Agency Landscape to start contract talks with city on Shipyards West park design

The firm’s bid to lay out the 10-acre-plus park was chosen Feb. 10 from four proposals.

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The city is moving forward on contract negotiations with Agency Landscape + Planning LLC to design a 10-acre park on the western end of the Downtown Shipyards property.

The city Professional Services Evaluation Committee voted 3-0 on Feb. 10 to select Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Agency’s bid to design the riverfront park from among four firms vying for the project. 

The Downtown Investment Authority is leading the effort to convince state officials to allow the city to swap the former Kids Kampus with the proposed park at Shipyards West.

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 site. 

The DIA and city Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department are in charge of the project to build what they hope will be a destination riverfront park connecting the Downtown core and the Sports and Entertainment District.

The city’s request for proposals seeking a park design firm closed Jan. 19. 

“They were great proposals. Going through (the) Riverfront Plaza (design competition), I think we had some lessons learned as far as doing RFPs of this nature. Agency really put together a strong package, along with the other groups as well,” city Parks Department Director Daryl Joseph told the committee Feb. 10. 

The duPont Fund drafted a nearly $500,000 riverfront connectivity study that includes an “esplanade” plan for Shipyards West.
The duPont Fund drafted a nearly $500,000 riverfront connectivity study that includes an “esplanade” plan for Shipyards West.

An agenda for the PSEC meeting shows Agency beat national firms Denver-based Civitas Inc. and Design Workshop of Raleigh, North Carolina.

The fourth firm was not listed. The city did not immediately release bid documents Feb. 10 submitted by the firms.

Joseph and DIA CEO Lori Boyer scored the bids and recommended the committee select Agency. 

Two design scopes

According to Boyer, Agency will work on two design scopes for Shipyards West — one for the city on about 10 acres between Catherine Street and Hogans Creek and a second for the DIA that includes piers and anything designed over the water.

In July, Agency came in second to Perkins & Will Inc. in an RFP to design the proposed park at Riverfront Plaza, the former Jacksonville Landing site. 

The firm lists 60 design projects on its website for public space designs and master plans.

Agency Principal Landscape Architect Gina Ford was lead designer for the Sasaki team that from 2009 and 2017 designed segments of a revamped Chicago Riverwalk. 

The firm also created a master plan for the 56-acre Sarasota Bayfront redevelopment and designs for the Sarasota Bay Park Phase One.

Boyer said after the meeting she expects a 30-day negotiation with Agency that will determine deadlines and the final price for the design.

The final contract will have to return to the three-member PSEC before Agency starts creating designs. 

Boyer said she expects the city will pay Agency nearly $1 million for the work.

The Shipyard West area is shown in the  duPont Fund connectivity study.
The Shipyard West area is shown in the duPont Fund connectivity study.

The city has approximately $10 million earmarked for the Shipyards West design and construction, but Boyer said increasing costs of building materials and labor likely will cause that estimate to rise. 

She said that budget also does not include money for the DIA-funded portion of the park project. 

Agency will work with the Jessie Ball duPont Fund on the park design, Boyer said. 

The duPont Fund drafted a nearly $500,000 riverfront connectivity study that includes an “esplanade” plan for Shipyards West. The DIA board voted in December to include it in its five-year plan Downtown master plan. 

In 2021, the DIA donated $60,000 to that study. 

According to Boyer, Agency’s team includes WXY Architecture and DVDL Design Solutions which worked with the duPont Fund on the study. 

The design firm also has Jacksonville-based architecture, engineering and construction company Haskell on its team, Boyer said.

DuPont’s plan shows small parcels throughout the park for riverfront dining and retail and includes stormwater resilience mitigation. 

The Shipyards also could have a museum district. 

At Pier No. 1 on the far west end of the space, the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association plans to dock and operate the USS Orleck warship museum. The city is reviewing two permits totaling a job cost of $1.6 million to move the Jacksonville Fire Museum and to build the foundation as part of the park at 620 E. Bay St. 

Hygema House Movers Inc. is listed as the contractor to move the two-story, 4,800-square-foot museum from 1406 Gator Bowl Blvd. to the new 1.1-acre site at a cost of $1.23 million.

Jacksonville-based Hygema also is shown as the contractor for the foundation along East Bay Street at a cost of $370,000.

East of Hogans Creek is the site for the Museum of Science and History’s proposed new $85 million facility that DIA officials are negotiating for more outdoor public park and program space.

Another speed bump

Before any work can start on Khan’s Four Seasons or the new park, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection must sign off on the plans.

Boyer said Feb. 1 that the DIA and state officials were near a deal that would move restrictions from a 36-year-old Florida DEP grant on the former Kids Kampus to the Shipyards West green space.

In a Jan. 17 interview, Boyer said the state has agreed to the bulk of the city’s parks proposal to release the grant encumbrance on Kids Kampus and move it to the new park location.

The $1.5 million grant is meant to preserve the property and nearby submerged land for public access to the St. Johns River. 

The compounding interest would make the city’s payback to the state about $21 million if officials do not reach a deal.

Boyer said attorneys with the city Office of General Counsel and the state hope to complete the deal language in February. 

Editor Karen Brune Mathis contributed to this report.