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Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 6, 202105:10 AM EST

Duval school district seeking bids for a new headquarters, location

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It is offering its riverfront Southbank administration building and three other properties to help pay for it.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

Duval County Public Schools is searching for a buyer for its administration building on the Downtown Southbank and seeking bids to develop a new headquarters off the riverfront. 

Real estate firm CBRE Inc. released an invitation to negotiate Nov. 30 on behalf of DCPS. 

It solicits bids for the new headquarters and offers the sale of the office building at 1701 Prudential Drive along the St. Johns River as well as up to three surplus school properties, including the Schultz Center event venue.

The school board voted unanimously June 1 to hire CBRE as the consultant and broker to consolidate DCPS’s real estate footprint.

The invitation allows the school board to accept one bid from a buyer/developer or multiple bids that respond to select parts of the solicitation. 

For the new administration building, bidders can offer a build-to-suit structure or to renovate an existing one for sale or lease.

Paul Soares, DCPS assistant superintendent of operations, said Dec. 1 that a potential site for the new administration building will be part of the pitches to the district.

He said one option could be for a buyer/developer to acquire the Schultz Center and other DCPS assets at 4019 and 4037 Boulevard Center Drive in the Midtown Centre Office Park and lease them back to the district for a consolidated administrative campus.

The property is listed as an optional disposition in the invitation.

“Primarily, we’re looking for them to locate a new facility, whether they build something from scratch or they have an existing building that they renovate and lease (it) back to us,” Soares said. 

“But it’s up to them to locate the facility.” 

The school district is advertising for an “office of the future” to accommodate 618 full-time employees with 100,000 to 120,000 square feet of space.

The invitation says the building must have wireless technology, be energy efficient and be sustainable with an environmentally responsible design. 

According to the invitation, the school district’s goal to relocate away from the Downtown riverfront will “consolidate DCPS’s operational footprint, improve organizational effectiveness, business strategies, and daily operations to better serve DCPS’s students, employees, and taxpayers.”

The Downtown Investment Authority considers the district’s 4.98-acre Southbank headquarters site as valuable for economic development. 

The Duval County Property Appraiser assessed the Prudential Drive site at $11,154,700 in 2021.

The 122,822-square-foot structure, built in 1981, and land are exempt from taxes under DCPS’s ownership.

In a resolution approved Sept. 7, the school board set a $12 million to $60 million cost range spread over 20 years for its new administration building and invitation to negotiate process.

The resolution says DCPS is not using half-cent sales tax revenue to pay for the new headquarters. 

Duval County voters approved a referendum in November 2020 to fund a nearly $1.9 billion facilities improvement plan to repair or rebuild aging schools and infrastructure.

The Duval County Public Schools building along the St. Johns River.

“The board has made it very clear that (sales tax) funding will not be used for this,” Soares said.

Marketing surplus property 

Revenue generated by the sale of surplus district property will be used toward the new headquarters, according to Soares.

In addition to the Prudential Drive headquarters, the school district is putting a 3.47-acre site at 120 King St. in the Rail Yard District on the market. The property includes a 66,487-square-foot building.

The Midtown Centre properties are on 7.99 acres with 117,100 square feet of space among three buildings.

According to the invitation, 4019 Boulevard Center Drive, which is the Schultz Center, is leased to a conference center operator until June 30, 2023.

The adjacent 4037 Boulevard Center Drive building is used by DCPS as office space.

The district plans to relocate those employees if the property sells.

The third property and other optional sale is 43.65 acres with a 78,000-square-foot cross-dock warehouse at 11231 Phillips Industrial Blvd. E. 

The invitation to negotiate says the district will need to lease back that property for up to one year to move and vacate after a sale.

Soares said officials understand the surplus property sales are not guaranteed. 

“We just don’t know because you don’t know who may be interested,” Soares said.

“And we may not sell some of them if the offers aren’t there.” 

The invitation will require bidders to allow a short-term lease of the Prudential Drive headquarters until the new facility is completed.

The timeline includes a prebid conference for interested buyers and developers and site tours scheduled for Jan. 6. The final bids are due by 2 p.m. Feb. 25.

The school district’s principal procurement officer will appoint an evaluation committee that will use criteria laid out in the invitation to negotiate to score the bids. 

Soares said it could take several months for DCPS negotiators to reach agreements with the bidder or bidders recommended by the committee.

A negotiation team will develop recommendations that require school board approval. 

Off the river

The school board has considered selling the Southbank administration building for nearly two decades. 

In July 2011, then-school board member Tommy Hazouri told the Daily Record he had been working to relocate the headquarters since 2004. 

The school board chair at that time, W.C. Gentry, said it was a priority to move the offices away from the riverfront.

Soares says it is important to school board and DCPS officials to keep the headquarters centrally located so travel times to all schools and facilities near the Duval County borders are as brief as possible. 

“We’re trying to stay in the center (of the county),” he said. 

“And a lot of staff and employees have to come here. So, we’re really trying to stay centrally located, just off the river.”

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