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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Feb. 10, 202104:29 PM EST

Shad Khan’s development company asks for Shipyards site access

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The Downtown Investment Authority will consider allowing Iguana Investments Florida onto the city property for environmental due diligence.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

The Downtown Investment Authority board will consider allowing Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s development company access to the Shipyards property as he considers the site for a Four Seasons hotel and mixed-use development.

According to the Feb. 17 meeting agenda packet, the DIA board is scheduled to vote on a resolution to give Iguana Investments Florida LLC access to the city-owned riverfront property for at least six months to conduct environmental and geotechnical site due diligence. 

The board documents were released Feb. 10. 

Jaguars President Mark Lamping said in January that Khan wants to advance his $535 million plan to redevelop a portion of the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park after City Council rejected the taxpayer-backed incentive deal for Khan’s proposal to redevelop Lot J.

Lot J is the parking lot west of TIAA Bank Field across the street from the park.

Khan’s team is negotiating directly with the DIA to build the Four Seasons at Metropolitan Park along with a two-phase medical, residential and office development and public park space.

The DIA documents state Iguana “requires additional information in order to properly evaluate the cost and feasibility of development.”

Khan had access to the Shipyards until August when his development rights expired for the property, awarded through a 2017 request for proposals.

The DIA resolution excludes access to 14.32 acres of the 24.7-acre Metropolitan Park. 

That land is restricted by the National Park Service. Plans released Nov. 12 show a majority of Khan’s proposed Four Seasons hotel and adjacent development on the site.

DIA CEO Lori Boyer met with Iguana representatives Jan. 21 after the National Park Service’s denial of the city’s proposal to swap Shipyards land for Metropolitan Park became public.

In a phone interview Jan. 26, Boyer said the conversation included the possibility of “sliding” Khan’s proposed Four Seasons and mixed-use development design toward the west and leaving Metropolitan Park untouched. 

Boyer said one option would be to “enhance” Metropolitan Park but she said nothing has been decided.

“I’m not committing it to anything,” Boyer said. “We discussed the implications of the National Park Service reaction. One resolution or one approach is simply leave Met Park a park and enhance it and accommodate some mixed-use elements.”

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection notified city attorney John Sawyer on Dec. 2 that the National Park Service will not consider the Shipyards as replacement property for Metropolitan Park.

The city is required to keep Metropolitan Park as parkland under a provision in a $1.725 million National Park Service grant agreement. It prohibits the city from selling  Metropolitan Park without a comparable replacement.

The city received the grant in 1981 through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 

Despite the setback, Boyer said Jan. 26 she still sees an opportunity to connect Downtown’s eastern and central core with a mix of park space and private development. 

“I still think that, ultimately, for Downtown, there is an opportunity to connect the central core to the (Sports and) Entertainment District,” Boyer said. “Having park space is important for that action.” 

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