DIA board approves term sheet for $92 million River City Brewing redevelopment

The authority CEO still is negotiating with Miami-based Related Group for a right of first refusal for the neighboring MOSH property.

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The Downtown Investment Authority Board approved a term sheet Nov. 18 with Related Group for its proposed $92.34 million apartment development on the River City Brewing Co. site on the Downtown Southbank.

Another provision is being negotiated that would give the Miami-based developer some control over what happens to the neighboring city-owned Museum of Science and History property.

The DIA board voted 8-0 at its monthly meeting to approve a 20-year, 75% Recapture Enhanced Value Grant capped at $11.9 million for the mixed-used project with 335 apartments. 

MOSH intends to relocate to the Downtown Northbank and Related Group’s market analysis relied on an active museum next door, DIA CEO Boyer said Nov. 17. The MOSH announcement was made after the developer started pursuing the project.

Because of that, Boyer and the developer began negotiating a right of first refusal agreement for the MOSH site. 

DIA board members said Nov. 18 they were hesitant to give a private developer too much control over future uses for the museum site. 

“I’m not in favor of anything that’s going to bind up or restrict the city of its ability to dispose of its assets at will,” board member Bill Adams said.

 The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront’s contractual right to one of two public parcels at the Ford on Bay site on the Northbank is holding up a $138 million mixed-use developer negotiated in February by DIA. 

Boyer said she is working with Related Group to limit its say on the museum site to 10 years and limit the developer’s authority to have a say only if the DIA is considering private commercial development.

Related Group attorney Steve Diebenow of Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow said his client prefers a civic institution like a museum or aquarium to replace MOSH. 

Adams and other board members want Boyer to make a right of first refusal an option rather than a requirement in the final agreement. 

That part of the deal likely will return to the board at its December meeting for another vote.

The Related Group plans a mixed-used project with 335 apartments at the site of  River City Brewing Co.
The Related Group plans a mixed-used project with 335 apartments at the site of River City Brewing Co.

“Developing an urban environment is very fluid and the developer does not always have control over what occurs across the street or down the block,” board member Oliver Barakat said. 

“While I’m sympathetic to the developer’s curveball, not knowing what MOSH was going to do until way down the line, I do think no developer Downtown has total control over compatibility.” 

Project timeline

Boyer and the DIA board were concerned after Related Group announced plans to demolish the River City Brewing restaurant as soon as it completes negotiations with the property leaseholder, Maritime Concepts.

The developer will buy Maritime’s interest in the property and buy out the remaining 77 years in its long-term land lease with the city to build an eight-story apartment building and 500-space parking garage.

Diebenow said Nov. 18 Related Group is open to working with the River City operator to keep the restaurant open until city permitting is complete in June 2022 but those talks have not begun. 

The DIA board gave Boyer the authority to complete nearly all remaining negotiations of the agreement without further board approval, including trying to avoid a shuttered commercial building at the site. 

“We’re going to be discussing the continued operation of the restaurant as they offered and the fact that we are not going to leave a vacant building there for an extended period of time,” Boyer told Diebenow during the meeting. 

At the DIA’s request, Related Group added a 1,800-square-foot restaurant-bar with 3,200 square feet of outdoor dining space facing St. Johns River Park to its plans in October.

Related Group also agreed to shorten the development timeline by nearly six months.

The developer plans to close on the land July 31 and complete its final design Sept. 30. 

After permitting, River City Brewing’s demolition is expected to be completed Sept. 30, 2022, and it will complete construction no later than April 30, 2025.

Related Group also agreed to add completion bonds to its financing package to protect the city from having a partially built structure should the developer not finish construction. 

What’s next

The development agreement and land conveyance still need City Council approval. 

Other provisions in the agreement affect the public marina at the site. The city will pay $1.143 million for improvements to a dock and $1.65 million for the boat ramp and relocation of an underground fuel tank.

Related Group is required to spend at least $250,000 on improvements to the Southbank Riverwalk that borders the property. 

Maritime or Related Group must restore a second dock damaged in 2017 by Hurricane Irma as a condition of the sale. 

Related Group will maintain and operate the marina and provide at least 20 public slips for transient boats.

The agreement approved by DIA also would generate $129,350 annually to supplement the park and fountain’s maintenance budget from additional tax revenue generated from the redevelopment of the site and putting it on the public tax rolls.