Khan’s Shipyards plan draws local praise

Khan’s Shipyards plan draws local praise

Urging city leaders to bring economic vitality into the city, Jaguars owner Shad Khan is proposing an expansive commercial and residential development of the Shipyards that would connect the Downtown area to EverBank Field.

Representatives of Iguana Investments, a development entity created by the Jacksonville Jaguars owner just for the Shipyards project, made a formal presentation to the Downtown Investment Authority about the plan that initially has no price tag or timeline.

However, there is a concept, presented in colorful architectural drawings, depicting a marina, hotels and restaurants, expanded river walk from Downtown to the stadium including a suspension bridge, park space and a permanent museum for the USS Charles F. Adams.

In his annual State of the Jaguars comments, the billionaire businessman stressed the importance of such a development on the 48-acre Shipyards, which also would include a team practice facility.

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“The Shipyards would give downtown Jacksonville the kind of iconic identity that many downtown districts in the United States enjoy and we currently lack,” Khan said. “But it doesn’t work or make sense if it doesn’t provide jobs, boost our economy and self-confidence, stabilize the future of the Jaguars franchise and improve our overall quality of life. Our proposal to partner with the City of Jacksonville on this project will achieve this and more.”

If there’s skepticism about whether the plan will ever become reality, it’s based on the Shipyards’ history of failed deals that’s left the site essentially vacant since the 1990s. The most recent ended in 2009 when LandMar’s plan for condos, a river walk and retail and commercial buildings died when its parent company filed for bankruptcy.

Describing his proposal as modern and urban, Khan said it would also be a walkable destination “that connects the Sports Complex with downtown Jacksonville, activates Bay Street, engages with Hogan’s Creek Greenway and hosts activities throughout the year.”

Khan said he is hopeful the project will move forward once it is presented to the DIA, saying “it is critical to the future of Jacksonville and the Jaguars. It is our hope the DIA shares our sense of urgency and resolve. The opportunity to change Jacksonville is here.”

Reaction was generally positive from businesspeople and local elected officials.

Anita Vining, president of the San Marco Merchants Association, described herself as “overly excited about the Shipyards Development. Jacksonville is very lucky to have a person like Shad Khan who has great vision and obviously an extraordinary business man.

“That area is one of the premier spots in the city and offers amazing potential. The plan I saw unveiled by Khan appears to offer something for everyone and including drawing visitors who will eventually want to live here. Our city is beautiful and currently is screaming for venues on the St Johns River.

“His plan will take Jacksonville forward and could highlight Jacksonville as a top tier city. My hope is for our current city leaders and Economic Development Council to support his plan and help to push to the top of their agenda and work with him not against him.”

District 14 Councilman Jim Love called Khan’s plan “very unique, very visionary.”

“What I really like about it is it has a lot of docking and uses the river more than other plans before,” said Love, who is chairman of the City Council’s Waterways Commission.

While stressing the plans are only conceptual, Love acknowledges that Khan could be the person to finally make a developed Shipyards a reality.

“I believe in dreaming big and obviously Shad Khan has done that.”

Including the USS Adams in the proposal is also a great idea, Love said. “You have an extremely valuable piece of land. It just makes sense. It’s a wedding made in heaven…and with developers Peter Rummell and Mike Balanky’s ‘Healthy Town’ across the river and going up simultaneously, now you have synergy. I am really excited about the next four years. I think Jacksonville is a good city and we’re on verge of being a great city.”

Dave Auchter, executive vice president of NAI Hallmark Partners, which is building 220 Riverside and Unity Plaza in Brooklyn, said “Shad Khan seems to start with a goal in mind and then sets his course. Most credible football pundits respect what he is doing to build a sustainable, winning NFL franchise. I expect he will take the same approach to the Shipyards. And the goal is extraordinary. While the course ahead is certainly complex, I can’t see why anyone would doubt Shad’s success.”

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District 5 Council Member Lori Boyer said she’s excited to see someone taking an interest in the Shipyards property.

“I am certainly interested in hearing about their concept and also hearing about the expected participation of the city,” Boyer said.

From what she’s hearing, Boyer said she’s got “a little concern” about a proposed amphitheater because of past noise complaints from residents on the other side of the St. Johns River. Also, she wondered whether the Jaguars’ practice fields would be open to the public for other events.

But overall, Khan’s proposal could benefit Downtown, she said. “We keep hearing Downtown is just on the brink of coming back. Clearly Brooklyn has happened, that is real, and the continued impetus is for Downtown to happen.

“If it does happen that would be a game-changer, no question about it.”

Mayor Alvin Brown said, “I think it’s going to be successful for a number of reasons. One, you have a great visionary leader in Shad Khan. As a mayor, it’s my top priority. I believe in Downtown, and there’s a drive to make sure we have the best Downtown. I think that’s what’s going to happen.”

The mayor also has noted that the city will conduct a process following the law, which requires the city to advertise for other proposals for at least 30 days if the City moves forward.

By Greg Walsh

Resident Community News

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(Photo credit: Populous)

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