Entertainment complex planned next to stadium

Jaguars President Mark Lamping expects work on project to begin by mid-2019.

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  • | 5:22 a.m. January 26, 2018
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The redevelopment of the Shipyards property along the Downtown Northbank won’t begin on the riverfront, Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping said Thursday.

Lamping told the International Council of Shopping Centers North Florida Idea Exchange at EverBank Field that Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s development company, Iguana Investments of Florida, will likely start construction of an entertainment venue in a stadium parking lot.

“If we’re really going to bring about something that’s transformative, it can’t be limited to the 70 acres along the St. Johns River,” said Lamping, referring to the Shipyards and Metropolitian Park property that Iguana proposes to develop.

Mark Lamping
Mark Lamping

He said a 250,000-square-foot entertainment complex could go on Lot J.

The surface parking lot fronts Gator Bowl Boulevard and sits between Daily’s Place and Georgia Street. The team controls the lot, according to its lease with the city. 

“We have tremendously underdeveloped property right behind us,” Lamping told more than 300 retail real estate brokers, developers and builders.

The idea, he said, came from assisting the city with the submission it made to Amazon.com in October to land its second North American headquarters — a bid that included offering the city-owned property in and around the sports complex. 

Lamping said Iguana agreed it would step aside as master developer of the property if Amazon awarded the bid to Jacksonville. 

Iguana Investments was awarded the right to develop the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park by the Downtown Investment Authority in April. 

“Our response was, of course, if we could figure out a way to bring 50,000 jobs to Jacksonville, we’d do just about anything,” he said. 

Lamping said the exercise forced Iguana to consider development options with the understanding it could begin bringing smaller phases of the Shipyards master plan online.

Removing exit ramps

His comments about Lot J is the latest sign Khan is willing to develop property in the Sports Complex while the city lobbies the state and federal government to assist with removing the elevated Hart Bridge exit ramps over the property.

“We know that’s going to take time, and we hope there’s a resolution to that by next May,” Lamping said.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration in November submitted a bid for a $25 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help with the estimated $50 million cost to remove the structure and grade the roads down to Gator Bowl Boulevard.

John Augustine, director of the department’s Office of Infrastructure Finance and Innovation, did not have a date for when the grants might be awarded. 

“Right now, the best estimate I can give you is sometime around summer,” he said. “We’re still analyzing the submissions.” 

Jacksonville is one of three Florida municipalities applying for a grant. 

In addition to the federal funding, the city is asking the state Legislature to contribute $12.5 million to the project, with the city picking up the remaining $12.5 million. 

Lamping said while the development isn’t contingent on the ramps’ removal, “the scope of the development and the ambition of the development is different if we know that those elevated lanes are coming down.” 

“I know this, if you’re going to invest in a five-star hotel on the banks of the St. Johns River, and your entrance to that five-star hotel is coming into elevated lanes, it’s a little bit of a contradiction there,” Lamping said. 

Khan owns the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto and Four Seasons Private Residences Toronto and said he would like to see a Four Seasons hotel at the Shipyards development. 

Although he wouldn’t provide a specific date, Lamping said to expect activity on the property to begin around mid-2019. 

Committed to the city

Lamping said the Jaguars remain committed to Jacksonville and becoming a more financially stable NFL franchise. 

Although the team had a successful season on the field, he said the business side still faces financial challenges because Jacksonville is considered a small market by NFL standards.  

“From an NFL standpoint, Jacksonville would be a much better NFL market if we had about one million more people living here,” he said. 

However, he said a population increase of that size could harm Jacksonville’s quality of life. 

“So we have to find a way to compensate for the fact that we’re one of the smallest NFL markets,” he said. 

As an example of other small markets overcoming those challenges, Lamping referred to developments by The Cordish Cos. in St. Louis, Kansas City and Baltimore.

He and Khan showcased those Cordish properties to Curry and others in July.

Lamping said those were examples of cities developing projects with year-round appeal. 

“The only ones that work are the projects that encourage activity 365 days a year,” said Lamping. 

He said previously the team is considering the Baltimore-based development company to lead the Shipyards project.

Lamping said when Khan bought the franchise in 2012, developing the riverfront near the stadium immediately became a focus.

He said Khan and his team went from being “cheerleaders” to “reluctant master developers” when other groups failed to step up “because we believe the Jaguars are only going to go as far as Downtown Jacksonville” successfully develops.