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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jun. 19, 201906:40 PM EST

Plan makes Florida Blue parking lot next to Fidelity campus available for development

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FIS officials say acquisitions will cause the company to expand in Jacksonville.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

A deal that would make a surface parking lot, owned by Florida Blue/GuideWell in Riverside and adjacent to land owned by Fidelity National Information Services, available for development has initial approval.

Under a deal approved unanimously Wednesday by the Downtown Investment Authority, Florida Blue would no longer use the 4½-acre riverfront parking lot at 323 Riverside Ave., making it available for development.

Asked via email about its plans to build on the Florida Blue site, FIS officials 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.

A spokeswomen for Florida Blue said via email Wednesday she could not confirm talks of a deal with FIS about the property.

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

According to the city property appraiser web portal, the parking lot’s assessed value is $6 million.

At its monthly board meeting at City Hall, the DIA approved transferring a nearby city-owned parcel of land at the intersection of Forest and Park streets to GuideWell/Florida Blue at the appraised value.

“I would say, 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,” Brian Hughes, chief of staff to Mayor Lenny Curry and the DIA’s interim CEO, told the DIA board.

The DIA also agreed to extend a $3.5 million grant to build a $22.5 million parking deck — making Florida Blue’s riverfront property available for development. The new parking deck also would be available to the public after 6 p.m. weekdays, holidays and weekends. Hughes said this will address one of the top issues facing city parks and commercial retail in the area.

“That would allow them to take the parking obligations from the riverfront to the new deck, with the potential for that parcel to be developed,” Hughes said.

Money for the $3.5 million Florida Blue grant will be diverted from incentives earmarked as part of an agreement between the city and Barrington Development for the troubled Berkman II Downtown highrise project.

“The Berkman II developers, while this board moved that development agreement, they have very overtly stated they don’t intend to take the development agreement before City Council,” Hughes said. “They’re going to be reworking their plan for that property. It will change, so I don’t see any issue with committing that pool of money for this project since we will likely have an entirely different reworking of potential Berkman II components.”

The new parking structure’s design will need approval from the Downtown Development Review Board and the incentive deal will now move to the council for approval before the parking structure proposal can move forward.

DIA board member Oliver Barakat said Wednesday he hopes DDRB members and project architects will consider including first-floor retail on the parking structure, as he doesn’t see ground-level parking at a “gateway” intersection into Downtown the  “highest and best use.”

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