Southbank developers still working toward property purchase

Perhaps it was too much financial wrangling, a proposed appointment of a special City Council oversight committee, taxpayers voicing reluctance to “hold the note,” or a less than enthusiastic approval by the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) that caused Elements Jacksonville to back out of their proposed plan to involve the City of Jacksonville in the mixed-use project called The District.

Regardless of the funding, plans are still underway, and have not been altered for the proposed 285,000 square feet of retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space, over 1,500 apartments/condominiums, and a hotel. Elements had announced in November 2017 that Marriott would put a 200-room AC Hotel on the site.

In a board meeting Jan. 10, DIA CEO Aundra Wallace noted the DIA has set aside more than $5 million over the past three fiscal years toward the project. He proposed to use $1.86 million to purchase the property – formerly the Jacksonville Energy Authority’s Southside Generating Station, and nearly $3.5 million toward public infrastructure costs.

DIA board members did approve the deal, but not without concerns voiced by three members and by two public commenters, Jimmy Hill and Billie Tucker. Hill’s argument was the project should stand on its own so that the City could invest in the Northbank. Tucker, a Southbank resident, had an issue with Rummell’s seat on the board of directors at Haskell, which provided the cost estimate for public infrastructure development.

Although the developers of The District are again back to seeking investors for the purchase of Southbank property, Peter Rummell and Michael Munz said they have made progress on other aspects of the $433 million project, which they describe as a “new market” for downtown Jacksonville.

“While we have been working diligently on the regulatory and approval processes, we have also been working with and negotiating with investors, developers and advisors to create this new market,” said Munz in an email last December to Downtown Investment Authority board members, attempting to justify a financial deal structure with the DIA and the City of Jacksonville.

In that email to the DIA board Munz also included an “alphabet soup” list of items the firm has been working on since 2014, when the Jacksonville Energy Authority accepted its $18.6 million bid to purchase 30 acres of Southbank property adjacent to Duval County Public Schools property.

Elements’ to-do list includes master planning and market studies; amending the DRI (Development of Regional Impact) process to include an NOPC (Notice of Proposed Change); obtaining approval for a marina; pad solicitations, design and planning; PSA (Purchase and Sale Agreement) and LOI (Letter of Intent) negotiations; horizontal site work planning, including budgets and timelines; BRSA (Brownfields Site Rehabilitation Agreement) and work with the Federal Department of Environmental Protection on closure of areas of concern and obtaining certifications; master developer negotiations, and City of Jacksonville Redevelopment Agreement negotiations.

According to Munz, that list of work has cost Elements at least $2 million, not including a $250,000 deposit paid to JEA to be used toward the purchase of the property, which has a July 16, 2018 closing date.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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