DIA board gives The Hardwick, Ambassador Hotel projects more time

Developer considering adding a hotel to high-rise project at the former Duval County Courthouse site.

File photo: The former Duval County Courthouse and City Hall sites, now called The Ford on Bay, in Downtown Jacksonville.
File photo: The former Duval County Courthouse and City Hall sites, now called The Ford on Bay, in Downtown Jacksonville.
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A proposed Downtown riverfront mixed-use high-rise and a North Core adaptive historic reuse project in the works since 2018 are experiencing more delays. 

The Downtown Investment Authority Board voted unanimously March 15 to give Atlanta-based developer Carter until June 21 to make project scope or design changes for its estimated $150 million proposal, The Hardwick, at the former Duval County Courthouse site.

The board also voted 6-0 to give Augustine Development Group until June 30 to finish its nearly $18 million renovation of the historic Ambassador Hotel building at 420 N. Julia St. after the developer said supply chain issues are holding up construction. 

If that date cannot be met, the board OK’d DIA staff’s request to file legislation with City Council to extend Augustine Development’s deadline through Sept. 30.

The Hardwick

In February, Carter missed its deadline to receive conceptual design approval for The Hardwick from the city Downtown Development Review Board. 

Carter Executive Vice President David Nelson said at a Feb. 14 DIA committee meeting that plans had slowed because the developer decided to add a hotel to the plan for the mixed-use project. 

When the DIA approved a $41 million incentives deal for the project in May 2022, board members already were expressing concerns that the design was changing from the 21-story pedestal and single-tower design Carter pitched to win a request for proposals in early 2022 to redevelop the city-owned property at 330 E. Bay St. 

That deal has yet to be approved by Council. 

That proposal comprised 360 apartment units; an exterior elevated plaza/green space; a ground-floor open-air plaza; and a 1,500-square-foot restaurant on the second and third floors with rooftop patio space. 

File image: A conceptual rendering for Atlanta-based Carter's $150 million, 22-story mixed-use proposal for the former Duval County Courthouse site at 330 E. Bay St. Downtown.

DIA board member Oliver Barakat said in February he worried substantial changes to the design might not be fair to the other bidders. 

DIA CEO Lori Boyer said adding a hotel would fit into the parameters of the original RFP, but the city might have to rebid the site if Carter went further. 

The extension approved March 15 could result in a revised term sheet to be considered by the DIA board at its July meeting.

Whether the DIA board accepts new deal terms or puts out a new notice of disposition for the property, the resolution sets a Dec. 31, 2023, deadline to complete all negotiations, file legislation and gain Council approval. 


This is the second time since October that DIA voted to give Augustine Development subsidiary AXIS Hotels LLC an extension on its development agreement related to supply chain concerns. 

File photo: The historic Ambassador Hotel at 420 N. Julia Street Downtown.

The DIA and Council previously extended the project’s performance schedule in 2021 until Dec. 31, 2022. 

The developer is working to complete renovations on what the company says will be a 127-room TRYP by Wyndham hotel and restaurant.

AXIS Hotel’s development agreement with the city includes a $1.5 million grant from the city’s Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund.

Augustine Development CEO George Bochis addressed the board March 15 and detailed COVID-19-related labor issues earlier in the project and supply chain challenges, specifically delays in receiving replica historic windows that slowed construction.

According to Bochis, without windows installed to protect the building from weather and moisture, Augustine Development’s contractors have had to halt some interior build-out. 

File photo: Augustine Development Group CEO George Bochis.

Bochis said if the windows are delivered from March 23 through May 5 as the supplier has stated, the project could make the June 30 deadline extension that Boyer has the authority to grant under the existing city development agreement.

But he said the window supplier has missed deadlines and is asking the DIA to request a longer extension through September only allowed by a City Council vote.

“We feel not 100% comfortable that that deadline will actually happen, which is why we’ve asked for a little bit of grace and extension through City Council to get us there,” Bochis said.

The Ambassador project is tied to two other Augustine Development projects on the same block in the North Core. 

Council approved the original redevelopment agreement for the Ambassador in January 2019. 

The DIA and city amended the deal in June 2020 to financially separate the Ambassador project from Augustine Development’s multifamily renovation of the Independent Life building at 233 W. Duval St. 

Augustine Development is restoring three designated historic buildings, including the Ambassador, in a two-block area of Downtown’s North Core.

Through subsidiary PEP10 LLC, Augustine Development’s $30 million Independent Life retrofit would bring a 135-unit apartment and ground-floor grocery store to the North Core. 

The city recently approved the building permit to start work on the 19-story tower.

The third project proposed by subsidiary AXIS 404 Julia LLC would convert the 1950s-era Central National Bank Building at 404 N. Julia St. into the lobby of a 139-unit, eight-story, mixed-use apartment building. 

The three developments would share a 487-space parking garage and provide space for the nearby Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department headquarters.



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