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Jax Daily Record Friday, Oct. 2, 202008:42 PM EST

Related Group proposes $92 million development at River City Brewing Co. site

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A draft DIA report shows an eight-story, 335-unit apartment building, parking garage and marina improvements.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Miami-based Related Group is the company behind a proposal to demolish and redevelop the River City Brewing Co. restaurant on the Downtown Southbank. 

The Downtown Investment Authority provided a draft project report and term sheet Oct. 2 that shows restaurant parent company Maritime Concepts entered a contract with Related Group to sell its interest in the property and buy out the remaining 77 years in its long-term lease with the city.

Related Group signed the contract through RD River City Brewery LLC, according to the DIA report. 

The result could be a $92.32 million development with a 335-unit apartment building. Apartment amenities include a riverfront swimming pool; courtyard and deck; a 3,500-square-foot fitness center; bike/kayak storage; and a clubroom for tenants.

Related Group is planning 27 studio apartments; 117 one-bedroom; 167 two-bedroom; and 24 three-bedroom units, the DIA documents show.

The eight-story apartment building will have an adjacent eight-story parking garage with 535 spaces. 

The site plan for the apartments, park and riverwalk improvements at the River City Brewing Co. site.

DIA CEO Lori Boyer would not disclose Related Group as the development company interested in the property earlier Oct. 2 because negotiations between the developer, Maritime Concepts and the DIA had not concluded.

Maritime’s interest in the property includes its site improvements and a right of first refusal option if the city decides to sell the property. The company paid the city $40,000 annually for the ground lease signed in 1998.

“The transaction is entirely dependent on the prospective buyer (Related Group) acquiring the interest from Maritime,” Boyer said.

The draft report states Related Group has a $70 million construction budget for the project and expects to pay $10 million for Maritime’s interest and remaining lease cost. 

The remaining costs come from engineering, architectural and finance fees.

The DIA Strategic Implementation Committee is scheduled to discuss and could take action on a negotiated 30-day notice of disposition for the property at its Oct. 9 meeting.

The draft documents do not provide a development timeline, but Boyer said Oct. 2 that the developer hopes to close on the Maritime buyout and transaction by the end of the year. 

The deal

Under the term sheet, the DIA and city would convey the property to the developer at no cost except a simple fee. The 3.43-acre site has a $4.93 million assessed value, according to Duval County Property Appraiser records.

The deal includes a $12.94 million Recaptured Enhanced Value grant, a 20-year, 75% property tax reimbursement based on the property improvements.

The River City Brewing Co. site on the Downtown Southbank between the Friendship Fountain and the Acosta Bridge. (Google)

The city would pay $1.143 million to pay for improvements to a marina dock and $1.65 million to construct improvements at the marina boat ramp and relocation of an underground fuel tank at the site. 

“There’s a cost we incur on that side and a cost to the dock reconstruction,” Boyer said. “We want to see that fuel dock remains in existence. It’s the only one in Downtown and it’s important to us that it remains in operations.”

In return, Related Group is required to spend at least $250,000 for improvements to the Southbank Riverwalk that borders the property. 

The redevelopment deal also would provide land to expand St. Johns River Park that includes Friendship Fountain, including an additional 110 feet of waterfront along the Riverwalk.

Maritime or Related Group would restore a second dock damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 as a condition of the sale. 

Related Group will maintain and operate the marina and provide at least 20 public slips for transient boats. The staff report said both docks will likely be owned by the city.

Related Group also will be required to invest at least $300,000 to develop a proposed 1,000-square-foot boat supply shop on the site.

According to the draft DIA term sheet, 30 parking spaces in the garage will be set aside for public use and Related Group must provide parking for the neighboring Museum of Science & History. 

The companies

Related Group was founded in 1979 by Chairman and CEO Jorge M. Perez. The development company’s focus is Southeast Florida with an emphasis on luxury high-rise condos. 

The company lost a bid in February to redevelop the former Jacksonville City Hall and Duval County Courthouse site on the Downtown Northbank, now called The Ford on Bay.

Related Group’s $80 million pitch to build 350 multifamily residential units and 10,000 square feet of retail space was declined in favor of a $136 million, 550-unit multifamily proposal from New York-based Spandrel Development Partners LLC. 

According to the DIA, Related Group closed more than $600 million in investment transactions in the last two years.

River City Brewing has been operating for decades. River City Brewing entered the ground lease with the city in 1998, but the property has been home to several restaurant and entertainment venues.

The land housed the Lobster House restaurant for nearly 50 years before it was damaged by fire in 1962. It was the backdrop for some scenes in the 1954 film “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

In the 1970s, Diamondhead restaurant and then Someplace Else disco club operated there. That structure was demolished and replaced by Harbormaster’s, the restaurant that was renamed River City Brewing.

Any deal requires the 30-day notice of disposition before the DIA board can vote on a redevelopment agreement. That deal would have to be approved by City Council before the developer can break ground.

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