JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JEA will be moving its headquarters just blocks away from its current home after board members voted Tuesday to choose a new West Adams Street location for the city-owned utility.
After a four-hour meeting, the board voted Tuesday in favor of building the new headquarters in the heart of downtown next to the Duval County Courthouse -- as long as the developer can secure the property within 90 days.
The project will be built by Ryan Companies US Inc. on Adams between Julia and Pearl streets at a projected base cost of $72.2 million. Ryan said the site will be easily accessible for employees and customers already familiar with the current JEA location downtown. The building will include several collaborative spaces and offices and become a catalyst for other downtown development, according to the company.
"As all of you who sat through this long board meeting heard, we had three excellent bids," JEA Chairman Alan Howard said after the vote. "Everyone had a top-notch presentation, had a great, solid financial bid. I think it was a very close call for us as a board to make the decision one over the other."
The board had previously determined it would be cheaper to build at a new location rather than renovate the current tower downtown on West Church Street. JEA has been in the building, which was built in 1962, since 1989. JEA leaders said the building is too old and too big, and the cost to repair it is too high.
The board took bids from developers for a new location in January and then narrowed the list of potential locations to three sites.
The board members had been considering the pros and cons of three locations and released the price tags for the three finalists' plans for a new office tower late last week.
Iguana Investments, Shad Khan's development company, working with The Cordish Companies, wanted to put the new JEA headquarters in the development planned for Lot J in the Sports Complex. The third proposal would have built a new tower next to the Kings Avenue parking garage on the Southbank.
Based on the base building costs for each proposal, the cheapest option was Lot J and the most expensive option appeared to be Kings Avenue, which developers said is "shovel ready."
Iguana Investments said the Lot J location would give JEA employees and customers access to nearby restaurants and other businesses, which aren't there yet. The headquarters would have included interactive meeting spaces and a work cafe. It would have also given a jump-start to the development of a part of town that would ultimately include the Shipyards property.
After the JEA decision, Jim Woodcock, spokesman for Iguana, released a statement:
JEA had three quality proposals to consider, all from parties who believe in Jacksonville and want only the best for our future. It’s a good sign when local interest is high in growing, developing and investing in Jacksonville, and we hope that will continue for a long time. We are disappointed that our proposal for Lot J was not chosen, but it will not adversely affect our overarching goal of redeveloping Downtown Jacksonville as an urban destination to work, live and play.”
The third proposal, from Chase Properties, was to put JEA's headquarters on Kings Avenue. The design showed the headquarters would be eight stories tall and had a base building cost of $81.7 million. Proponents said the location was already on a major bus route, was near the Skyway, had plenty of parking and did not require any special permits before construction could begin. The developer said the site was ready to go.
Many observers were surprised the board did not vote for the least expensive project that was supported by the Jaguars' owner. Howard said the board made the decision strictly on the scoring of each proposal by staff and the merits of each proposal.
"I don't know if it was one factor that put the courthouse location over the lot J location," Howard said. At the end, it was just a very close call."
Click to see the presentations for each of the three proposed sites.