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Developer & city panel find compromise on fate of River City Brewing Company

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A plan to knock down a longtime riverfront restaurant on the South Bank and replace it with an eight-story apartment complex is moving forward — with a catch.

Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority voted Wednesday afternoon to allow a Miami-based developer to proceed with plans for a $90 million, 335-unit complex next to Friendship Foundation, a project that would involve the demolition of River City Brewing Company.

But in response to backlash from the community, the board said plans for the new development must include a restaurant that would be run by The Related Group, the developer.

Some background: The city, which owns the land where the restaurant sits, gave a 99-year lease to the owner of River City Brewing Company in 1998. That means there’s 77 years left on that lease. Now, the owner, Maritime Concepts, wants to sell the lease to The Related Group for $10 million.

The first plans unveiled by The Related Group included the aforementioned luxury apartment complex, but no restaurant or retail space. Many people said that would be a loss for the city’s residents.

“We already have enough apartments,” said Bryan Sullivan, who lives at the marina. " ... We need more stuff to do in Jacksonville, not places to live."

The DIA discussed a new plan Wednesday based on a compromise with the developer, which has agreed to build a 5,000-square foot restaurant if the city pays for half, or $500,000 at most. The developer also wants tax incentives for the project along with upgrades for the storm-battered marina.

“I think it’s a great idea, and I think it was well negotiated,” City Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber said of the deal. “I’m always hesitant about incentives. I’m glad there’s a cap at $500,000.”

Unlike River City Brewing Company, the new restaurant would not sit right on the water, representatives for the developers said. Instead, it would be located nearby.

“There will be views of the water from that location, but it will not be a riverfront restaurant. It will be facing the park, just to the east of the new building, but you will be able to see the water, the skyline,” said attorney Steven Diebenow, who represents the developer.

The DIA also discussed parking and public access to the Riverwalk, both of which are part of the plan. The new proposal impressed the board enough for it to pass, with seven members voting in favor and one abstaining.

It’s worth mentioning that there’s still a long way to go. The DIA is set to meet next month to discuss possible incentives, such as tax breaks, for the developers. For the time being, River City Brewing Company remains open as does the marina.


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