The Downtown Investment Authority voted 8-0 on July 7 to approve terms for a $114 million incentive agreement with Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan for his plan to build a Four Seasons hotel and office building at the former Kids Kampus along the Downtown riverfront.
DIA CEO Lori Boyer said she expects to file legislation in August with City Council that, if approved, would finalize the deal with Khan’s development company, Iguana Investments Florida LLC, for the estimated $321 million development south of TIAA Bank Field.
Board member Todd Froats said the five-star Four Seasons will “fill a void” in Jacksonville for a high-end hotel product aimed at business and event travelers who he says often stay in neighboring Amelia Island or Ponte Vedra.
“I do think having this type of amenity here attracts certain investors, job creators and companies to Jacksonville,” Froats said.
“I think we will see that in the future. Can we tie that directly to this project? Maybe not. But I do believe that a lot of this future development will be tied to this project.”
Board member Oliver Barakat was absent for the vote.
After the proposed agreement was approved, Jaguars President Mark Lamping told reporters that if Council signs off on the development agreement, “there’s no doubt we’ll have a Four Seasons in Jacksonville.”
“We’re certainly not taking anything for granted, that’s for sure,” Lamping said.
The deal’s term sheet commits Khan to a minimum $301,057,548 private investment in the 176-room Four Seasons hotel with 25 for-sale luxury condominiums, full-service spa and restaurant and a 157,027-square-foot, six-story Class-A office building.
The DIA’s vote approved a public funds incentive package that includes a 20-year, 75% Recapture Enhanced Value Grant up to $47,683,955 for the hotel; a $25,834,887 project completion grant; and the transfer of a 4.77-acre portion of the Kids Kampus park parcel appraised by the DIA at $12,466,772.
The remaining $28 million includes $7.526 million to relocate the Kids Kampus park; $4.89 million for a city-owned marina services building that Iguana will build and manage; $7.18 million to rebuild docks; and other easements and marina facility relocation expenses.
The DIA vote includes a 30-day notice of deposition for the Kids Kampus land — the proposed site for the hotel.
Boyer said after the meeting she will file a bill with Council in August if the notice does not bring an offer for the city-owned property from another credible developer.
If there are no delays, Council could take a final vote on the project in September.
According to the term sheet, Iguana is required to break ground by June.
For Khan to develop the former Kids Kampus site, the DIA has to resolve a restriction on the land from a 36-year-old, $1.5 million Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant meant to preserve the property and nearby submerged land for access to the St. Johns River.
The DIA and Council donated $60,000 to the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to create a Downtown Riverfront master plan that includes using 10.3 acres on the adjacent Shipyards west of Hogans Creek as a replacement for the 8-acre Kids Kampus.
Boyer said July 7 she’s committed the DIA to negotiate with state officials and resolve the grant restrictions by October.
Boyer said she will wait to present the final park proposal to the state until after the duPont fund and City Parks, Recreation and Community Service Department provide more developed design drawings.
The grant could be repaid, but Boyer said in June the payback amount has compounded over time and could be as much as $21 million.
Lamping said July 7 he didn’t want to speculate on the possibility of the Jaguars repaying the grant should the DIA’s negotiations with state officials fail.
During the meeting at the Main Public Library Downtown, several members of the nonprofit advocacy coalition Riverfront Parks Now asked the DIA to add connective parkland between the 10 acres at the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park.
The Jaguars and DIA did not address the group’s request that the hotel’s setback be 175 feet from the river. That is more than the 50 feet the city will require for the Downtown Northbank Riverwalk extension that’s part of the development term sheet.
The Jaguars agreed as part of the deal to donate $4 million over 20 years to maintain Metropolitan Park.
Support from JAX Chamber
The JAX Chamber board of directors voted in June to support the project.
During public comment, Chamber President Daniel Davis said the organization likes the estimated 5,700 construction jobs and 1,460 permanent full-time jobs the Jaguars say the Shipyards development could create.
He said the Chamber wants to see the public-private park maintenance partnership work.
“(The Jaguars) are going to maintain it at a very high level,” Davis said. “I think they’re going to activate it. They’re going to create a better park system for us in the city of Jacksonville.”
Former Jaguars offensive lineman and broadcaster Tony Boselli also spoke in favor of the project.
"It was always amazing to me that we have this great asset, this great natural resource, with the opportunity to go through a beautiful Downtown and we've just never done anything with it," Boselli said. "What excites me about this project is the first step to bring development and really building the Downtown as we deserve and that we want."
Board member Braxton Gillam said public-private partnerships like the one proposed are symbiotic.
“Private businesses need the public parks, they need the public involvement, they need the public to come and enjoy their private offerings,” Gillam said. “We do that with parks. We do that with connectivity.”