DIA negotiating with developer to manage Ford on Bay marina

An Atlanta-based real estate developer hopes to lease city-owned submerged land to build a transient boat dock near Berkman Plaza II.

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An Atlanta-based real estate developer is in talks with the Downtown Investment Authority to manage a marina for the Ford on Bay, as he pursues more dock space Downtown on the St. Johns River.

DIA CEO Lori Boyer said March 12 her conversation with developer Greg Esterman includes managing the submerged 3.1 acres that were part of the DIA and real estate firm CBRE Jacksonville’s marketing material for the former City Hall and Courthouse sites on East Bay Street.

The winning $136 million bid from New York-based Spandrel Development Partners LLC did not include the marina. Spandrel proposes a two-phase project with 520 apartments and up to 74,000 square feet of retail space at 220 and 330 E. Bay St.

That deal still needs approval from City Council, and city attorneys have to resolve a right of first refusal option held by the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront for the 220 E. Bay St. property

Miami developer The Related Group offered the city $500,000 for the marina piece in its bid for the Ford on Bay, but did not offer a plan to build the facility.

According to the Florida Division of Corporations, Esterman is manager of Valkyrie LLC in Boynton Beach. 

Management of the Ford on Bay marina would be in addition to a transient dock Esterman wants to build on 0.5-acre of city-owned submerged land southeast of Berkman Plaza II.

The property is part of a larger 23.58-acre parcel at 750 E. Bay St. that includes a vacant lot. The lease deal would be for a portion of the submerged land.

A term sheet drafted by DIA staff shows Esterman and the city will consider a 50-year lease for the property with a 25-year renewal option. The dock would be open to the public for periods up to 30 days.

The developer would be responsible for the design, permitting and construction costs associated with the dock built parallel to the concrete pier at the end of Catherine Street.

A lease rate has not been determined, but Boyer said it will be fair market value. The term sheet said the cost of the lease will be “equal to the rate the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection would assess for private commercial enterprise.” 

Boyer said the submerged land has not been assessed.

The DIA board will consider a resolution March 18 to issue a notice of leasehold disposition for the property. After 30 days, the DIA may move forward with finalizing the term sheet and lease agreement with the developer.

The deal likely will have to go before City Council for approval.

"The proposal is the first of many steps of course, with much due diligence and work ahead," Esterman said via email. "As with most projects involving waterways, it will be a multi-year effort to bring it to fruition."

If the lease is approved by the DIA board, Boyer said there could be an opportunity to create access to the dock from East Bay Street and possibly provide street parking and infrastructure to the USS Orleck DD-886 Naval Museum, which could soon be docked at Pier No. 1 in the Shipyards near TIAA Bank Field.

Boyer said the lease could be an opportunity to do a three-party deal between the city, Esterman and Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association Inc., the nonprofit working to bring the USS Orleck to Jacksonville. 

The DIA board unanimously approved a resolution Jan. 15 to enter a one-year development agreement with JHNSA. It still has to be approved by Council. 

JHNSA President Daniel Bean said March 11 the USS Orleck will be put in dry dock by March 16 for a mandatory inspection before it’s deemed fit to move to the St. Johns River in Jacksonville.




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