JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Downtown Investment Authority on Tuesday selected the $500+ million proposal by an investment group owned by Jaguars' owner Shad Khan to develop the vacant Shipyards property along the Jacksonville riverfront near the Sports Complex.
The Iguana proposal was scored the highest score of the three plans considered by the DIA's evaluation committee, made up of DIA directors and the city's public works director, and received its unanimous recommendation.
The DIA must now negotiate terms of a contract and it be approved by City Council before any development can begin.
Khan's Iguana Investments project, always the unspoken favorite, would include a five-star hotel at Metro Park, a dock for the USS Adams, several restaurants, offices and stores, plus at least 100 housing units. Iguana would pay the city fair market value for the land.
The plan would include the Adams in a new Veterans Park that move the city's Veterans Memorial to the banks of the St. Johns River.
"We think it's a much better bridge to serve downtown by having it in the center of this of this development. We like the way it would activate Hogan Creek," Jaguars President Mark Lamping said.
Iguana said it could complete Phase 1 of its development by 2020.
"I can definitely tell you the following: "This particular development team has the balance sheet to do what they're proposing to do," said the DIA's Aundra Wallace.
In a statement, Khan praised the selection of his company's plan.
I'd like to think no one believes in the potential of Jacksonville as much as I do, so today's news is both gratifying and rewarding to me, as well as to everyone within our organization who shares my vision for the future of the Shipyards and the rebirth of our downtown."
The city would have to clean up environmental concerns at the site. The Iguana plan calls for moving Metropolitan Park to the most contaminated land.
"You're not going below the surface. ... You don't have to for developing a park. (You) don't have to incur millions and millions of extra dollars in environmental cleanup," Lamping said.
"This particular team has the balance sheet to do what they've proposed to do."
The city would also be responsible for building a new riverwalk, upgrading the bulkheads and creating the dock for the USS Adams. That didn't the enthusiasm of Jacksonville's mayor at the selection of this plan.
“I look forward to working with Iguana Investments, Florida and the City Council on finally getting this deal done,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. “This represents significant progress being made in downtown development in key areas where others have failed.”
The Sea Glass at the Shipyards proposal included a 1,000-foot observation tower is projected to cost $1 billion.
The third plan, JaxOne, was a $350 million business incubator project and a water park of sorts, and it called for lease of city property.
Many efforts to develop Shipyards over two decades
The initial approval of the Iguana proposal is the latest of many by a handful of developers for land that was a working shipyard in downtown Jacksonville until the mid-1990. Although millions of city dollars have gone into the property, none of those projects got off the ground.
A $782 million development proposed in 2001, nicknamed the Billion Dollar Mile, failed before construction started.
In 2005, a grand jury investigated the city's $40 million contract with the TriLegacy Group. It found no criminal wrongdoing, but criticized Mayor John Delaney's administration for failing to monitor progress of the project.
In 2015, the Downtown Investment Authority also selected a previous Iguana Investments' proposal, but the deal fell apart when the city learned it would cost taxpayers $35 million to clean up the property before any development could begin.