Mayor Curry, Shad Khan unveil long-awaited plans for Lot J

Once approved, the project could take up to 3 years to complete

Standing on the Jacksonville Jaguars indoor practice field Monday, Jaguars owner Shad Khan and Mayor Lenny Curry announced new plans for the development at Lot J, a project that has been years in the making.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Standing on the Jacksonville Jaguars indoor practice field Monday, Jaguars owner Shad Khan and Mayor Lenny Curry announced new plans for the development at Lot J, a project that has been years in the making.

Curry said the transformative project will provide thousands of jobs and create a new neighborhood in the shadow of TIAA Bank Field.

“This is important because great cities have great downtowns, and as Florida’s largest city by population and landmass, Jacksonville deserves an iconic urban core. Our downtown has been stagnant for decades,” Curry said during opening remarks.

The multi-million dollar Lot J project will be paid for through a 50-50 partnership between the Jacksonville Jaguars and The Cordish Companies, a national developer with large-scale projects in cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Kansas City. The total direct public investment from the city will be over $152 million which includes $77.7 million for city-owned infrastructure, Curry said.

In addition, Curry said, the city will provide a $65.5 million loan to the developer secured by a $13.1 million deposit in a city-owned trust account.

The city said it will use two sources to pay for the project: a revenue bond and 20 years of taxes generated by the residences and hotel.

“First, it’s about unlocking our potential in Jacksonville,” Khan said. “You’ve heard me talk about our potential in the past, I believe it bears repeating —Jacksonville’s ceiling is high, remarkably so. That’s particularly true here in downtown, and it’s imperative that we have the ambition and the vision to answer this calling once and for all.”

The plans for the project include two residential buildings with 400 for-rent residences, a 150 to 200 room hotel, 75,000 square-feet of street-level retail, 40,000 square-feet of Class A office space, a 750 space surface parking lot, two 250 space parking garages and a 100,000 square-foot entertainment center with multiple bars and restaurants and indoor and outdoor facilities.

“This project will provide an immediate boost to our economy with the creation of 2,300 construction jobs,” Curry said. “After that, there will be over 1,000 permanent jobs, with an estimated annual economic output of $100 million per year.”

The project will focus on hiring local companies and local workers, Curry said, with many jobs going to minority and women-owned businesses. There’s a goal for 25% or more of contracts going to women and minority-owned businesses and companies during construction and throughout operations, he added.

Curry was asked about past large-scale development projects in the area that never materialized. He said this time will be different.

“We’re committed, we’re here,” Curry said. “This is a project and a vision that we latched onto years ago. We’ve got a term sheet and legislation and we’re ready to go.”

Jaguars President Mark Lamping said if City Council approves the plans, construction crews could start in the first months of 2021. The project is expected to take at least three years to complete once vertical construction begins.

The city also addressed a lingering question that many still have: Why is the city subsidizing a billionaire?

“Private developers could not and cannot do this alone. If it could, they would have been done by now," the city said. “The agreement is extremely fair for Jacksonville and the benefits to the community, both tangible and intangible, are many.”

Two councilmembers both acknowledged how it’s been a long time coming to get all the details of the project together, but they say they do think it’s happening.

Councilmember and finance committee chief Matt Carlucci said he’s more concerned about making sure this is a priority for the city.

“It is an exciting time for the city, but it’s also a very difficult time for the city because our budgets have been so tight,” Carlucci said. “We have a lot of other priorities in the city and they are going to cost some money so I don’t want to pit Lot J against those other needs. I’d love to be able to do everything we want to do. But we’ve got to get more dollars into prevention and intervention. To get a handle on this crime and murder rate that we have. The sheriff can’t do it all on his own. So I think it’s a time where we have to think through our priorities.”

The renderings for the first two phases were released and Curry’s office proposed $233.3 million for the city’s total investment.

Carlucci said he thinks this number may be less and that it’s going to be a lot of money on the public end, which is why he says he’s not all the way on board yet.

Councilmember Ron Salem said the plans will be submitted Wednesday and a 6-week ordinance process will begin, in addition to the council and council auditor having time to review the plans.

Rendering of Lot J development (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)
Rendering of Lot J development. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.