vestcor Cos., said the firm has met with Khan's group three times.

"We would love for them to be involved," he said.

Khan in June said he wanted to see the property developed and that his organization had talked with the City, which owns the land.

Killashee's proposal is for the Police and Fire Pension Fund to purchase the Shipyards property from the City and work with the developer on its build-out. The parcels have a value of just more than $29 million, according to an in-progress review by the Duval County Property Appraiser.

Under that agreement, the fund would control to property long term and could lease portions and sell other portions to recoup its investment, said John Keane, fund administrator.

The fund has never purchased land from the city, but it has been given real estate assets to redevelop. Keane said the fund has purchased land from private entities, such as when it bought the former AOL building near the University of North Florida.

"They said they don't want to give it to us," Keane said, referring to reaction to a bill that would give the Shipyards and other Downtown parcels to the fund to offset pension obligations.

"Under this proposal, we'd just be one of the many buyers," he said.

If the deal went through, Killashee has proposed building a 1,000-foot tower that would be the tallest in Florida. For comparison, the Space Needle in Seattle is 605 feet.

Farrell said the best way to change Jacksonville's image is through its skyline and creating "an international kind of structure" that would attract tourists traveling through Florida.

The tower's construction would cost in excess of $100 million, he said, and would feature two restaurants in the crow's nest and a 7,000-square-foot sky deck. It would be the focal point of a revamped Shipyards that features a new convention center, aquarium, hotels, retail and parking.

"We need to think big," he said. "We need something that is significant enough that people from outside of town will want to see it."

One group that has oversight of Downtown hasn't been briefed.

Oliver Barakat, Downtown Investment Authority board chair, said Killashee hasn't met with him nor asked to meet with the nine-member board charged with Downtown's revitalization efforts.

"I think a public engagement process is appropriate for all city-owned properties," he said.

Barakat said he liked the "boldness" of the plan, but couldn't comment further without more detail and board member and community input.

dchapman@baileypub.com

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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