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Bud Para

JEA considering land swap for Southbank access; others involved are JTA, city and school district

By Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

Land is more valuable for development if you can get to it.

In another step to make a 30-acre Southbank riverfront site attractive to developers, the JEA proposes to improve access to the property through land swaps.

The proposed swaps are among the JEA; Duval County Public Schools, which occupies an adjacent site; the Jacksonville Transportation Authority; and the city.

The draft proposal, labeled “for illustrative and discussion purposes only,” are on the agenda for the JEA’s board meeting next week. It looks something like this:

Prudential Drive would be extended through the Duval County Public Schools headquarters parking lot to the JEA site at its former Southside Generating Station property, which JEA wants to sell.

That road then would continue on to merge with Broadcast Place and continue from there under Interstate 95 to Kings Avenue, connecting to the JTA Kings Avenue parking garage.

The drawings, labeled “Master Land Exchange Exhibit” but also as “subject to change,” are at JEA.com. The documents were prepared April 11 by the England-Thims & Miller Inc. engineering and planning firm.

The garage also could feature strongly in JEA’s attempts to sell the land to a developer, which might want the property for a major employment center.

JEA, the city’s utility, is soliciting proposals from developers to buy and develop the property, which had been the site of the former generating station, which stopped production in October 2001. Site demolition and environmental remediation have been ongoing since July 1999.

JEA put the property out for bid and extended the bid opening date from May 6 to July 1.

One potential project could be Deutsche Bank, which continues its site search for a consolidated Jacksonville office campus. The Daily Record reported in April that the JEA land is one of the locations of interest.

Deutsche Bank’s Southside workforce is expected to reach at least 1,600-1,800 employees by the end of 2016, and parking for that number, or more, would be critical in arranging a new location.

Deutsche Bank, which occupies almost 300,000 square feet of space among seven suburban office buildings, also is said to be considering other sites. Those sites include land owned by the Skinner family, which referred questions to Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

The documents at JEA.com show the school system could swap 0.47 acre in the parking lot to JTA for the Prudential Drive connector to the JEA site. JEA would swap 1.33 acres on its generating-station site to the school system to replace parking.

There are several other proposed swaps among JEA, JTA, the schools and the city of Jacksonville to make the road connections operative.

Bud Para, JEA chief public affairs officer, said Tuesday the swap arrangement would need approvals from the JEA, JTA and the school board as well as City Council.

He said the staffs are working together on the proposal and there is a basic agreement in place. The project would not be completed until funds were identified.

Para said there were opportunities for state economic development fund grants, although a specific project would need to be identified.

“We could show it to the people who propose to buy the property,” he said.

Para said the JEA board would not vote on the agreement until a future meeting.

Kristen Sell, a spokeswoman for Mayor Alvin Brown, said by email that Brown has made it a strategic priority to improve the riverfront and “maximize opportunity for investment on appropriate land.”

“We support the efforts of JEA and the School Board to take steps to help Jacksonville enhance its Downtown,” Sell said.

The proposed access and land swap agreement for the JEA Southside Generating Station property is on the agenda for a presentation at the JEA board meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the utility’s headquarters Downtown.

kmathis@baileypub.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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