A development team led by Jacobs Engineering Group resubmitted a $550 million unsolicited proposal to the city for a convention center at The Ford on Bay site as the Downtown Investment Authority prepares to vote on rejecting the proposal July 15.
The Jacobs team includes Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront parent company Westmont Hospitality Group Inc., according to a July 14 news release from the developer.
City attorneys and DIA staff have been negotiating with Westmont since February to allow the city to sell the former Duval County Courthouse and City Hall site to New York-based Spandrel Development Partners LLC for a $136 million mixed-use residential and retail project.
Westmont has the first right of refusal to purchase The Ford on Bay’s 220 E. Bay St. parcel, north of the hotel, if the city moves to sell the property.
Signature Land Inc., KBJ-L&B Architects LLC, Denver-based Fentress Architects and Ocoee-based convention center planner Conventional Wisdom Corp are the other partners listed on the Jacobs proposal.
This is Jacobs Engineering’s third attempt to build a convention center at the Downtown riverfront site.
Its bid scored the highest among three convention center proposals in September 2018, the DIA’s last attempt to redevelop the East Bay Street site.
The DIA halted those plans after resistance from Mayor Lenny Curry, who said a Strategic Advisory Group study in 2017 indicated Jacksonville wasn’t ready to build a convention center.
A recommendation to reject Jacobs Engineering’s unsolicited convention center proposal submitted to the city’s Procurement Division in January is on the DIA board’s July 15 agenda.
Jacobs submitted after the DIA and real estate firm CBRE released a request for proposals in January for the multifamily residential and retail project on the city-owned property that was awarded to Spandrel.
According to DIA CEO Lori Boyer and a resolution in the July 15 board packet, DIA staff received Jacobs Engineering’s previously sealed unsolicited proposal from procurement officials after Spandrel was granted the project.
While Jacobs submitted the proposal before a Jan. 21 notice of disposition, Boyer said it was not in compliance with procurement procedures.
KBJ President Thomas Rensing and the Jacobs team dispute the city’s determination that the unsolicited proposal was submitted improperly.
He said the convention center proposal was not a reply to The Ford on Bay solicitation, but an alternative to the multifamily project.
“I must point out that we did not submit the proposal under the RFP request for a residential project, but as a separate and officially designated ‘Unsolicited Proposal,’” Signature Land President Steve Leggett said in the news release.
Rensing said in a phone interview that Jacobs sent information on the unsolicited proposal July 14 to the City Council and all DIA board members.
“We think that the board of the DIA should look at a proposal before rejecting it,” Rensing said.
Spandrel and Hyatt
The DIA unanimously approved Spandrel’s two-phase project Feb. 21 for 520 apartments and up to 74,000 square feet of retail space at the former Duval County Courthouse and City Hall sites at 220 and 330 E. Bay St.
The DIA is negotiating a term sheet with Spandrel for the Phase I of The Ford on Bay development that has to work around the Hyatt’s first right of refusal.
Boyer said in a July 13 phone interview that the city has not secured an agreement with Hyatt for the property.
Phase I of the development at 330 E. Bay St. can proceed without the hotel’s approval.
Rensing said Westmont has no intent of giving up its contractual rights to the parcel for Spandrel’s proposal.
He said the Jacobs team met Westmont representatives as recently as last week.
Rensing provided the Daily Record with a March 20 email chain between Westmont Asset Management Director Greg Bingaman and Jacobs Project Management Co. Vice President David Syphard stating the hospitality company’s support for the project.
“When you speak to Lori (Boyer), you can certainly say that you have spoken with us and we are still in favor of the convention center development,” Bingaman wrote. Spandrel Acquisition and Development Associate Benjamin Scharf said Feb. 11 that Phase I would comprise 279 residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a 10,000-square-foot riverfront restaurant.
Boyer said after the Feb. 21 vote that city attorneys drafted a contingent award for the 220 E. Bay St. parcel. It will be part of the project’s overall term sheet and development agreement.
Convention center specs
Jacobs Engineering’s proposal includes a 843,000-square-foot convention center and 190,000-square-foot covered civic plaza with a marina. The developer estimates the facility will create 1,400 permanent jobs, according to materials provided by Rensing.
Jacobs estimates 4,500 construction jobs in its proposals with project completion in 2023.
The city would retain ownership of the convention center.
The DIA is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. via Zoom videoconference.