Jags working to lift other Downtown projects

Shad Khan working with city to back his project and Berkman Plaza II to help secure NFL Draft, Super Bowl.

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  • | 10:55 a.m. September 13, 2018
Chad Johnson, the Jaguars senior vice president of sales and service, said the team is working to improve Downtown so it can compete for events like the NFL Dra
Chad Johnson, the Jaguars senior vice president of sales and service, said the team is working to improve Downtown so it can compete for events like the NFL Dra
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Shad Khan not only wants to build the Shipyards project in Downtown Jacksonville, but the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars also is hoping to host the NFL Draft and eventually another Super Bowl.

To do that, the Jaguars are working closely with the city to make sure Khan’s plans are successful, and others as well, said the team’s senior vice president of sales and service.

“There’s been talk about the Berkman (Plaza) II and what’s going on with the building down there, so we’re in conversations with the city and everyone else on how to make that whole area successful,” said Chad Johnson, also the team’s chief content officer.

Johnson made the remarks and shared details about Khan’s vision for the team and Downtown Jacksonville during a monthly breakfast for the August Sales and Marketing Council of the Northeast Florida Builders Association members at the University of North Florida.

He said the NFL turned down the Jaguars’ pitches to host the draft because there aren’t enough hotels and entertainment venues close enough to TIAA Bank Field.

Khan’s recently released plans would remedy that, along with the proposal to renovate the Berkman Plaza II into a hotel with a water and amusement park.

“What do we have to do to support certain initiatives that aren’t ours, but make the whole area successful, and then how do we tie in the convention center?” Johnson said.

Khan’s Iguana Investments Florida LLC released the conceptual plans for the first phase of a $2.5 billion Northbank riverfront development, called the Shipyards, to the Downtown Investment Authority. They include a 490,000-square-foot convention center and 350-room hotel.

Just west of that property sits the unfinished Berkman Plaza II, which originally was planned to be a 22-story condominium tower.

The property recently sold for $4.75 million to 500 East Bay LLC, with plans to convert the 2-acre site into a 312-room hotel with bars, parking, restaurants and amusement parks at a cost of $150 million.

The Jaguars also plan a hotel within the proposed mixed-use entertainment, office and residential development at Lot J next to TIAA Bank Field.

Johnson also mentioned that he’s been working with the NFL to get the draft hosted in Jacksonville and that the city was a finalist for it in 2018 and 2019.

“We talked about how we will rename our city Draftsonville,” he said. “They loved our pitch,” but the city wasn’t accepted because the NFL’s response was “’there’s not enough to do Downtown.’”

Johnson said he and Mayor Lenny Curry attended the draft in Dallas to talk with NFL officials about pitching it for Jacksonville to host it in 2020 or beyond, once some of the proposed Downtown projects have been started or completed.

“We know what the challenges were with the last Super Bowl, hotel rooms being the No. 1 and the cruise ships and everything else we had to do,” he said. The city docked cruise ships Downtown to provide the hotel rooms needed for Super Bowl visitors in 2005.

“We’ve already started warming the NFL up to what our plans are – new hotels at Berkman II, new hotels on Lot J, new hotel at the Shipyard,” he said.

“If all those things start happening, and the infrastructure is where it needs to be, we could be in those conversations. We will not be in them right now,” he said.

Johnson said the city “won’t be in the running for the Super Bowl until we get that stuff done.”

Johnson said that while parking structures are being considered in the proposed developments, the franchise is looking at additional land to buy for surface parking.

“You can’t tailgate in a multilevel garage structure, so we’re looking at other land that we can acquire that gives us surface parking,” he said.