The Jacksonville Jaguars kicked off a town hall meeting tour June 15 in Arlington about the team’s $441 million development proposal for the Shipyards and a sports performance facility.
Team executives also fielded questions about a return to the Jaguars’ last attempt at Downtown development — the mixed-use entertainment center at Lot J west of TIAA Bank Field.
Michael Roberts, who bought the former Fairfield School No. 9 in 2015 on Victoria Street near the stadium, told Jaguars President Mark Lamping his property investment would benefit from team owner Shad Khan’s plans.
However, Roberts said he is skeptical that plans for a Four Seasons Hotel and Residences and other development at the Shipyards south of TIAA Bank Field would gain the City Council support to move forward.
“I know you want to build and I’m all for the development, but how are you going to get everybody’s hopes up on this thing and it’s going to fizzle away and not be developed?” Roberts said.
Roberts asked Lamping if the Shipyards is successful, would a proposal for development at Lot J return.
“I get shakes when anybody brings up Lot J,” Lamping said.
“I’ll give you a very honest answer — we need things like Lot J and we need more than that Downtown so that people will come visit us 52 weeks a year, not just on Jaguars’ game days,” he said.
“It has to be the right package. It has to be at the right time. It has to be through the right process.”
Lamping told the group of about 20 attendees, including Council members Matt Carlucci, Joyce Morgan and Ron Salem, at the Regency Square Branch Library that Khan’s $321 million proposal for a Four Seasons, six-floor office building, marina and support facilities at the Shipyards would reduce the risk for development at Lot J.
Council did not approve a proposed $245.3 million public incentives package in January for Lot J.
“Lot J is dead,” Lamping said after the Council vote.
On June 15, Lamping expanded on that.
“If Lot J comes back, I can tell you the deal will be better for the city than what was proposed before if we know what’s happening across the street is going to go forward and we know there’s a plan for the stadium of the future,” he said.
After the meeting, Lamping told reporters his comments about Lot J were a response to someone who wanted Lot J to return and not confirmation that the Jaguars and its development company, Iguana Investments Florida LLC, would resurrect the project.
“That’s not on our radar right now. We’re focused 100% on this (the Shipyards),” Lamping said.
“What happens in the future, who knows. Anything we’re doing right now has no tie to the next step with Lot J.”
At the June 15 town hall, Lamping repeated what he said at the Shipyards announcement June 3 that Iguana’s development team learned during the Lot J debate to “more aggressively” tell its story.
The Arlington town hall was the first of 14 “community huddles” Jaguars leadership will use to collect public feedback for the Shipyards project and a 125,000-square-foot football performance center.
The Shipyards phase one includes the 176-room Four Seasons with 25 residential units, a city-owned marina and a six-floor office building.
Phase two of the Shipyards comprises a 42,000-square-foot orthopedic sports medicine campus owned and operated by Baptist Health with the Jaguars adding 15,000 square feet of street-level retail, a more than 200-space parking structure and possibly residential.
Lamping said the plans show Khan’s commitment to keeping the NFL franchise in Jacksonville.
Lamping said the Jaguars and the city are considering a 30-year lease with two 10-year extension options for the city-owned $120 million performance center, which could open before the 2023 NFL season.
The 50-50 cost split between the Jaguars and the city would remove the team’s football operations from the stadium and relieve the city of all future capital maintenance costs for those facilities, Lamping said.
He told the town hall group the plans allow for future stadium renovations.
Garden Club of Jacksonville Executive Director Denise Reagan said she supports the sports performance center but is concerned that the Four Seasons would limit community access to the river and public park space and that stormwater resiliency would not be built into the project.
She said that the former Kids Kampus, a roughly 8-acre portion of Metropolitan Park, is part of the development site, although the Jaguars plan to donate $4 million over 20 years to maintain the remaining 14.32 acres of Metropolitan Park.
She also suggested the Four Seasons would cater to a specific customer base and be unaffordable for many Jacksonville residents.
Before you are ready to give up all that land, and we have so little access to the riverfront, think about what that means,” Reagan said.
“Public access does not mean a hotel. Think about who is the intended audience for these projects. I’m not against development. I’m all for it. I just don’t want us to give away the store and not think about what we are going to give up in exchange.”
Lamping said the business model for a five-star Four Seasons flag in Jacksonville would not be completely reliant on hotel guests, but patrons eating at its restaurant and using its spa.
Lamping said a riverwalk extension and public access corridors were central to the Shipyards designs.
He also referenced possible enhanced park space at the Shipyards west of the development.
Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer said June 8 her staff and the nonprofit Jessie Ball duPont fund could soon recommend that nearly 11 acres between the proposed Museum of Science and History relocation site and the Berkman Plaza II on Bay Street should become a park to replace Kids Kampus.
Another town hall participant asked how much money the Jaguars would ask the taxpayers to spend in incentives for the Shipyards project, calling it “corporate welfare” for billionaires.
Jaguars owner Khan has a net worth of $7.86 billion, according to Forbes.
Lamping called the question “a very interesting point of view” but said potential incentives are a policy question for Council members.
He emphasized the role the DIA would have in analyzing any financial incentives deal with the city. The DIA process was added to Lot J at the end of the debate at the request of Council members.
Lamping said he considers the Shipyards deal to be “much more balanced” than the Lot J incentives, although he said he still supports what the Jaguars negotiated for the entertainment complex, but it was a “tougher deal.”
“If you believe that a public role in a project is ultimately going to benefit the community, then there’s a reason to support it,” Lamping said after the meeting.
“If you don’t think it’s going to benefit the community from an economic standpoint then maybe the conclusion will be elsewhere.”
Lamping added that not all public-private partnerships are equal and that going through the DIA analysis and negotiations will show the project’s viability with or without public assistance.
According to a draft term sheet provided June 3 by the DIA, Khan and Iguana are negotiating a $93.58 million tax refund, grant and infrastructure incentives package for the first phase of the Shipyards.
The Jaguars have not estimated phase two costs, which Lamping said will be negotiated with DIA in the future.
He told the group and news reporters June 15 that any financial request is not final.
“We can’t sit here and tell you what the ask is for phase one as it relates to the Shipyards because it’s not through DIA yet,” Lamping said.
“That’s when you’ll discover it.”
Lamping also told the town hall that the Shipyards development would create at least 7,500 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs.
“We believe that what we’re advocating will be catalytic for Downtown Jacksonville. It will help us begin to realize the full potential Downtown and create a bunch of jobs,” Lamping said.
“We can grow the economy and that benefits everybody, whether you live Downtown (or) work Downtown or visit Downtown.”