Shipyards plan would cost city at least $35 million

City would be responsible for environmental cleanup, infrastructure

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Downtown Investment Authority got a look at Shad Khan's Shipyards proposal Tuesday afternoon, breaking down some of the costs of the transformation.

Khan's company wants the city to pay $35 million for environmental cleanup of the property along the northbank of the St. Johns River east of downtown, plus additional costs for infrastructure along Bay Street and other costs. 

Paul Harden, attorney for Iguana Investments, told the DIA that the company was formed as part of Khan's unwavering desire to do what's best for Jacksonville. And while Iguana is anxious to get started on the massive project, Harden said he understands that the DIA is required by law to wait at least a month so others can submit proposals for the property, but nothing they are asking for hasn't been asked by others in the failed history of development of the property.

He said if Iguana's proposal is accepted, negotiations with the city could begin in April.

 DOCUMENT: Shipyards term sheet

"There's nothing in that term sheet that the city hasn't offered to other folks that didn't put it in the end zone, to use a football analogy," Harden said. "Mr. Khan feels confident he can do that but every single thing in the term sheet is something that the city has dealt with before."

Mayor Alvin Brown, who attended Tuesday's DIA presentation, said he strongly backs Khan's plan.

"We have an opportunity to move downtown forward," Brown said. "Not take 20 years from now, but make it happen now."

Mayoral candidate Bill Bishop has questioned how much money really needs to go into cleaning up the shipyards.

"We own the dirt-- have a big stake in its success. Whether what's being asked for is what's going to end up, I would doubt that. There's a lot of risk in there, a lot of expensive ask. Right now, it's just an ask we don't yet know how how the return is analyzed and what's the economic outlook of the return in it," said Bishop. 

News4Jax reached out to Republican Lenny Curry, Brown's other primary contender for mayor. He sent this statement:

"Under Mayor Brown though, we have seen a deficiency in his work with private sector investors to bring something like this to reality. There are numerous examples during Brown's time in office of budget mismanagement"

Mayoral candidate Omega Allen was unavailable for comment.

Iguana Investments plan would create a modern, urban, walkable destination that connects the sports and entertainment complex and downtown Jacksonville.

The proposal states the city of Jacksonville would be required to oversee design, permitting, management, construction and pay all costs associated with the following:

  • Environmental cleanup totaling $35 million (the city and Iguana may enter into an environmental cooperation agreement)
  • Improvement of certain Bay Street infrastructure 
  • Overall storm water treatment and storage
  • Construction of a mooring space for the USS Adams

If the costs associated with environmental clean-up are in excess of $35 million, Iguana will have the option to terminate the agreement.

The proposal states the city will allocate the following land uses to the shipyards property from the Downtown Development of Regional Impact:

  • 1,000,000 square feet of office space
  • 100,000 square feet of commercial space
  • 662 residential units
  • 350 hotel rooms
  • 525 marina slips

City Council members saw the financial breakdown of the Shipyards proposal late Monday.

Richard Clark, chairman of the council's Finance Committee, said the taxpayers biggest financial commitment regardless of what happens to the property -- cleaning up the Shipyards -- is the city's responsibility.

"I just wish they could go quicker," Clark said. "My biggest concern is, how do we get this started? What do we need to do to encourage somebody to get started, to put a shovel in the ground, and get the project rolling."

While many in Jacksonville have found the Shipyards proposal impressive, not everybody is on board.

"It really is, from my point of view, problematic in terms of what it would require the taxpayers to do just to get to the starting block," said John Winkler of Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County.

Winkler said the city would own the property of the project, but see none of the benefits.

"Our biggest concern, when you hear a ‘public private partnership,' is that all too often it is the public who pays and it is the private that winds up profiting," Winkler said. 

At the meeting, Harden said Khan's commitment to this project not a part of his ownership of the Jaguars, but not unrelated.

"This is separate and apart from the football effort, but one of the things that Jacksonville needs to be able to sustain an NFL franchise is a vibrant active downtown," Harden said. "It's just one of many pieces. That's why his involvement is to make sure Jacksonville is in a position to sustain his other investments here."

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