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Finally, Progress in Jacksonville’s Downtown Developments

Floridatrend.com | By Mike Vogel

Two projects may create momentum behind redeveloping the city’s long-moribund downtown.

After years of wishful thinking about redeveloping downtown, Jacksonville should see separate projects next year by Florida development legend Peter Rummell and Jaguars owner Shad Khan finally turn some earth.

Khan’s first project will be the $2.5-billion “Lot J” outside the TIAA Bank Field gates. It will encompass 4.25 million square feet of dining, entertainment, retail, office, hotels and luxury residential.

This year, Khan brought in as his development partner Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., a family-owned firm known for its sportsanchored, mixed-use projects in partnership with the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Flyers, Texas Rangers and others. Cordish has the development expertise the Jaguars and Khan lack, though Khan will take an active role in the design and decisions on enhancing the guest experience.

Khan “views it as critically important to the city of Jacksonville reaching its full potential and a very important component of his commitment to deliver a financially stable NFL franchise in Northeast Florida,” says Jaguars President Mark Lamping.

Another Khan project — the Shipyards along the city’s riverfront — can’t begin construction until at least 2021 when work on tearing down the Hart Expressway near the stadium has progressed sufficiently to open the area to development. Khan won the master development rights in 2017 for the 70-acre site south of the football stadium. Khan’s Iguana Investments in August presented its plans for the Shipyards first phase: A 490,000-sq.-ft. convention center and 350-room convention hotel developed in partnership with DeBartolo Development and Rimrock Devlin Development. “Both Cordish and DeBartolo shared some traits which we thought were very important,” Lamping says. “One is their experience. No. 2 is their commitment to doing projects that can transform communities, and finally they’re both very financially strong companies.”

Khan, in a news release, said, the “proposal represents the first step in delivering the vision we first shared three years ago for the rebirth of downtown Jacksonville. We’re doing big things in Jacksonville, and this plan with DeBartolo and Rimrock is our boldest plan to date.”

Meanwhile, Rummell and business partner Michael Munz in July closed on the 30 acres acquired from the JEA for their project, The District. Plans call for 1,170 residential units, including apartments, 200 hotel rooms, 288,500 square feet of commercial/retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space and a 125-slip marina.

The 72-year-old Rummell made his name with Arvida, Disney and as CEO of St. Joe Co. — the developer of Watercolor. He grew interested in recent years in the riverfront site that once housed a JEA generating plant and in the idea of combining multigenerational living — he has said he couldn’t abide living with just people his own age himself — and healthy living as a focus.

“Everyone’s trying to figure out exactly what” healthy living means, he says. “It has to be there and it has to be available, but it can’t be so overbearing that the place becomes weird. You can’t be afraid to have a glass of wine. You can’t be afraid your neighbor is going to see you having a French fry.”

He’s formed relationships with Jacksonville University and the American Heart Association to help in the planning. Rummell and Munz have brought in as development partner Palm Beach Gardens-based Kitson & Partners, on whose advisory board Rummell sits. Kitson is best known for the Babcock Ranch residential project near Fort Myers.

“I’ve only been here 20 years, but there’s an energy level I haven’t seen before,” Rummell says. “In the real estate business, nothing is harder to get and easier to lose than momentum. Once you have it, it’s an elusive thing. You can’t take it for granted. I don’t want to lose it — for Jacksonville’s sake.”