JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Even as the city mulls investing over $200 million in an entertainment complex near TIAA Bank Field, Jaguars owner Shad Khan is already eying another grand development: a Four Seasons hotel downtown.
Khan, who bought the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto in 2016, wants to build the hotel where Metropolitan Park sits along the Northbank. He would be the sole developer, according to Jaguars President Mark Lamping, who estimated Khan could invest up to $300 million in the project. The goal is to link the development to a planned medical complex.
But the project’s fate hinges on whether the city can get permission from the federal government to move Metro Park and the city’s willingness to shell out tens of millions to improve infrastructure near the site.
“The project is transformational,” Lamping said during his pitch Thursday morning to the Downtown Investment Authority, the city’s economic development arm. “It’s a Four Seasons hotel, it’s a Four Seasons residence along with that. It’s a world-class medical facility, in all likelihood focused on orthopedics.”
Mayor Lenny Curry voiced his support for the development in a statement issued through a spokesperson.
“Transforming the shipyards and sports & entertainment district is critical to Downtown’s success," Curry said. “We are grateful for the continued commitment from Shad Khan in our downtown development and we look forward to building on the momentum we have created the past five years.”
Lamping’s presentation comes as the city contemplates investing over $200 million into another one of Khan’s visions, a proposed entertainment complex at Lot J. That development, a 50-50 partnership between the city and Jaguars, would carry a total price tag of $445 million. The project’s scope calls for 400 residential units, a hotel, a mix of retail and office space, two parking garages and an entertainment center.
But City Council members are raising questions about the city’s stake in that project, especially after an auditor found the city would make 44 cents for every dollar spent on the project. Councilwoman Randy DeFoor has said there are lingering questions and a lack of information about the project.
During Thursday’s DIA meeting, Lamping said the Lot J development would be a catalyst for additional efforts to revitalize the area. He said the Four Seasons resort would be an offshoot of Lot J. It’s unclear how much the project could cost, but Lamping estimated Khan could spend $300 million on it.
A source told News4Jax the city could wind up being on the hook for up to $100 million.
“Lot J primes the pump,” Lamping told News4Jax. “That’s the hard one, that is the most complex one, but in many respects, it’s the most important [and] these other projects follow. This one, as I said today, we’re prepared to get committed to this as soon as the city permits development there.”
There has been concern about taking Metro Park and redeveloping the site. It would require approval from the federal government, which originally contributed federal funds to build the park. It’s possible the city might swap out that site for another park.
“We are absolutely committed that there is going to be a major riverfront park in this vicinity,” Lori Boyer, chief executive for the Downtown Investment Authority and former City Council member.
Originally, Khan mentioned moving the city’s convention center to the Shipyards site. That proposal would not be part of the latest plan. Instead, there’s a possibility the convention center could find a new home in the space occupied by the Police Memorial Building and Duval County jail.
“In the long term, there is talk of relocating the Police Memorial building and the jail,” Boyer said. “That property becomes much more valuable if you have a park across the street, and perhaps that’s a good site for the convention center.”
The Four Seasons proposal was presented to the city for the first time Thursday, so there’s still a ways to go and plenty of hurdles before it could become a reality.
Meanwhile, the City Council is still debating the merits of the city’s involvement in the Lot J project. Councilman Matt Carlucci has told News4Jax he wants the DIA to have more input on the final plans, and he’s introducing legislation to make sure that happens. The DIA board is set to discuss incentives for Lot J next week.