DIA, state close to deal on Shipyards park swap

The agreement will move grant restrictions and allow Jaguars owner Shad Khan to build a Four Season Hotel.

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The Jacksonville Downtown Investment Authority says it is nearing a deal with Florida state officials to swap the riverfront former Kids Kampus for a proposed 10-acre park west of the city’s Shipyards property. 

The deal is necessary for Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan to break ground on his proposed $321 million Four Seasons hotel-anchored development that the city agreed could be developed on the 8-acre Kids Kampus. 

DIA CEO Lori Boyer said Feb. 1 that the city Office of General Counsel is reviewing final legal documents that would move restrictions in a 36-year-old Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant from the former park to the greenspace currently called Shipyards West.

She informed authority board members Jan. 19 that city and state lawyers were working on the language.

 “We’re very close to having final documentation approved and signed by DEP,” Boyer said.

But in a Jan. 17 interview, the DIA CEO said the state has agreed to the bulk of the city’s parks proposal to release the grant encumbrance on the former Kids Kampus and place it on Shipyards West.

The grant is meant to preserve the property and nearby submerged land for public access to the St. Johns River. 

The $1.5 million grant could be repaid by Khan or the city, but interest is compounding. 

In June, Boyer said the payback amount was about $21 million.

She said Jan. 17 that figure now could be nearly $25 million.

Email from Dec. 22 to Jan. 14 between department Land and Recreation Grants Project Manager Rebecca Wood and city officials say the state reviewed a survey of the replacement park site west of Hogans Creek, existing park dedications and preliminary park and Riverwalk plan scopes. 

Wood told the city in a Jan. 14 email “they all look good.”

State officials said the original grant does not need to be amended, but Wood said the department wants a conversion or development agreement.

“We would ask that be recorded as an attachment to the notice of dedication. Please forward the proposed language to review: it should include the proposed scope, timeline, budget and that FRDAP (Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program) acknowledgment signs will be installed at the new site,” the email states.

In addition to Khan’s hotel project, the proposed park is part of the DIA’s Downtown master planning to revamp and create riverfront green public spaces as well as support the core’s inland neighborhood parks.

According to Boyer, a request for proposals to choose a design firm for the Shipyards West park closed Jan. 19. The city is evaluating the bids.

The city is preparing to relocate the Jacksonville Fire Museum and fire station.
The city is preparing to relocate the Jacksonville Fire Museum and fire station.

The DIA board voted in December to incorporate a Downtown riverfront connectivity study by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund into its five-year planning effort. 

DuPont’s “esplanade” plan for Shipyards West will be the basis for the chosen park designer, according to the DIA.

Boyer said Jan. 17 that city Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Daryl Joesph is working on a request for proposals to solicit bids for a redesign of Metropolitan Park. 

Khan development company Iguana Investments Florida LLC pledged $200,000 annually for Metro Park maintenance as part of its Four Seasons agreement with the city approved in October. 

Boyer said the city also is preparing to relocate the Jacksonville Fire Museum and fire station, likely in February, from the site to Shipyards West so work can start on the Four Seasons.