Head of the DIA: New downtown convention center for up to 10 years | Jax Daily Record | Jacksonville Daily Record


City leaders say it could be a decade before Jacksonville is ready to build and support a new downtown convention center.

Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer handed the screening on Jan.6 to the city council’s special committee on downtown development.

The committee heard an unsolicited proposal from Jacobs Development to build a convention center at The Ford on Bay at 330 and 220 E. Bay Street.

Boyer said there need to be more dining, entertainment and retail options downtown before the city can attract enough convention businesses to support a new facility.

She said the timeline could have accelerated had Council approved the Lot J mixed-use entertainment complex in 2021. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan proposed the project near TIAA Bank Field.

When asked by council member and committee chair Reggie Gaffney when the city might be ready for a new convention center, Boyer said, “With the schedule we have, I definitely think in the next five to 10 years. . “

The Gaffney district includes the city center.

The Jacobs team, led locally by KBJ Architects and Signature Land Inc.

, has been trying since 2018 to convince city leaders to build its concept of a convention center.

KBJ President Thomas Rensing said in July 2020 that the $ 550 million proposal would be an 843,000 square foot convention center and a 190,000 square foot indoor civic plaza with a marina. He told the committee on Jan. 6 that the facility would create 1,400 permanent jobs and 4,600 construction jobs.

An unsolicited Jacobs Development proposal for a $ 550 million convention center at The Ford on Bay failed to gain approval on Jan.6 from a special city council committee on downtown development.

Gaffney said after the meeting that he hoped to hear Jacobs’ proposal generate more support from the Council to push the DIA to consider the plan further.

“I think this project, given what I understand now, is probably dead in my committee and is probably going to be dead in front of my colleagues,” Gaffney said.

Chairman of the Board Sam Newby, Vice Chairman Terrance Freeman and committee members Aaron Bowman, LeAnna Cumber, Ju’Coby Pittman, Michael Boylan and Kevin Carrico participated in the discussion.

Bowman said council should defer to Boyer and the DIA’s expertise about a convention center that fits into the downtown master plan.

This is Jacobs’ third pitch for the construction of a convention center at the Northbank site.

The company’s bid scored the highest among three convention center proposals in September 2018, the DIA’s first attempt to redevelop the East Bay Street property.

The land is the site of the Old Town Hall and Duval County Courthouse.

The DIA halted those plans after resistance from Mayor Lenny Curry, who said a 2017 Strategic Advisory Group study indicated Jacksonville was not ready to build a convention center.

In July 2020, the DIA’s board of directors rejected an unsolicited argument from Jacobs because it was negotiating with New York-based Spandrel Development Partners LLC after the company was awarded the land for a residential project. mixed use of $ 136 million.

This deal failed.

Jacobs’ push for council support on Jan.6 came with another active request for proposals on the former 2.75-acre Duval County Courthouse plot of The Ford on Bay at 330 E. Bay St.

A DIA review committee is expected to choose one of six proposals on January 18.

Local and regional developers presented plans on January 5 that include apartments, hotels and retail.

Boyer urged the board not to take action on Jacobs’ ground as it could undermine Ford on Bay’s active RFP.

“I think it would be very detrimental to anyone, just like this team, who spent a lot of money preparing offers, complied with the procurement process and submitted them,” Boyer said.

“I think it is fair to them that we go through this process.”

Boyer also advised the committee to ask the board’s auditor’s office to analyze Jacobs’ proposed funding for the convention center.

She said the structure appears similar to the city’s 18-year agreement with Metropolitan Parking Solutions that covers the company’s operating losses to build and operate three public parking lots at the new Duval County Courthouse and near VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

The deal cost the city more than $ 71 million in development loans and interest over 18 years. It is the subject of mediatized arbitration between the city and MPS.

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