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Developer wants to tie new downtown projects together with $2 billion master plan

In the next three years, residents could see a very different downtown Jacksonville as the city gets ready to move ahead with various transformative development projects.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the next three years, residents could see a very different downtown Jacksonville as the city gets ready to move ahead with various transformative development projects.

The Shipyards, the old Jacksonville Landing site and Berkman II are just a few projects that will make major changes on the North Bank.

On Thursday, local developer Steve Atkins of SouthEast Development Group presented his now $2 billion plan to tie all the projects together as well as create new ones. And he has unique ideas on how to power all the new buildings.

“The decisions that [the city] are going to be making now are going to affect our city for the next 50 to 60 years. What we do on the North Bank in downtown Jacksonville is largely representative of the city as a whole and we believe we have to get this plan right,” Atkins said.

People like Nick Hansen who live near downtown have many ideas on what is needed.

“I think downtown needs more residential buildings. More infrastructure that would support residential like public transportation, grocery stores or restaurants, everyday living things so people can actually stay downtown and not commute to the suburbs.” Hansen said.

Those are just some of the plans Adkins of the SouthEast Development group has in mind.

Last June he summited his ideas for what he thinks should go near the former Landing and City Hall sites. Now he has drawn up a new map and presented it to the city as a master plan for the city to follow.

He believes the city needs to think of the riverfront as a whole and not piece out individual projects.

One of Atkins’s ideas is a hydrokinetic energy system. It would use the strong currents in the St. Johns River to power turbines to generate electricity. That could be used to power the new buildings and save money as well.

Overview of $1 billion downtown development plan. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

He is also suggesting:

  • 15 acres of riverfront public park and plaza spaces with resiliency infrastructure
  • More than 1,000 multifamily units (including apartments and condominiums)
  • A 208-room, entertainment-oriented, boutique-style hotel
  • 90,000 square feet of well-certified office space, which could be converted to multifamily based on market demand
  • 155,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space
  • A 280,000 square-foot Exhibition, Entertainment & Technology Center with retail and virtual venues
  • Approximately 4,500 structured parking spaces across five garages
  • An expanded pier with retail and entertainment venues

Adkins’s ideas were not solicited by the city. He just wants them to be considered.

He estimates the project could cost around $2 billion. He is not asking the city for any money upfront and said he does have some financial backers and needs to act quickly. Adkins has several successful downtown projects including the renovation of the Old Barnett Bank building. He is also involved in the Laura Street trio proposals.

News4Jax reached out to the Downtown Investment Authority and the mayor’s office for comment. The mayor’s staff said the project is ambitious and exciting. His staff went on to say that the DIA should hear from all entities who have a willingness to invest in downtown.

Jacksonville developer says Riverfront Jacksonville would comprise more than 755 new residential units and 208 hotel rooms. (SouthEast Development Group)
Rendering of $1 billion downtown Jacksonville development master plan. (SouthEast Development Group)

About the Author:

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