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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, May 20, 202006:50 PM EST

Ford on Bay and the Independent Life Building are headed to DIA in June

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The Downtown Investment Authority also will vote on a food and beverage program and a dock for short-term boaters.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

In June, the Downtown Investment Authority board will consider development terms for a proposed $136 million mixed-use project at the Ford on Bay and a redevelopment agreement for the former Independent Life Insurance Company building.

DIA CEO Lori Boyer told the board at its May 20 meeting that those projects would be discussed along with more projects at the next meeting.

Ford on Bay

DIA planned to consider the deal between the city and New York-based Spandrel Development Partners LLC to redevelop the former Duval County Courthouse and City Hall sites at 220 and 330 E. Bay St.

Boyer told the DIA board May 20 that “a number of terms” in the agreement were “not sufficiently resolved at the seven-day deadline prior to the meeting.” 

The DIA selected Spandrel’s bid for the site Feb. 21. The developer proposes a two-phase project with 520 apartments and up to 74,000 square feet of retail space on the riverfront property.

City attorneys are negotiating with owners of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront to resolve the first right of refusal on the sale of the former City Hall site at 220 E. Bay St.

The land is north of the hotel and the first right of refusal is in the hotel’s 1998 redevelopment agreement with the city, Boyer said in a May 18 phone interview.

Until the contractual impasse is resolved, the project will focus on phase one planned for the 330 E. Bay St. parcel. 

A Spandrel representative said Feb. 11 that phase one would comprise 279 residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a 10,000-square-foot riverfront restaurant.

To gain the Hyatt’s approval, Boyer said in February that the city and Spandrel could agree to add exhibit space in phase two that the hotel sought.

Spandrel has preliminary plans for a 5,000- to 25,000-square-foot grocery store as part of phase two, but Spandrel will examine the market feasibility before committing to one. A food hall, gallery exhibition or meeting space could instead be added.

The development agreement is expected to include a Recaptured Enhanced Value grant, providing a 50% tax refund to Spandrel for 20 years on the increased value of the property.

Boyer told the Daily Record she is not aware of issues in Spandrel’s ability to obtain financing for the project in the face of changing market conditions because of COVID-19. 

“But we’re all mindful that we don’t want to make commitments we can’t keep,” Boyer said.

The Independent Life Insurance Co. Building at 233 W. Duval St.

Independent Life

Boyer said DIA staff promised Independent Life developer Augustine Development Group that the board would consider its proposed redevelopment agreement in June while the company waits for final federal historic landmark approval.

The agreement would award the $28 million mixed-use project money from the city’s Downtown Historic Preservation Trust Fund, contingent upon the final historic designation from the National Park Service.

DIA has not released the award amount.

Building owner PEP10 LLC, a subsidiary of Augustine Development Group and investment partner DLP Capital LLC, told Boyer before the May 20 meeting the designation process slowed, presumably because of COVID-19.

“Apparently, the National Park Service has been very slow to respond, not really working and some of them are on furlough,” Boyer said. “It is our hope to move the project forward.” 

City Council has designated the Independent Life Insurance Co. Building in the Downtown core a local landmark, easing the way toward renovation.

The Independent Life building was completed in 1955 and designed by KBJ Architects Inc., the firm responsible for designing 17 of Jacksonville’s tallest buildings, according to city documents.

It is within Jacksonville’s 2016 National Register District designation footprint.

PEP 10 LLC bought the 65-year-old, 19-story office building at 233 W. Duval St. on Sept. 30. The developer plans to renovate the  180,000-square-foot building with apartments and retail space.

The Downtown Development Review Board granted conceptual approval for the plans Nov. 14, but it needs final approval.

Plans show 140 market-rate apartments and a rooftop terrace with an all-glass, rooftop infinity pool.

A lounge and a sushi and seafood restaurant will fill the 17th and 18th floors. The space was Independent Life’s executive sky lounge, Augustine Development Group President Bryan Greiner said in February.

Full June agenda

Proposed development and financial incentive programs put on hold because of COVID-19 will return to the DIA’s June meeting agenda, Boyer said. 

The board will have a final vote on an Enhanced Food and Beverage Retail Enrichment program that would provide business and commercial property owners financial incentives. 

Boyer says the program’s goal is to create a dense restaurant and retail district Downtown.

The board also will review terms for a transient dock proposed by an Atlanta-based developer on 0.5-acre of city-owned submerged land southeast of Berkman Plaza II, Boyer said.

The property is part of a 23.58-acre parcel at 750 E. Bay St. that includes a vacant lot. The lease deal would be for a portion of the submerged land.

The term sheet drafted by DIA staff shows developer Greg Esterman and the city will consider a 50-year lease for the property with a 25-year renewal option. The dock would be open to the public for periods up to 30 days.

The developer would be responsible for the design, permitting and construction costs associated with the dock built parallel to the concrete pier at the end of Catherine Street.

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