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A site plan for The District shows the layout for the mixed-use development planned for the former JEA Southside Generating Station site on the Southbank.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 27, 201612:00 PM EST

The District's master plan design guidelines get green light; next step is negotiating city's responsibilities for Southbank project

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The icing is ready to spread. Now it’s time to make and bake the cake.

The Downtown Development Review Board approved on Wednesday the master plan design guidelines for The District, the mixed-use project proposed on the former JEA Southside Generating Station site Downtown along the Southbank.

The product of months of work between Downtown Investment Authority staff and architects working with Elements Development of Jacksonville LLC, the plan lays out comprehensive standards for building heights, set-back and build-to lines and streetscape standards.

“This document gives staff specificity. We’ll use it to give us guidance in the final product,” said Jim Klement, authority development coordinator.

The District will comprise numerous structures and amenities on the 28.6-acre parcel including apartments, condominium towers, a hotel, retail and restaurant space, as well as public parks and parking lots.

“It’s a unique public and destination-oriented product,” Klement said.

As each component is designed, architects will use the master plan as their design standard. Any deviation will have to come before the board for its review and decision.

Elements partner Michael Munz said the master plan will be used as the basis for all aspects of each project as agreements are negotiated with developers who become part of The District.

“We’ll make the design guidebook a condition of closing,” he said. “This (document) will live with the project.”

Elements is required to submit a progress report to the board five years after the project begins. The master plan is effective for 10 years unless amended.

“This shows that when the public and private sectors work together, we can make great things happen,” Munz said.

Authority CEO Aundra Wallace agreed. He said the project and its master plan validate creation of the authority.

Staff, Elements and its design team spent 17 months working out the details of the master plan to protect the city and the developer as the project moves closer to its construction phase, estimated at $400 million to $500 million.

“We know they are taking a risk. They have to have predictability,” Wallace said.

Working together will continue as the two sides “make and bake the cake.”

Negotiations will now begin on the development agreement that lays out the city’s responsibilities for the project, such as providing utilities, drainage, roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure.

Economic incentives such as property tax credits and other concessions on the city’s part also will likely be part of the negotiations and the budget source for each phase of the city’s contribution will have to be identified and approved.

“We need to understand the nature of the request (from Elements) and the timing of vertical development,” Wallace said.

The authority granted Elements the development rights for the project in September 2015. The development agreement must be drafted by the authority and then approved by City Council within 24 months.

“Now it’s time for the city’s work to begin,” said Jim Bailey, authority chair and publisher of the Daily Record.

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