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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Sep. 13, 202204:02 PM EST

DIA reaches $35.88 million incentives deal for 44-story tower at former Jacksonville Landing 

The city also would make a $27.576 million construction loan to the NYC-based developer American Lions LLC.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

The Downtown Investment Authority and a New York City-based developer have reached a tentative deal for $35.88 million in city incentives for a 44-story residential tower at the former Jacksonville Landing.

The term sheet released Sept. 9 includes a 20-year, $27.576 million construction loan for American Lions LLC, which proposes to build an estimated $166.6 million tower that DIA officials say would structurally integrate with the public park planned for what is now called Riverfront Plaza.

The DIA Retail Enhancement and Property Disposition Committee is scheduled to debate and take a preliminary vote on the deal Sept. 15 after extending negotiations with the developer in August by 30 days. 

DIA Director of Downtown Real Estate and Development Steve Kelley said Aug.  31 the city agency was “negotiating in great good faith” with the developer.

The city would give American Lions a 1-acre parcel on the northeast corner of the former Landing site next to the Main Street Bridge to build a tower up to 480 feet tall.

The residential tower would integrate with the public park planned for what is now called Riverfront Plaza.

The incentives

The city would make an estimated $27.576 million construction loan to be repaid over 20 years with one 10-year extension option. 

Here’s how the incentive package breaks down: 

• A Recapture Enhanced Value Grant capped at $28.557 million in the form of a 20-year, 75%  property tax refund.

• The DIA will cover interest payments on the loan for two years during construction, valued at $1.344 million.

• A $2.5 million completion grant paid after the tower is substantially complete.

• The land appraised at $3.48 million.

The term sheet allows for the city to provide a larger construction loan, capped at $29 million. 

The loan would be transferred to a new owner if the building is sold during the life of the agreement. American Lions could not sell the tower within five years of starting construction and three years after it is complete.

The deal includes a profit-sharing provision that would allow the DIA to earn 10% over a 23% initial rate of return if the tower is sold and 15% over a 30% return.

The incentives agreement must be approved by the DIA board if the committee signs off. City Council would have the final say. 

The deal says American Lions would have to receive final design approval by the Downtown Development Review Board by June 1, 2024, and start construction by Sept. 1, 2024. 

The company would have until Dec. 31, 2027, to finish construction. 

A city park would be at the base of the new tower.

Tower design

American Lions recruited international architect Bjarke Ingels Group to design the tower. The firm is headquartered in Copenhagen; New York; London; Barcelona, Spain; and Shenzhen, China.

The high-rise, called River View Plaza, would house 332 apartments with 15,000 square feet for resident amenities, 5,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space open to the public and 31,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, according to a DIA staff report.

The report and term sheet say the tower would provide a physical connection from its proposed sky garden terrace and civic stairs that lead to the park’s proposed centerpiece sculpture and a 1,500-square-feet cafe.

Kelley said Aug. 31 that the city contracted with Perkins & Wills to complete the park design by the end of 2022. 

The park proposal made public last year includes a centerpiece “Jax” sculpture envisioned by Orlando-based international artist Jefrë Manuel.

The tower would have a 300-foot frontage with an entrance to a 7,500-square-foot, 100-seat restaurant and a retail/workshop/studio arcade. 

To qualify for the incentives, American Lions’ final proposal can include no fewer than 300 units. 

The company is a joint venture of Fetner Properties and the Lions Group. They individually own, manage and build large-scale developments and residential properties throughout the New York City area.

American Lions LLC was the only bidder for DIA’s property disposition in March to redevelop the site at 2 Independent Drive on the St. Johns River. 

The developer and architect describe the design in the DIA report as “a tower with a sinuous form that reflects the elegance of the sails that float through the St. Johns River into the Atlantic.” 

“Rising from River View Plaza, our project blends seamlessly from the surrounding landscape to create an iconic contribution to the Jacksonville skyline (with) nature and architecture, with a park becoming a tower. Contoured steps flow from the Sky Garden Terraces up to a residential tower that rises to a height of 486 feet.

“At the podium, these steps create a three dimensional park space. Each step of the landscape provides an opportunity for either an elevated retail or amenities platform overlooking the river.” 


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