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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Sep. 9, 202107:30 PM EST

DIA committee supports rebidding old Duval County Courthouse site

The plans would exclude the former City Hall Annex property and will not require retail uses along Bay Street.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

A Downtown Investment Authority committee recommends the full board remarket and rebid the former Duval County Courthouse site on Bay Street.

The committee’s 3-0 vote on Sept. 9 comes after the full board ended negotiations with a New York City-based developer in August for a mixed-use multifamily retail project at 330 E. Bay St. 

The 2.89-acre property was part of what the DIA branded in 2019 as The Ford on Bay. It included the adjacent 2.39-acre former City Hall Annex site at 220 E. Bay St. and 3.1 acres of submerged land in the St. Johns River.

The DIA’s latest effort to put the site on the market keeps the focus on mid-rise or high-rise mixed-use multifamily development.

It removes the annex site and submerged land from a draft request for proposals.  

Committee Chair Oliver Barakat called the city-owned site a “very important block” Downtown. 

Downtown Investment Authority Committee Chair Oliver Barakat and member Carol Worsham.

“This is our opportunity to really write the script on a development more so than we have on a privately owned property,” he said.

If the board approves the plan Sept. 15, real estate firm CBRE would begin premarketing the riverfront parcel until Oct. 21. 

The board then would issue a required 30-day notice of disposition and begin accepting bids by Oct. 22.

A DIA timeline shows a bid announcement by Dec. 16.

Don’t “chill the bidding”

The Retail and Property Disposition Committee agreed with CBRE that a new request for proposals should encourage, but not require, retail uses along Bay Street.

The committee voted to eliminate a requirement from the first The Ford on Bay RFP that 80% of a proposal’s Bay Street frontage be retail.

Instead, the committee agreed with DIA staff and CBRE that 35% of the street front be “activated” with retail, urban open space, office or private uses for the multifamily residents. 

Barakat and committee members David Ward and Carol Worsham said the scoring process should reward bids that include Bay Street retail.

DIA CEO Lori Boyer suggested asking developers to provide ground-floor space that could be converted to retail when the market can sustain it.

“There’s huge value to having the retail here,” Boyer said.

“It’s just a question of whether it chills the bidding and how we split that difference.”

Another change is Courthouse Drive along the riverfront. The DIA wants the city to retain it as a public park or open space, unlike the last RFP that allowed developers to incorporate it into the private bids.

The DIA may request bids for Area 2, the former Duval County Courthouse site of The Ford on Bay.

What has not changed is CBRE’s recommendation that multifamily residential, riverfront retail and hospitality still would be the best use for the site. 

The committee agreed that any RFP should have clear requirements for riverfront retail and dining. 

An outline of proposed RFP criteria shows a minimum 10,000 square feet of retail on the riverfront at 330 E. Bay St. 

At least 7,500 square feet must be enclosed ground-floor space and include a 5,000-square-foot full-service restaurant with at least 1,000 additional square feet of outdoor bar/dining space

DIA staff suggests allowing bids to eliminate a code-required view corridor that would split the site from Bay Street to the St. Johns River in favor of a 100-foot setback from the water.

City code calls for a 50-foot setback.

Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer at the meeting Sept. 9 at City Hall.

The RFP criteria will not be final until the board votes in October. 

Boyer said after the meeting that the DIA’s latest proposal would allow developers to pitch more types of uses at The Ford on Bay, but that board members still want multifamily and riverfront restaurant/retail. 

“I’m not sure that overall it is more flexible or that it’s really a change of direction,” Boyer said. 

“It’s just changing the way it’s presented from a mandatory (retail) minimum to a highly scored attribute to communicate the desire to the market.” 

Spandrel and the Annex

In August, the DIA board voted to terminate its agreement with Spandrel Development Partners LLC.

The developer told DIA earlier this year it wanted to reduce its proposed capital investment and the amount of retail space in what was a $136 million, two-phase plan for 520 apartments and up to 74,000 square feet on both riverfront parcels. 

Spandrel also asked the DIA to include workforce housing instead of market-rate apartments.

The old City Hall Annex and the partially demolished old Duval County Courthouse are seen in this satellite image. (Google)

Boyer said the changes differed enough from the original deal that the DIA board would need to draft and approve a new term sheet to keep Spandrel as the developer.

Spandrel’s term sheet approved by DIA in February 2020 permitted negotiations for 279 residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail space at 330 E. Bay St. with a commitment to finalize plans for 220 E. Bay St.

Boyer said the City Hall Annex site was removed from the new RFP to avoid a two-phase development. 

But the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront parent company also has a say on what’s built on that parcel.

Westmont Hospitality Group Inc. has the first right of refusal if the city puts the property up for sale.

Boyer expects development on 330 E. Bay St. will increase the property value of  220 E. Bay St. 

She said after the meeting that the second parcel could be used for a civic site, such as a farmers market or aquarium, and avoid triggering the Hyatt’s contractual hold.

“It allows us to still control that site,” Boyer said. 

The committee directed DIA staff to update the scoring criteria and make them available before the Sept. 15 board meeting.


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