City Council roundup: Westside fairgrounds, Cecil megasite development work advances

Lawmakers approve a 40-year lease agreement to move the Jacksonville fair from Downtown to city-owned property near the Equestrian Center.

An artist's rendering of the future Jacksonville Fairgrounds in West Jacksonville.
An artist's rendering of the future Jacksonville Fairgrounds in West Jacksonville.
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The Jacksonville City Council signed off on legislation April 25 that approves a lease agreement for a new Westside fairgrounds; prepares the Cecil Commerce Center megasite for a manufacturing development; and gives the Jacksonville Historical Society more time to complete a music history museum and event space.

A new fairgrounds

Council voted 18-0 to enter a 40-year lease agreement with the Duval County Fair Association for 82.37 acres on Jacksonville’s Westside to relocate the fairgrounds from its longtime location Downtown.

Ordinance 2023-0209 leases the city-owned property next to the Jacksonville Equestrian Center along Normandy Boulevard for $100 per year with an option to lease an additional 60 acres in the future. 

The Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair intends to invest about $15 million in an 80,000-square-foot facility to host the fair. According to the city bill summary, the facility will include a 40,000-square-foot exhibition hall, office space for the association, maintenance facilities, meeting rooms, conference space, concession areas, dressing rooms and support areas.

The potential site plan for a future Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair site in West Jacksonville adjacent to the Jacksonville Equestrian Center on Normandy Boulevard.

The city has committed to clearing and grading the parcel and provide infrastructure, parking and roadway improvements to the site. 

The city also will build an amphitheater seating area for shows and up to 32 recreational vehicle parking spaces with water, sewer and electrical hookups. 

Council approved $27.7 million in the city Capital Improvement Plan over the past two years to help finance the project. 

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s Iguana Investments Florida LLC announced it had reached an agreement with the fair association on an option to buy the existing 14.1-acre fairgrounds site near TIAA Bank Field after the move.

Jacksonville Fair President and CEO Bill Olson said in April 2022 the move will allow the fair to grow and alleviate traffic congestion at the Downtown fairgrounds for people showing cattle, vendors and attendees. 

The fair is working with Scherer Construction of North Florida LLC and kasper architects + associates Inc. to design and determine the cost of the facilities it wants. 

Contractor J.B. Coxwell was awarded the city contract to design and build the new fairgrounds. 

Olson said in April he hopes the new location will be complete by spring 2024.

Cecil wetlands

Council approved borrowing $5.6 million to mitigate wetlands at the Cecil Commerce Center megasite to prepare the site for a proposed $270 million private manufacturing development. 

The 18-0 vote on Ordinance 2023-212 allows the city to start work to fill and mitigate the wetlands before its permit with the Army Corp of Engineers expires at the end of September, according to a summary filed with the bill. 

Cosentino Group is considering a two-phase, $370 million manufacturing facility at the Cecil Commerce Center megasite in West Jacksonville.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration is poised to file legislation with Council to sell an initial 330 acres of the megasite property to Spanish sustainable surfaces company Cosentino Group for the multiphase manufacturing facility.

A second phase would have a minimum capital investment of $70 million.

Formerly called code-named Project Raptor Stone by city officials, Cosentino will have the option to buy another 150 acres to build a minimum $100 million addition to the project.

According to a term sheet and project summary from the city Office of Economic Development, that bill would appropriate $3 million to extend Logistics Lane, a road that will service the site; $2.5 million on the city’s portion of a CSX Corp. rail extension; and $2.5 million for water and sewer connection.

If approved, the legislation will execute a development agreement with the global manufacturer’s U.S.-arm, Cosentino Industrial USA LLC, that includes a 50%,10-year Recapture Enhanced Value Grant capped at $12 million, according to the deal’s term sheet.

Another bill expected from the mayor’s office would appropriate $5.5 million awarded by the state in November from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to put toward the rail extension.

Those two bills have not been introduced by Council. 

Casket Factory

The Jacksonville Historical Society will have an extra six months in its city agreement to renovate the historic Florida Casket Co. building into a music history museum, library, event and performance venue and archive storage. 

Council voted 18-0 to approve the agreement extension to March 31, 2024, in Ordinance 2023-0215. 

The Jacksonville Historical Society plans to renovate the brick Florida Casket Co. building at 318 Palmetto St. next to its offices.

The city is contributing up to $500,000 to the historical society’s proposed $3 million renovation of the three-story building at 318 Palmetto St., which is next to the society’s offices in the former St. Luke’s Hospital.

The structure is surrounded on three sides by the Duval Street elevated roadway, the Maxwell House Coffee plant and the loading dock for VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

Thompson Construction Co. is the contractor and Powell & Hinkle Engineering is the engineer for the $3 million addition and interior renovation project.

Council member Rory Diamond was absent for the votes.