JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after Jaguars President Mark Lamping pitched city officials on team owner Shad Khan’s plan to build a Four Seasons hotel along Jacksonville’s riverfront, public reaction began to pour in.
Khan would be the sole developer of the proposed development and pay for the hotel, which would be located where Metropolitan Park currently sits. The city would also be on the hook for millions to improve the property before construction could begin, and the project would need to get approval from the federal government to move the park elsewhere since it was originally paid for with federal funding.
News4Jax spoke with several business owners and people who live in the neighborhoods surrounding TIAA Bank Field, which is where Khan hopes to establish an entertainment complex in addition to the resort. Plans for the Four Seasons took some residents by surprise.
That includes Titia Jackson, who recently purchased a bar and restaurant north of the stadium on A. Phillip Randolph Boulevard. Eva’s 1925 takes its name from Jackson’s grandmother. As a business owner, Jackson has high hopes for the neighborhood. She told News4Jax she’s constantly giving back to the neighborhood with food trucks and events to help veterans, among others.
Jackson wonders why the city is not reaching out to her and other business owners in the area.
“What about giving back to the community?" she said Friday. “What about helping the small business people around here? Want to give money to Khan? Khan has money — we don’t. Like, I haven’t received any small business loan. I’ve been doing this on my own.”
Jackson went on to say she questions what Lot J and the hotel at Metro Park would do for the neighborhood.
“You know, it’s like what benefit is it going to do for us as a community?” she wondered aloud.
Jackson isn’t the only one asking questions. City Councilman Matt Carlucci has questions of his own. He wants the Downtown Investment Authority, the city’s economic development arm, to have influence and oversight over what will happen at the Metro Park and the Lot J sites.
“Jacksonville moves best when it moves together,” Carlucci said.
Mayor Lenny Curry voiced his support for the proposed hotel Friday in a statement released through a spokesperson.
“Transforming the shipyards and sports and entertainment district is critical to Downtown’s success," the mayor 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.”
City leaders say downtown Jacksonville and other areas stand to prosper from the city’s potential investments in Khan’s developments. This despite an auditor saying the city stood to make 44 cents for every dollar invested in the Lot J development.
Jackson took issue with the mayor’s statement.
“It depends if something’s going on because right now, this is my first year for the Jaguars games,” she said. “We are hurting because we’re not getting the crowds. [The Georgia-Florida game] was a loss for all of us over here. ... It’s like, are they really going to patronize us if [Khan] has a restaurant in there or a bar in there?”
Khan’s Four Seasons proposal is just that: a proposal. For the plan to move forward, it would require approval from the City Council. As for Lot J, the Council is planning to hold a special meeting on that topic on Thursday at 5 p.m.