Apartment development may replace River City Brewing Co. on Southbank

An unidentified developer is under contract to buy out the owner’s land lease with city and build up to 335 units.

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A Florida-based developer wants to acquire and demolish the River City Brewing Co. restaurant on the Downtown Southbank for a 325-335-unit class A apartment building, according to the Downtown Investment Authority.

The unnamed developer recently entered into a contract with River City Brewing owner Maritime Concepts Inc. to buy out the remaining 77 years of the restaurant’s 99-year land lease with the city, DIA CEO Lori Boyer said Oct. 2. 

The DIA Strategic Implementation Committee is scheduled to discuss and could take action on a negotiated notice of disposition for the property at its Oct. 9 meeting. 

Boyer would not disclose the development company interested in the property, which fronts the St. Johns River, because negotiations between the developer, Maritime Concepts and the DIA aren’t concluded.

But she said the developer hopes to close on the lease buyout and transaction by the end of the year.

The developer’s proposed construction budget for the riverfront apartments is $70 million and a $10 million estimated acquisition cost to buy out the lease. 

Inside River City Brewing Co.
Inside River City Brewing Co.

“The transaction is entirely dependent on the prospective buyer acquiring the interest from Maritime,” Boyer said.

The restaurant has been operating for decades. River City Brewing entered the ground lease with the city in 1998, but the property has been home to several restaurant and entertainment venues.

The land housed the Lobster House restaurant for nearly 50 years before it was damaged by fire in 1962. It was the backdrop for some scenes in the 1954 film “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

In the 1970s, Diamondhead restaurant and then Someplace Else disco club operated there. That structure was demolished and replaced by Harbormaster’s, the restaurant that was renamed River City Brewing.

The 3.43-acre site has a $4.93 million assessed value, according to Duval County Property Appraiser records.

The city would convey the property to the developer at no cost. 

The entrance to River City Brewing Co.
The entrance to River City Brewing Co.

Boyer said the developer has requested a Recapture Enhanced Value Grant from the city.

The amount of the proposed grant award is not finalized, but Boyer said it likely will be a 20-year, 75% property tax reimbursement. 

In return, the city would gain land to expand Friendship Park and would retain ownership of the marina, submerged land and boat ramp.

Boyer said the city would pay about $2.7 million to repair the dock’s infrastructure and relocate the underground fuel tank to make it more accessible and improve the marina’s resiliency. 

The developer would operate and manage the marina, according to the DIA.

“There’s a cost we incur on that side and a cost to the dock reconstruction,” Boyer said. “We want to see that fuel dock remains in existence. It’s the only one in Downtown and it’s important to us that it remains in operations.”

The developer is considering a boat supply shop incorporated into the final design. Apartment amenities would include a pool.

Any deal requires the 30-day notice of disposition before the DIA board can vote on a redevelopment agreement. That deal would have to be approved by City Council before the developer can break ground. 

Associate Editor Max Marbut contributed to this report