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Jacksonville City Council holds 1st meeting on Shipyards project

In comparison to Lot J, council members & Jaguars president more optimistic about Shipyards project

In comparison to Lot J, council members & Jaguars president more optimistic about Shipyards project
In comparison to Lot J, council members & Jaguars president more optimistic about Shipyards project

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council on Friday held its first meeting on the Shipyards project.

The plans for the $400 million riverfront development include a Four Seasons Hotel and Residences and an office building that the Jaguars want to build. The city could be on the hook for nearly $114 million of that.

The city has been dreaming of developing the old Shipyards site for years, and the plans by Jaguars owner Shad Kahn and his company, Iguana Investments, are the latest. During Friday’s workshop, a handful of council members began the work of trying to make it a reality. Council members had a chance to ask questions about the project, which was approved by the Downtown Investment Authority.

Last year, the City Council voted down the Jaguars’ plan to develop Lot J into an entertainment complex. The council members on hand Friday are more optimistic about the Shipyards project.

“I absolutely do I think this is the time. I think we got the right partner and the dollars will be there I think,” said City Councilman Ron Salem. “And the great thing is, if it goes through the council, it will be completed by December 2025.”

There is much work to be done by the City Council before that happens. On Friday, it looked at plans to swap out the land from the old Kids Kampus site, which is not being used, and build a new park that encompasses the riverfront in the area across from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and tie it into the USS Orleck naval museum. The Jacksonville Fire Museum, which is currently at Metropolitan Park, would be moved there, as well. To do this, the city plans to spend money it previously set aside to cover up and clean the soil, which has been contaminated by the old Shipyards property.

But that’s just one aspect of the plan. It was pointed out Friday that dollar for dollar, the money the city will spend will pay for itself in 20 years and even make a small profit. That was not the case with Lot J.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a tough sell,” City Council President Sam Newby said. “The difference is the transparency than what we had with Lot J. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy sell, but I don’t think it’s going to be a tough sell.”

Jaguars President Mark Lamping is more optimistic that this is going to happen.

“We are encouraged that we got to this point,” Lamping said. “But in many respects, we’re starting over now with the legislative review.”

RELATED: Jaguars president believes Shipyards project will help Jacksonville realize city’s potential

It’s expected there will be much debate in the coming weeks.

This could come up for a final vote as soon as Oct. 12, with the Shipyards projected completed by December 2025.

One of the questions that came up Friday was about the Duval County jail, which sits across the street from the Shipyards site. There was talk at the meeting of making the jail site home to a new convention center, which would tie into the Shipyards plans.

“I knew we were looking at a convention center site. That’s the first time I heard it at the jail site — which means you would have to move the jail and the administration of the police — which is a significant investment,” Salem said. “I don’t know if that’s going to happen in the next two or three years.”

Lori Boyer, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, says the idea might be a bit premature.

“Well, that’s jumping the gun, but it’s trying to think ahead how we holistically look at the waterfront,” Boyer said. “It’s something that’s been discussed before.”

One of the questions that came up Friday was about the Duval County jail, which sits across the street from the Shipyards site.
One of the questions that came up Friday was about the Duval County jail, which sits across the street from the Shipyards site.

About the Author:

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