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- 2014 - June - 12th -
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Mark Lamping, president of the Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars expect to make decision on Shipyards within 6 months

By Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping expects to know in six months whether the Jaguars and owner Shad Khan will pursue development of the vacant riverfront Shipyards property near EverBank Field.

If they do, they’re envisioning serving as the master developer for a project to include rental apartments, entertainment, retail, a marina and a park-like setting that includes a multipurpose facility that could be used by the Jaguars or, for example, visiting teams to the TaxSlayer Bowl that need a practice facility.

“We want it to be something that meets several goals: Makes a trip to the sports complex more attractive, supports more people living Downtown and more people working Downtown,” Lamping said Wednesday before a media tour of the EverBank Field renovations.

“And if we get involved, we’re going to make sure that it has some Jaguars theming as part of it,” he said.

Lamping said the Jaguars envisioned green space and park-like settings that would be football-themed and take on the look of a football field, or a covered multipurpose building that could work for an indoor practice facility.

“The reality is the team would use it only infrequently throughout the year, so we want something that can be used for a lot of different purposes throughout the year and also something that the Jaguars can take advantage of in terms of attracting people to the Shipyards,” he said.

He said if there was an indoor field open to the public, it could attract thousands of visitors to watch a practice.

“If we build an outdoor park and that park includes a regulation-size football field, maybe during the Gator Bowl one of the teams would practice there,” he said.

“All of those things would be designed to bring people to the Shipyards because we think we need to do a lot in terms of events and other special activities to get people to go there.”

The residences would be rental apartments, he said. “The way we’ve looked at the market so far, we think a for-rent product is probably best right now in terms of what the market might be.”

Khan told the Daily Record a year ago this week that he was interested in developing the property, which is near EverBank Field and is the most visible open space along the St. Johns River on Downtown’s Northbank.

Khan said then his organization was talking with the City, which owns the 40-acre property, but he did not specify the details of those talks.

Lamping said Wednesday he continues to meet with people interested in partnering on the Shipyards and people who are interested in sharing what they would do with the property.

Lamping declined to identify those people, but said, “We have heard a lot of great ideas.”

Asked if the entertainment could be an aquarium or observation tower, which both have been suggested by developers, Lamping said “it could be any of those things. We’ve talked to everyone who’s had an interest in talking with us.”

Lamping, Khan and the Jaguars have spent more than a year looking at the prospects of developing the Shipyards.

“This has been pretty deliberate and not as fast as we usually do stuff, but if we are going to do it, it has to be a success and it has to be a project that once we start, it gets completed,” Lamping said.

“And that site has had some issues in the past and we just need to make sure that it’s done right and it’s done right the first time.”

Several developers unsuccessfully attempted residential, office and retail projects since the site closed as a working shipyard. The City ended up owning the property after those failed attempts.

In May, City Council approved a $13.4 million settlement for a failed Shipyards project. Crescent Resources LLC and its subsidiary, LandMar, filed for Chapter 11 in 2010, with the $13.4 million representing the city’s portion of what’s been recovered.

LandMar entered into an agreement to redevelop the property into an almost $1 billion mixed-use community, but fell flat after putting close to $20 million worth of public improvements into the property.

Council decided to put the funds directly into the general fund instead of a reserve account. It will have to be spent within six months.

Lamping said he doesn’t know who would own the land. He said it could be owned by the city and leased by the developer, or owned by the developer.

“If we get involved, we’re going to want to be the master developer,” he said.

There is no specific timetable, “other than we’re continuing to very actively evaluate it.”

“We are working toward a go or no-go position and we certainly would expect that clearly within the next six months or so we should a much better idea where we want to go with it,” he said.

Lamping said there was not a lot to discuss with the city until the Jaguars determine what the project would look like, which would determine the financing and capitalization of the deal.

“Until we know what’s going to be in there it’s hard to have those discussions,” he said.

If the Jaguars become the master developer, then other developers would work on specific projects, such as the residential entertainment, marina and other components.

If the Jaguars choose to proceed, striking a deal with the city will need several steps.

Kristen Sell, a spokeswoman for Mayor Alvin Brown, said Wednesday the Office of General Counsel is determining what the legal process would be in terms of a procurement or other approval process.

She said that after those guidelines are provided, the city will work with City Council members and the Downtown Investment Authority board.

The Shipyards property is vacant land stretching from The Plaza at Berkman, which is near the old county courthouse property, to Metropolitan Park and the sports complex.

kmathis@baileypub.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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