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Jax Daily Record Friday, Nov. 7, 201412:00 PM EST

Downtown's EverBank Center selected as site for consolidated Citizens Property offices

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A Citizens Property Insurance Corp. negotiation team recommended Thursday that the company consolidate a 950-job operations center Downtown in EverBank Center, pending completion of lease negotiations.

The team met in a conference call Thursday to choose between Amkin West Bay LLC, which owns EverBank Center at 301 W. Bay St., and Crocker Partners, which owns the Prominence Business Park at 8935 Freedom Commerce Parkway in Baymeadows.

The team decided Amkin’s offer was best, although some lease details needed to be ironed out. If those points cannot be satisfied with EverBank, the team will work on completing a deal with Crocker Partners.

“It just goes with the flow of what’s happening and we are delighted we were able to pull together to provide Citizens the type of environment in a single building that will allow them to function efficiently,” said Pamela Smith, the owner’s representative for the building.

Smith said Citizens Property would lease more than 230,000 square feet of space among 8.5 floors, which would boost occupancy at EverBank Center to almost 90 percent.

“In one fell swoop we will pretty much be able to fill the building,” she said.

Mayor Alvin Brown, calling from London, called it “a big win for Downtown.

“It continues to validate my vision about making Downtown a destination, which is very important, and it shows the power of the public-private partnership working,” the mayor said.

Brown is part of an economic-development delegation traveling with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

Brown said JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot and JAX Chamber President Daniel Davis worked along with city Chief Administrative Officer Karen Bowling and Office of Economic Development CEO Ted Carter “worked hard on this.”

Brown said the Downtown Investment Authority and the city can help Citizens Property’s employees in the transition to working Downtown.

The basic 10-year lease prices offered were $41.6 million from Amkin and two options from Crocker at $48.7 million and $46.3 million, according to Citizens Property spokesman Michael Peltier.

He said each bid includes five two-year renewal periods. With those factored in, Amkin’s offer is $48 million and Crocker’s options are $65.9 million and $62.7 million.

Peltier said if the Amkin negotiation is successful, it will presented to the Board of Governors for approval. The next meeting is 1 p.m. Nov. 19. If approved, the contract then will be reviewed by the state Department of Management Services.

Tallahassee-based Citizens Property was created by the Legislature in 2002 as a not-for-profit tax-exempt government entity to provide insurance protection to Florida policyholders unable to find property insurance coverage in the private market.

Citizens Property will consolidate its four Jacksonville offices, now comprising 211,288 square feet in Baymeadows, into one larger location.

The company has been working toward the deal since May, when it issued its first Invitation to Negotiate for the space.

The first four bids were rejected and a second Invitation to Negotiate was issued, attracting six bids.

EverBank and Prominence had scored the highest in that second round after a series of committee reviews.

“We really had to overcome some big hurdles … to accommodate some of their unique requirements,” Smith said. “We have a lot of people to thank who came on board to make it happen.”

The deal required sufficient parking, IT infrastructure, office space, access in case of a catastrophe that required adjusters and other employees to be based at the center, and other details.

Smith said the Office of Economic Development, city Public Parking Officer Jack Shad, architect Studio9 Architecture and contractor Auld & White Constructors were helpful in preparing the information.

Citizens Property has been looking for a site for about 226,400 square feet of office space to accommodate its consolidated center, which will involve relocating 800 existing local jobs, now among three buildings in Baymeadows, and move in 148 IT jobs from Tallahassee and Tampa.

Smith said the EverBank Center space could accommodate 1,130 Citizens employees, counting additional employees needed in a catastrophe.

Citizens Property wants to start moving into the space Aug. 1 and begin the lease Jan. 1, 2016.

[email protected]

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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