DIA board approves The Ford on Bay bid timeline, criteria

Developers will have to pitch projects with an emphasis on retail, market-rate apartments and riverfront restaurants.

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After a one-month delay, the Downtown Investment Authority board approved a timeline and terms to remarket and rebid the former Duval County Courthouse site on Bay Street. 

The board voted 7-0 at its Oct. 20 meeting on a schedule that asks DIA-contracted real estate firm CBRE to market the 2.75-acre city-owned property at 330 E. Bay Street to developers through Nov. 18.  

DIA CEO Lori Boyer told board members that her staff has talked or met with nearly 20 developers interested in the site, called The Ford on Bay, including an entertainment venue operator from Nashville.

“We have a number of interested parties for The Ford on Bay site that are not purely residential developers,” Boyer said.

“Some of those will be very interesting to see if we receive those responses.”

She did not identify the entertainment venue. 

The DIA’s published timeline shows the board will vote Nov. 18 to issue a required 30-day notice of disposition, starting a clock for developers to submit bids by Dec. 20. 

After scoring, the DIA board plans to award the bid to a developer by Jan. 20.

DIA officials said the bid will allow multifamily, retail, office, open space and hospitality uses. 

Unless the proposal is a stand-alone entertainment venue, restaurant and open public space, buildings fronting Bay Street must have a mix of uses.

Developers will have to pitch projects with a least 30% of the Bay Street ground-floor frontage as retail to be considered. 

Board members said the retail would complement projects in the Bay Street corridor like the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Four Seasons hotel, RISE’s Doro apartments and plans for public parks at the Shipyards and the former Jacksonville Landing.

“The sentiment is that Bay Street is such a crucial corridor for the Downtown, that every bit of it counts,” said board member Oliver Barakat.

“We want to make sure it’s activated properly.”

Barakat, a senior vice president at CBRE, said the real estate firm is confident that the market can sustain the required amount of retail on the site.

The DIA also is giving more weight this time to design and construction materials, resiliency solutions including riverfront open space, and a minimum of 10,000 square feet of restaurant/bar space facing the water. 

At least 7,500 square feet of that must be on the ground floor, the criteria states.

The vacant riverfront property was part of what the DIA branded in 2019 as The Ford on Bay. It included the adjacent 2.39-acre former City Hall Annex site at 220 E. Bay St. and 3.1 acres of submerged land in the St. Johns River.

The board voted in August to end an 18-month negotiation with New York City-based developer Spandrel Development Partners LLC for a $136 million, mixed-use multifamily retail project at the site.

Boyer said at the time that Spandrel wanted to reduce its capital investment and the amount of retail space in its plan for the site and sought to change the residential component to workforce housing instead of market-rate apartments.

Development on the annex site is limited by a contractual right of first refusal by Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront parent company Westmont Hospitality Group Inc.