City Council special committee will study Downtown jail, police facilities

Downtown revitalization proponents say now is the time to move the jail from the Northbank.

An artist’s rendering in the Downtown Investment Authority’s master plan of the Shipyards West area shows the jail and police memorial building sites as the location of a convention center.
An artist’s rendering in the Downtown Investment Authority’s master plan of the Shipyards West area shows the jail and police memorial building sites as the location of a convention center.
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A new City Council Special Committee will begin meetings Aug. 16 that could result in a plan to move the Duval County jail out of Downtown.

Whether to keep the jail at 500 E. Adams St. and police headquarters at 501 E. Bay St., or move them from the Downtown Northbank to open the property for redevelopment, has been a topic for years.

Council President Ron Salem said during his June 22 installation that relocating the 30-year-old John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility — the jail — and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Police Memorial Building from Downtown was one of his priorities. 

After Mayor Donna Deegan was declared the winner of the May 16 city runoff election, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters told the Daily Record about the jail: 

“It’s old, it’s rundown, it’s a big issue and it should be moved.” 

Deegan said May 11 before her election that moving the jail would not be a first-year priority. 

The Duval County Jail and the adjacent Police Memorial Building are near the Shipyards where a Four Seasons hotel is planned.

But Deegan said she had toured the facility and found it to be “an antiquated place and not large enough for what we need.” 

She kept a $244.59 million line item for the jail and JSO headquarters relocation under the “beyond 5” year category in her fiscal year 2024-28 proposed Capital Improvement Plan released July 17, a holdover from former Mayor Lenny Curry’s final CIP. 

Ron Salem

In July, Salem announced the creation of what is now called the Special Committee to Review JSO Principal Properties.

Committee Chair Michael Boylan said he expects Salem to complete an updated charge for the committee before the Aug. 16 meeting. 

In the meantime, Boylan said he intended to speak with 4th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Lance Day; the Duval County public defender’s office; the correctional officers union; JSO Chief Kevin Goff; JSO Assistant Chief Paul Restivo; and others involved with the jail system.

Boylan said the needs of inmate intake and detention will be a key consideration.

“We need to get a good sound understanding of the operations ... and the process that happens within that facility,” he said.

The Aug. 16 organizational meeting will determine working groups that will schedule meetings through the end of 2023, Boylan said.

Boylan told Council members Aug. 8 that the Northeast Florida Regional Council agreed to provide the committee with administrative support.

He said the committee will tackle issues including behavioral and mental health; long-term detention and the appropriate use or facility for that; and the people who are coming in for intake and first hearings. 

“What things do we need to do to provide facilities that best serve the processes for detention adjudication? That’s going to be the focus of our committee,” he said.

According to Boylan, the committee could find some of the operations should stay Downtown.

“I doubt it will be in the same location,” he said.

Early legislation 

The committee’s first meeting comes as the Council tries to decide how quickly it wants to pursue a new jail and as the sheriff is requesting to find additional administrative office space Downtown.

The Duval County Jail in Downtown Jacksonville.

The sheriff’s office is looking for more office space. Council introduced Ordinance 2023-494 on Aug. 8 that would approve a 149-month lease for 58,959 square feet of space in the 20-story Florida Blue office tower at 532 Riverside Ave. in Brooklyn. 

According to the legislation, JSO would be charged $20 per-square-foot annually and another $6 per-square-foot for 3,567 square feet of garage space. 

There would be a 3% annual escalation rate. 

The legislative fact sheet filed with the bill says JSO would lease the first, ninth and 10th floors. 

Florida Blue would provide the city and JSO a $3.45 million tenant improvement allowance, and the landlord would build-out the space at a cost not to exceed $5.45 million.     

The lease would require JSO to contribute $1 million to tenant improvements. 

The Council also voted Aug. 8 to withdraw Ordinance 2023-0444 at Salem’s request that would have hired consulting firm GCL for $50,000 through June 2024 to study the city’s future needs for jail.

Salem said July 25 he pulled the bill because there was enough city expertise to provide the information for the committee’s charge.

After the jail

City policymakers see moving the jail and redeveloping the site as a key to revitalizing the Northbank.

An artist’s rendering released in June in the Downtown Investment Authority’s master plan of the Shipyards West area shows the jail and police memorial building sites as the location of a convention center.

“We think it’s (convention center) ideally located there because it is kind of equal distance between the sports and entertainment facilities — the baseball grounds, the arena and the current Hyatt (Regency Jacksonville Riverfront) and the entertainment district — with Florida Theatre and the bars that are developing,” DIA CEO Lori Boyer said in a June 26 speech to the Meninak Club of Jacksonville. 

The Shipyards West area is shown in this Downtown Investment Authority’s master plan rendering of the Shipyards West area.

She said replacing the jail with a convention center will compete with other city financial plans.

Likely the biggest financial obligation that could require a sizable piece of the city’s bonding capacity will be the Jacksonville Jaguars’ nearly $2.05 billion plan to renovate the city-owned football stadium and build a mixed-use neighborhood around it.

The Jaguars have initially proposed that the city pay for nearly half of the total project cost. The Deegan administration has not started negotiations on a deal.

“Clearly, there is only so much money to go around,” Boyer said June 26. “And if we are looking at the stadium improvements right now, you have to weigh all of those and the timing that happens first.” 

According to Boyer, developing the Shipyards West Park directly south of the jail on the riverfront would add to the value of the site and make a convention center there “more viable.”

Boyer said the park, with an initial $25 million budget, “creates the best atmosphere” for convention visitors.

“And it also overlooks the Shipyards West Park (in the master plan),” she said.

“It has the vista across the river but it doesn’t take up the riverfront with big, closed room spaces that are typical of meeting rooms for a convention.”



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