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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jun. 28, 201905:20 AM EST

Growing Fidelity needs space, is Florida Blue parking lot the answer?

Plans are in motion that could free the parking lot for development.

Fidelity National Information Services Inc. is speculated as the project for the riverfront Florida Blue parking lot along Riverside Avenue.

That’s because the Jacksonville-based company, with at least 1,400 area employees according to FIS, is growing and already is based nearby.

FIS, a global provider of financial services technology, agreed to buy Worldpay Inc., which provides e-commerce and payments.

Upon closing, said a news release, “the combined company will be positioned to offer best-in-class enterprise banking, payments, capital markets, and global eCommerce capabilities empowering financial institutions and businesses worldwide.”

FIS occupies space on the Fidelity campus along Riverside Avenue, near the Florida Blue parking lot, and space is tight as the Fidelity-related companies continue buying competitors and seeking space for the additional employees.

In 2015, FIS bought SunGard Data Services Inc., one of the world’s leading financial software and technology services companies, and said it would add 250 jobs in Jacksonville. It leases SunGard’s space on the Southbank.

FIS shares a Riverside Avenue building with Black Knight Inc. Black Knight is a mortgage technology company and its business once was part of FIS. 

Both companies were spun off from title insurance company Fidelity National Financial Inc., and all three are headquartered at the same Riverside Avenue office complex. 

JAX Chamber calculates that Black Knight has 2,400 employees in Jacksonville. If FIS left the building, it would make more space for Black Knight. (Of course, the opposite also could take place — Black Knight could build a tower and leave space for FIS. But the focus for the new building seems to be on FIS.)

For now, the guess is that FIS would need to develop at least 200,000 to 225,000 square feet of office space to accommodate its current employees, and companies typically factor in more space to accommodate growth. At the low end of that spectrum, a structure could cost $50 million — at $250 a square foot — and could take up to two years to build.

The height of the building would depend on the size of each floor at the site, a 4½-acre riverfront parking lot at 323 Riverside Ave. It also would depend on Downtown Development Review Board and Downtown Investment Authority guidelines.

By comparison, the privately owned 245 Riverside Ave. office structure next door is a five-story, 137,000-square-foot building with a two-story parking deck on almost 3.4 acres.

The DIA initially approved a deal that would make the surface parking lot, owned by Florida Blue, a GuideWell company, available for development.

An FIS spokeswoman, when asked about the possibility of developing on the site, said acquisitions will cause the Fortune 500 company to expand in Jacksonville.

“With our upcoming acquisition of Worldpay (Inc.), we’ll soon be a $12 billion global company with a market cap in excess of $75 billion. As a result, we expect we will have continued growth in our Jacksonville-based employee population, prompting us to explore multiple options that can accommodate our growth plans,” said Kim Snider, Fidelity senior vice president of corporate communications.

Florida Blue/GuideWell spokeswoman Toni Woods said last week she could not confirm talks of a deal with FIS about the property.

“There are conversations on several fronts at this time,” said Woods, senior media relations consultant.

Under the deal, Florida Blue would no longer use the lot. The DIA approved transferring city-owned property nearby at  Forest and Park streets to GuideWell/Florida Blue at the appraised value.

To replace the parking, the DIA agreed to extend a $3.5 million grant to Florida Blue to build a $22.5 million parking deck on the city-owned land off the riverfront.

The deck would be available to the public after 6 p.m. weekdays and on holidays and weekends. 

Brian Hughes, interim DIA CEO and chief of staff to Mayor Lenny Curry, told the DIA board that “there is an extremely high degree of probability that that parcel on the riverfront would not continue to be a surface parking lot. If for some reason the ownership changed, it would be precluded from being a surface lot.”

The deal moves on.

The DDRB will need to approve the parking structure design and City Council will need to sign off on the incentives deal.

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