After seven years of planning and delays, dirt is moving at The District site on the Downtown Southbank.
Developer Preston Hollow Capital LLC plans a May 25 groundbreaking that could include a project name change.
“In mid-to-late May, a lot of activity is going to start being evident on the site and we’ll be coming out May 25 with an update on all fronts as it relates to the property (and) the timing,” said Ramiro Albarran, Preston Hollow managing director of origination and structuring.
“There may be a name change but I’m not ready to release that yet.”
In an April 23 interview, Albarran said the Dallas-based real estate capital firm will not be a vertical developer on the project and will market the individual property parcels at the 32-acre site to other developers.
Since Preston Hollow assumed control of The District’s development company Elements Development of Jacksonville LLC in October, private interest to build at the site increased, according to Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer.
She said April 23 those talks prompted Preston Hollow to request the Downtown Development Review Board to approve changes to The District’s site plan.
The Downtown project would bring retail and restaurants, office space, hotel, residential units, a public marina and new riverfront park space to 32.21 acres east of the Duval County Public Schools headquarters on the Southbank.
J.B. Coxwell Contracting Inc. crews started infrastructure work at The District on April 5, building a $965,105 surface parking lot for the adjacent Duval County School Board building.
The lot is part of a land swap between Duval County Public Schools and the project’s Community Development District.
The CDD is a state-regulated extension of city government that allows developers and communities to secure financing for constructing, acquiring, operating and maintaining public infrastructure improvements.
In exchange, the CDD will receive a parcel south of the school board building.
J.B. Coxwell expects to need 131 days to complete the parking lot, according to DPFG Management & Consulting LLC, which represents the CDD.
Preston Hollow says more site work will begin soon. The CDD is negotiating with a general contractor to rebuild the St. Johns River bulkhead.
Albarran said that the contract should be final by the May groundbreaking ceremony.
The CDD closed on $35.56 million in bonds in December for its portion of the estimated $58.349 million in site infrastructure improvements it will split with the city, most of which must be finished before buildings can start to rise.
The CDD will pay for roadway, water, stormwater, sanitary sewer and electrical connections that will be owned by JEA, according to the engineering report.
The CDD also is responsible for the construction of a pedestrian promenade; a public marina; an acquisition of 5.35 acres for road right of way; and the 1.73-acre parking lot for the school board headquarters that will be owned by the schools.
City Council approved $82 million in city financial incentives for Element that include an up to a $56 million Recapture Enhanced Value Grant.
Council amended the agreement to allow Preston Hollow to hire up to three general contractors to build out the infrastructure to avoid construction delays.
The DIA will pay up to $23 million for city-owned infrastructure.
The public contribution covers the construction of new riverfront city parks and a bulkhead; a boardwalk and trails; a water taxi stop; and extensions to Prudential Drive, Broadcast Place, Riverside Drive and the Southbank Riverwalk to support and connect The District to Downtown.
New site plan
The Downtown Development Review Board will be asked to consider changes to the site plan at its May 13 meeting that could increase building height limits on two of the individual project parcels to 50 feet.
Documents filed by CDD engineering firm Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. say the changes will allow three-floor town houses with potential rooftop decks to be built near the southeast corner of the development.
Kimley-Horn’s report also shows mixed-use, hotel, office, retail and residential parcels on the west half of The District property.
The engineering firm reports the change would “promote a mix of uses within the development and provides greater flexibility in accommodating the end-users.”
The District’s tallest building could be up to 350 feet, according to Kimley-Horn’s presentation.
Albarran said he could not say if the estimated $600 million in total investment promoted for years by The District’s former co-leads Peter Rummell and Michael Munz is still the target.
Preston Hollow assumed control of the project Oct. 16 when it became title manager of landowner Elements, previously owned by RummellMunz Equity LLC.
Preston Hollow helped Elements buy the 32-acre site in July 2018 from JEA, which had cleared a former generating station from the property.