DIA stamps approval on major Southbank development

Healthy Town opens naming opportunity following announcement

HealthyTown_Renderings-2The vision of a San Marco-based development team to “create a place where you can live healthily,” is a large step closer to becoming a reality.

On August 26, the Downtown Investment Authority approved a resolution that clears the way for Elements Development of Jacksonville LLC, a partnership between Peter Rummell and Mike Balanky, to build the future Southbank development currently known as Healthy Town.

The 29-acre parcel, a former brownfield site owned by JEA, is now poised to house a precedent-setting development on the Southbank, which is unique in its nature and unlike anything currently in existence. The property sits adjacent to the Duval County School Board building on Prudential Drive and incorporates approximately 2,000 feet of St. Johns River frontage.

DIA’s approval means that Rummell and Balanky have 24 months to negotiate a development agreement with the city.

The Healthy Town property formerly housed JEA’s Southside Generating Station from 1947 to 2001. JEA spent more than $28 million to clean up and remediate the soil over the years to mitigate concern over environmental contaminants while preparing the site for sale.

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Elements Development offered JEA slightly less than $18.6 million for the property in early 2015. The development firm is set to close the deal in early 2016, said Michael Munz, of San Marco, a spokesperson for Elements Development.

JEA had given the developers a year to do due diligence, which ends in February 2016, but they had the option to extend the due diligence period 45 days under certain conditions, according to JEA spokesperson Gerri Boyce.

On August 26, Elements Development released renderings of the master site plan for the urban resort and asked the public to engage in a naming contest for the new mixed-use development.

“The site plan and design that we have been working on for the past several months brings to life the vision and concept of Healthy Town and we invite the community to suggest names as a way of making this a true community partnership,” said Balanky.

Guiding principles

Rummell, who has also designed two other specialty communities in Florida, Celebration near Orlando and WaterColor, a beachside development on the Panhandle, intends to make Healthy Town a “cutting-edge living environment with all the elements, facilities, amenities and resources necessary to promote the optimal health of the people who live and visit there.”

At a cost of $400 to $500 million, the development will feature three phases including a total of 1,170 homes for rent or sale, 200 hotel rooms, 288,500 square feet of commercial/retail space and 200,000 square feet of office space. The architecture will be an eclectic mix of complementary styles.

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Phase I will include 500 residential units, 200 hotel rooms, 94,400 square feet of commercial/retail space and 200,000 square feet of office space. Phase II will include 200 residential units and 100,000 square feet of commercial/ retail space, and in Phase III, 470 residential units and 94,100 square feet of commercial/retail will be built. It will take 15 months to build out the first phase.

“Places in which people live, work and play affect their mental and physical well-being,” Rummell said. “When a community is designed to go beyond the requisite bike paths and fitness centers and instead integrate the natural and virtual environments with a focus on design to support healthy living, positive results are sure to emerge – for both the individual and the development in general,” he said.

The new development will be designed around eight guiding principles to promote its performance and livability including Unintentional Exercise, Gen H, Life’s Assets, Base Camp, Marina, Urban Connection, Waterfront Engagement and Non-Gated community, he said.

In Rummell’s vision, Healthy Town will be a place where stairs will be more prominent than elevators to promote unintentional exercise and cross-generational activities will promote happy, interesting and healthy lives. To the developers, Gen H means Generation Health, and they plan to market the community to people not defined by age, but who share the belief that healthy living leads to a productive life.

Healthy Town will be a planned community, where the core focus will be mind, body, soul and the social aspects of one’s life, all of which the developers consider “life’s assets.” Included in the plan will be a “base camp,” which the developers call a virtual “concierge on steroids.” It will serve as an alternative to the traditional clubhouse and as a community focal point where “hardware and software” integrate harmoniously.

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Healthy Town intends to take full advantage of its riverfront location. Within the plans is a marina. The proposed dock area will include public and private access to the St. Johns River and feature 125 boat slips as well as a water taxi stop, enabling patrons to have transportation to and from river venues throughout the downtown area.

Rentals will be available for boating, jet skiing, sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding in the marina. The new waterfront area, combined with the city’s recent $17 million renovation to the Southbank Riverwalk, will make the community a “recreational haven,” said the developers. In order to make the marina a reality, the developers will need to go through an additional regulatory approval process.

The Southbank Riverwalk, which currently ends at the Healthy Town property, will be extended across and around the 29-acre site, allowing nature trails and walking paths to circumnavigate the entire project.

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Rummell and Balansky plan for the non-gated community to include the “coolest” riverfront restaurants and bars in northeast Florida. Also in the plans are several acres of public park space with an emphasis on a riverfront park. The new community will be completely pedestrian, bike and dog friendly for all to enjoy, they said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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