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Aundra Wallace
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Feb. 19, 201512:00 PM EST

Shipyards, Healthy Town among Downtown projects likely to compete for small pot of incentive money

by: David Chapman

They’re within eyesight of each other, separated by the currents of the St. Johns River.

The former JEA Southside Generating Station site along the Southbank, the 29-acre setting for “Healthy Town.” And the Shipyards, the 48-acre stretch of Northbank riverfront for which Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan pitched ideas Tuesday.

Two Downtown parcels that could show Jacksonville’s urban core can stand toe-to-toe with its peers across the state.

“By the time we get to 2025, if these projects come to fruition … Downtown Jacksonville will be able to compete,” said Aundra Wallace, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority. “People can no longer just talk about Central Florida, St. Petersburg or Tampa.”

The 2025 date isn’t random. It’s the time frame the authority set to have 10,000 residents living Downtown. That number is about 3,800 now, Wallace said.

Healthy Town could bring as many as 1,000 multifamily units. Details about the Shipyards haven’t been released.

Regardless, Wallace said the projects combined with the booming Brooklyn developments and possible Jacksonville Landing redevelopment would go a long way toward reaching that residential goal.

The ideas behind Healthy Town and the Shipyards have similarities. Both are mixed-use, combining residential with retail. Office space and a hotel are possibilities for the Southbank site, while Khan’s vision presented Tuesday definitively included both assets.

Both also will likely seek public assistance in some form through the DIA, though neither has yet, Wallace said.

A Shipyards plan is expected to be submitted Monday. Wallace said he expects something from Healthy Town’s principals, Peter Rummell and Mike Balanky, once the two close on the land and perform a level of due diligence.

Yet, while each may ask for help, Wallace said he doesn’t see them as competing with one another — they’re too different in scope. One being a community geared around healthy living, the other with an eye toward sports and entertainment.

Although, when projects start competing, it’s a good sign for Downtown, he said.

“I’d welcome the opportunity,” Wallace said. “I would love to have the problem of these projects craving help.”

In addition to Healthy Town and the Shipyards, it’s expected the Jacksonville Landing, Laura Street Trio and Barnett Bank Building all will need public financial assistance of some kind.

Whether grants or loans, the group has about $2.5 million to spend this year after investing in projects like Hemming Park and a retail enhancement program. Other options could be long-term, low-cost land leases or outright giving land to the developers.

Instead of competing, though, Wallace said he thinks the Shipyards and Healthy Town will complement each other.

Mayor Alvin Brown agrees, saying the two sides of the river would have a “different feel” and appeal to various types of people looking to make Downtown their residence or place of business.

“The common denominator is more people living Downtown,” said Brown. “It gives people options … I have no concerns at all.”

Jaguars President Mark Lamping said the team is aware of what is happening at Healthy Town across the river. But, he said the “focus as always has been on things that we control” instead of trying to trying to figure out other projects.

“There is a lot going on in the city,” Lamping said.

A call and email to Rummell were not returned.

Wallace said plans for the Shipyards and Healthy Town also could help guide the future of the Landing, the third part of what he calls “the trifecta” for riverfront development.

Rummell has said Healthy Town could break ground by the fall, barring setback.

With the Shipyards ideas now public, Wallace said it provides an opportunity for the Landing to implement ideas that complement the two instead of compete.

“I think it’s great to have these things going on at the time so we can all understand what’s out there,” he said.

Wallace and the authority are in the process of hiring a consultant to create a Landing redevelopment plan that focuses on waterfront and public space. Bids for that request for proposal were scheduled to be opened Wednesday, but the city pushed it back a week.

With all the plans and momentum of recent months, Brown said it’s a signal to invest. And if they all come to fruition?

“It would bring Downtown back to life in a 21st century way,” he said.

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