DIA board approves terms for 1-acre private development at Riverfront Plaza

The city agency is looking for a mixed-use mid-rise or high-rise project with a restaurant and retail to complement the waterfront site’s future park.

An artist's rendering shows a potential tower near the Main Street Bridge.
An artist's rendering shows a potential tower near the Main Street Bridge.
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The Downtown Investment Authority board voted 8-0 on Feb. 23 to approve terms in its search for a private developer to build a mid-rise or high-rise tower to complement a proposed park at the former Jacksonville Landing site. 

The DIA plans to solicit bids in March for a mixed-use, minimum seven-story building to go next to the nearly 7-acre park being designed by Perkins & Will Inc. at what the city renamed Riverfront Plaza. The building will sit on a 1-acre site.

The DIA’s term sheet says it would prefer a high-rise tower of at least 15 stories parallel to the Main Street Bridge and perpendicular to the St. Johns River.

The DIA will require 30% of the length of the building facing Independent Drive to have ground-floor retail. 

The building also will be required to have a “destination restaurant” and bar space. 

The term sheet calls retail a crucial component for the site that will feature a sculpture designed by Orlando-based international artist Jefrë Manuel.  

The DIA terms push hotel and office uses but do not eliminate the possibility of multifamily residential and for-sale condominiums. 

The DIA says any hotel pitched for Riverfront Plaza should be at least a four-star flag as determined by Forbes magazine or travel group AAA. 

Office space should be Class A and “ideal for a corporate headquarters,” according to the draft terms.

The vote Feb. 23 included approval of a timeline to receive, select and award a bid for the site after a 30-day notice of disposition period required by city code. 

The DIA will issue the notice March 21, giving interested developers until April 20 to submit a bid.

Here is the remaining timeline in the bid process:

• April 25: Oral presentation from developers.

• May 2: Bid evaluation committee makes a recommendation to the DIA board.

• May 18: DIA board selects winning proposal. 

DIA CEO Lori Boyer told the board on Feb. 23 that Perkins & Will suggests that the private developer complete its building design by September so it can be integrated with the park.

The scoring sheet approved by DIA will dock points from project proposals that fail to connect to the park design. 

The board also wants to know if the developers plan to own and/or operate the building or sell it after a market stabilization period.

During the Feb. 23 meeting, the board added a provision that requires developers to disclose proposed restaurant concepts and hotel operators as part of the bid.

The city finalized a $1.7 million contract in December with Perkins & Will to complete the Riverfront Plaza park design. 

In its contract, the design firm aims to have pricing for the park ready by May 27 so the city can budget for construction costs in fiscal year 2022-23.

The DIA and city started moving toward creating a park flanked by private development at the 2 Independent Drive W. site in late 2020.

The two-story 178,838-square-foot Jacksonville Landing shopping mall and plaza was built in 1987 and demolished in 2020.