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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 2, 201810:00 AM EST

Jaguars president gives details on convention center, hotel plans for Shipyards

Project would cost $425 million to $450 million. Not likely to begin until 2021.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s Iguana Investments group provided its first conceptual plans Thursday for the first phase of a proposed $2.5 billion Northbank riverfront development next to TIAA Bank Field where Metropolitan Park now sits.

Plans for the project, called the Shipyards, were submitted Thursday to the Downtown Investment Authority. 

They include a 490,000-square-foot public convention center and a 350-room full-service hotel.

The convention center would feature 200,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 40,000-square-foot ballroom and 45 breakout rooms.

The hotel would connect to the convention center and offer additional ballroom and meeting space, a rooftop pool and ground-floor retail and restaurant spaces. 

Other elements include two boat docks and a riverfront plaza and green space along the St. Johns River.

Across Gator Bowl Boulevard, the plans show a parking garage on part of the existing surface lot.

In a conference call with reporters Thursday from London, Jaguars and Iguana Investments President Mark Lamping said the estimated cost is $425 million to $450 million. 

He said that will include city money. 

“We certainly will expect that this will be a partnership with the city for a project like this,” Lamping said. 

Lamping said the city’s contribution would be enough to make sure the project is “economically viable” both for taxpayers and the private development group. 

The renderings show Gator Bowl Boulevard after removal of part of the elevated road connecting the Hart Bridge to Downtown.

The convention center hotel would feature 200,000 in additional square feet of exhibition space, a 40,000-square-foot ballroom and 45 breakout rooms.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s 2018-19 fiscal year budget includes $12.5 million in city money to remove the ramp structure. That’s in addition to the $12.5 million earmarked for the project at the state level.

The city also is applying for a federal transportation grant to make up the difference in the roughly $37 million project.

Lamping said the bridge ramps will need to come down before the convention center is built. Given the lead time to contract the project and complete it, Lamping estimated any development along the St. Johns River wouldn’t likely happen before 2021.

“We’re going to have to be very careful as far as the sequencing of construction to make sure we’re coordinating with the removal of the elevated ramps,” he said.

Lamping said the hotel is not a Four Seasons, which he said is still part of a larger plan, although he declined to name a flag.

During the Jaguars State of the Franchise presentation in April, Lamping revealed an expanded focus that includes the development of the parking lots directly west of TIAA Bank Field, including Lot J.

The $2.5 billion plan includes layers of residential, entertainment, office and hospitality.

“You will see construction on Lot J before you see construction on this project,” he said. “The elevated lanes do not conflict with our development on Lot J.” 

The site is next to TIAA Bank Field where Metropolitan Park now sits.

One of those potential office users for the Lot J site could be JEA.

The JEA board of directors announced Monday it was considering the property for its new Downtown headquarters along with four other sites.

JEA’s plans include a seven- to eight-story building and a parking garage.

Lamping said he’s had preliminary discussions with JEA officials and that if the utility does move its 800 employees, it would be a catalyst for the development.

“We’re very interested in trying to convince JEA that the best location to move their headquarters would be Lot J,” Lamping said.

He said Thursday’s announcement is another example of Khan’s commitment to Jacksonville.

“It’s really important to recognize that this is one in a series of major commitments to Downtown Jacksonville that have occurred since Shad Khan purchased the Jaguars prior to the 2012 season,” Lamping said.

In April 2017, the DIA selected Iguana Investments as the master developer of the 70-acre riverfront property that comprises the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park.

In a statement released Thursday, Khan called the Shipyards property “optimal” and the “obvious site for a new Jacksonville convention center.”

“Today’s proposal represents the first step in delivering the vision we first shared three years ago for the rebirth of Downtown Jacksonville,” he said.

“First, you have the prime riverfront access and the sense of being a true destination that only the Shipyards can offer,” he said.

The Shipyards is along the St. Johns River.

Khan called it “our boldest plan to date.”

Iguana Investments is partnering with DeBartolo Development Co. and Rimrock Devlin Development.

“We were naturally drawn to this opportunity because of the impact it will have on Downtown Jacksonville, and it’s one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved with in my career," said DeBartolo President and COO Edward Kobel.

“With the development team we have assembled, we have the leadership and resources to make this vision a reality,” he said.

Other developers also have submitted plans to the city to place a convention center and hotel along East Bay Street where the vacant former City Hall and Duval County Courthouse Annex buildings stand.

Preston Hollow Capital LLC; Rimrock Devlin, DeBartolo Jacksonville LLC; and Jacobs Project Management Co. responded Wednesday to a Request for Proposals for that site.

The city’s Procurement Division keeps those proposals sealed for 30 days. 

The DIA initiated the RFP in January.

Lamping said he is confident that when city officials look at both sites, the Iguana project will be the most beneficial to the city’s goals.

In a statement, Curry’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes said the development of Downtown includes an important discussion of entertainment and convention facilities.

"DIA is in receipt of proposals and now there is an additional proposal that considers an alternate location,” Hughes said.

"We look forward to continuing the discussions and seeing what best serves the plans to continue making Downtown an economic hub that pushes job creation and economic growth for the entire city,” he said.


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