DIA board poised to award The Ford on Bay site to Atlanta-based Carter

The developer’s $140 million, mixed-use high-rise proposal was the top-scoring bid to redevelop the former courthouse site on the Downtown’s riverfront.

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The $140 million mixed-use, multifamily development proposed by Atlanta-based developer Carter for The Ford on Bay along the Downtown riverfront is another step toward city approval.

The Downtown Investment Authority Retail Enhancement and Property Disposition Committee voted 5-0 on Jan. 18 to support the scoring recommendation for The Hardwick at Ford on Bay. It was one of six bids for the city-owned property at 330 E. Bay St., once the site of the Duval County Courthouse.

The decision means likely approval from the DIA board when it meets at 2 p.m. Jan. 19 in the Jacksonville Main Public Library Downtown multipurpose room, 303 N. Laura St.

DIA board member Carol Worsham said she liked the project’s architecture for its nods to Jacksonville history, its open courtyard and ground-floor retail on Bay Street and the riverfront. “The design is high quality. It’s thoughtful, it’s innovative, it hearkens to a real Jacksonville landmark,” she said. “It doesn’t look like anything else that’s been built in another city.”

Worsham was one of four city officials on the committee who scored the six projects proposed by regional and national developers.

The other members of the appointed DIA Review Committee comprised DIA CEO Lori Boyer; board member Jim Citrano; and City Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Stephanie Burch.

Carter said its design is an homage to mid-century modern architecture and inspired by Jacksonville architect Taylor Hardwick.

Projects by Hardwick include the Haydon Burns Library and Friendship Fountain. The library is now the Jessie Ball duPont Center.

$140 million mixed-use, multifamily development is planned at 330 E. Bay St, the former site of the Duval County Courthouse.
$140 million mixed-use, multifamily development is planned at 330 E. Bay St, the former site of the Duval County Courthouse.

The Carter plan includes:

• A 300-foot-tall residential tower and 75-foot-tall residential pedestal with 332 apartment units.

• A rooftop pool and amenity deck.

• Retail space totaling 25,000 square feet.

• Two restaurants, one on the riverfront.

• A 550-space parking garage with 125 retail spaces.

• $2.5 million in public open space.

Carter’s plan addresses severe weather resiliency and sea-level rise. The building would be protected by eco-buffers including a tree canopy and green roofs, garden courtyard and waterfront park.

DIA board member David Ward said Jan. 18 that the DIA’s failed attempt in 2019 and 2020 to solicit developers for the site should lead to more “aggressive” deadlines with Carter to secure financing. 

Carter said it plans to ask for 20-year, 75% Recapture Enhanced Value Grant, a property tax refund, and for the city to offer the riverfront site at no cost, according to the company’s Jan. 5 presentation to the scoring committee.

Board member Todd Froats said Carter’s proposed residential and retail density, quality of the design and $140 million proposed capital investment is worth the risk. 

He said, should Carter be unable to execute its proposal, there would be no issue rebidding the site in the future.

If the full board approves the committee’s recommendation, Boyer said it will take staff 30 to 45 days to negotiate the terms of the deal for the board to approve. 

An incentive and real estate deal with Carter also would need City Council approval.

The DIA branded the former courthouse site The Ford on Bay in 2019. 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.

It canceled a tentative deal with New York City-based Spandrel Development Partners LLC for a $136 million mixed-use multifamily retail project after negotiations fell through. 

The DIA this time only included the courthouse site in its request for project bids.