City wants convention center to replace old riverfront Courthouse, City Hall

Downtown Investment Authority votes unanimously to request proposals

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Downtown Investment Authority unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday to request proposals from firms interested in building a hotel and convention center on the Northbank riverfront where the old Jacksonville City Hall and Duval County Courthouse have sat vacant for years.

Mayor Lenny Curry budgeted money this year to demolish the old government buildings and clear the property for development.

The project requirements include a 350-room hotel, at least 200,000 square feet of public exhibit space, at least a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, at least 45 meeting rooms, other space and a parking garage.

A feasibility analysis shows the total construction cost of a 200,0000-square-foot exhibit hall at between $250 million and $430 million. The parking garage would have to be at least 400 spaces, and convention center parking would need at least 1,300 spaces.

The city might be open to public participation, meaning tax incentives are not out of the question to encourage development, but it’s not written in the request for proposals.

"We invest in public-private partnerships based on a scorecard that demonstrates return of investment the taxpayers," Mayor Lenny Curry said. "But, yeah, I'm bullish on the idea of a convention center."

Business in the area would love to see this happen, but are skeptical.

"I’ve heard a lot of rumors in the past couple of years of what is coming to that area, and I’ve learned  not to count my chickens before they hatch," Greg DeSanto said. "We will see what happens when it happens."

As for the city's current Prime Osborn Convention Center, critics have said for years it just not big enough and there is no nearby hotel. It it were replaced by a new convention center the site could once again become ah Amtrak station to tie into the transportation hub the Jacksonville Transportation Authority is currently building next door.

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