Barring logjam, Rummell expects work on Healthy Town to begin in the fall

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Healthy Town, probably by another name, could start taking shape on the Downtown Southbank by fall.

Developer Peter Rummell said Thursday that he and development partner Michael Balanky hope to complete the $18.5 million contract to buy the property from JEA within 10 days.

The purchase and sale agreement is on the JEA board agenda Tuesday.

After due diligence on incentives and entitlements, horizontal development could start by fall.

“I don’t see any reason right now, unless we run into some kind of a logjam, that we can’t be in the ground this year,” he said.

Rummell spoke at The River Club to almost 190 members of the NAIOP Northeast Florida Commercial Real Estate Development Association and CREW Jacksonville, the area commercial real estate women’s group.

Healthy Town is a mixed-use residential and retail project that Rummell and Balanky propose on almost 29 acres of the former JEA Southside Generating Station riverfront site. It could include offices and a hotel.

Rummell and Balanky envision the development as a center for young and old, whose predominant lifestyle is focused on optimal health. Rummell has called the cohort “Generation H,” a growing market of all ages, single and married, families and retirees, who seek healthy living that includes their personal habits and living environment.

Rummell has been referring publicly to the project as Healthy Town since March, but said the development group will be exploring new names and possibly hold a contest.

He and Balanky envision about 1,000 multifamily units for rent and for sale, starting with several hundred units, and up to 200,000 square feet of retail space.

“I also promise you it will be a cool place,” Rummell said, pledging the “best bar and restaurant on the river that this city has ever seen.”

In addition to bike baths and a fitness center, the project would integrate designs to create “unintentional exercise,” such as using the stairs, walking more and community gardening.

Rummell and Balanky said financing is lined up.

Along with the JEA contract, they need to work with the Downtown Investment Authority and City Council on project details. They did not specify the types or amount of financial incentives that might be in play, although Brownfield assistance might be part of it.

“We’ll be meeting with the city for a lot of reasons,” Balanky said.

JEA has said the plant was taken off-line in 2001 and has since undergone decommissioning, demolition and environmental activities to prepare for redevelopment.

The property was designated in 2001 as a Brownfield site by agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Rummell said JEA has spent $28 million remediating the site, although there might be “a couple of little pockets” that need help.

Other details and timelines are not determined. Rummell said because the idea is new, they will experiment with some aspects. He said he also believes in the “fail fast” concept. By that, he said a quick failure can be quickly corrected and they can move on.

“We want to instill that mantra here,” he said.

Rummell wants to change the name so that the project’s focus on age groups from millennials to retirees is clear.

“I’m going to be personally tremendously disappointed if this turns into any version of senior living,” said Rummell, 69.

He also repeated what he told members of the Urban Land Institute North Florida in October — his vision for Jacksonville as a city that brings together the experienced 65-year-old and the ambitious 32-year-old, connecting ideas and capital.

He again challenged the community to capture the energy of the out-of-town snowbirds that live part-time in the Ponte Vedra and Amelia Island resorts.

Rummell has said those high-achieving visitors are successful and have capital, friends and expertise. Those assets need to be brought “into Jacksonville’s ecosystem.”

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