7 Days & Waking Life: Downtown To Come

May 26, 2011 28 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Over the last week, a series of public announcements and events has come forth, that when combined and coordinated, could quickly breathe life into Downtown Jacksonville.

Downtown Locator Map

1. Mayor-Elect Alvin Brown Makes History (citywide)

Mayor-Elect Alvin Brown speaking at last month's Urban Core Candidate's Forum.

A week ago, Alvin Brown made national news by upsetting Mike Hogan to become the first Democratic since 1991, as well as African-American mayor in one of the most conservative big cities in America. A large chunk of Alvin Brown's support came from the urban core because of his commitment to reviving downtown.

What This Means For Downtown

For at least the next four years, downtown will have a mayoral administration that will place taking it (and the adjacent neighborhoods) to the next level as one of its highest priorities.

2. 2030 Mobility Plan Unanimously Adopted By Council

A streetcar at a transit-oriented development in urban Tampa.  The Mobility Plan will bring this mode of transportation to our urban core.

On Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved the 2030 Mobility Plan and Fee as a replacement to concurrency. This plan is intended to discourage the proliferation of suburban sprawl, promote dense infill development in the urban core, and establish a funding mechanism (without raising taxes) for future projects related to roadway, streetcar, commuter rail, pedestrian, and bicycle transit.

What This Means For Downtown

Jacksonville now has an official plan and funding mechanism in place to bring streetcars, and all the economic transit-oriented development benefits they stimulate, to the urban core, with downtown as the centerpiece.

3. Everbank to AT&T Building?

Everbank could potentially relocate their offices to the AT&T Building.
In a role reversal, Mayor John Peyton is attempting to leave office with a series of moves that will forever change the face and vitality of downtown.  One such is to provide incentives to lure financial powerhouse EverBank to relocate about 1,000 jobs from the suburbs to downtown.

What This Means For Downtown

“It is key. Bringing jobs and housing to downtown is essential to our post-recession recovery." - Mayor John Peyton.

1,000 additional jobs in the heart of downtown will result in a significant increase in business for existing downtown retailers, help drop downtown's high vacancy rate, add riders to the skyway, create more opportunities for downtown living and an environment for additional new infill supportive development and adaptive reuse projects.

4. The Landing's Parking Situation Resolved?

Resolving the parking situation at the Landing could attract additional retail, dining, and entertainment venues to the center.

The city would assist Parador Partners, LLC. in building a parking garage with at least 500 spaces to serve tenants of the SunTrust Tower.  The SunTrust building is the only Class A office tower in downtown that does not have any parking inventory within its control.  As a part of the deal, the garage would also include 200 short-term spaces for public use.

What This Means For Downtown

One of the largest-blighted surface parking lots in the heart of downtown would disappear and be replaced with new, street-level retail along three major streets.  In addition, if Toney Sleiman (Jacksonville Landing owner) is willing to play ball, this garage facility can be used to finally resolve the Landing's long-term parking dilemma. With dedicated parking in hand across the street from the Landing, Sleiman could finally move forward on living up to his promise to turn the Landing around and fill it with additional retail, dining, and entertainment venues.

5. Jacksonville Transportation Center Moving Forward

An aerial of the Jacksonville Transportation Center at buildout.

The city is proposing to donate city-owned land to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) for a new Greyhound bus terminal at the long-proposed Jacksonville Transportation Center (JTC). As a part of the deal, it must be completed within three years.

What This Means For Downtown

The city is finally putting some serious initiative into making the JTC a reality. In addition, the relocation of the bus terminal will present Jacksonville with an opportunity to adaptively reuse the existing facility with a use that can add to the vitality of the Northbank core.

Article By Ennis Davis.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. May 24, 2011 – Mayor John Peyton announced today a series of projects that signify positive momentum in Jacksonville’s downtown redevelopment efforts.  The proposals include the addition of quality jobs and potential relocation of employees into the downtown core by EverBank, the addition of parking capacity adjacent to the SunTrust building, and the conveyance of land to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority for a Regional Transportation Center. All three proposals are outlined in separate legislation that will be introduced to the Jacksonville City Council at its meeting tonight.  
EverBank announced today their intent to consider downtown Jacksonville as one of the sites for the consolidation and expansion of its operations. The proposed project would add 200 new, full-time jobs to the local market and the potential relocation of its Southside-based employees into the core city.  
For downtown Jacksonville to be considered as a viable location for the company’s expansion, the city is proposing the usage of the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund (QTI) program with a High-Impact Sector Bonus.  If approved, the city portion would total approximately $420,000.
The proposal also includes the potential relocation of EverBank’s employees from its Southside facilities into downtown. The agreement calls for the company to maintain a minimum of 1,000 jobs in the downtown core and an average of 1,350 employees between its downtown and Riverside Avenue headquarters locations during the initial five-year contract period.  
The total cost of relocation and expenses associated with the lease agreement during the initial five-year contract term are estimated at more than $26 million.  The city is proposing a grant of $2.75 million to partially offset the relocation expenses. This allocation would be funded primarily by the downtown economic development fund.
“EverBank is a terrific example of a home-grown, Jacksonville-headquartered company,” said Mayor Peyton. “Their organization continues to demonstrate its commitment to this community and a desire to be a leading corporate citizen as is evident by the fact that they are considering a relocation and expansion in downtown.”
Mayor Peyton added, “Along with the recent announcement by Wells Fargo that the organization will move its operations into the former Modis Building, we are seeing a growing corporate presence and forward momentum in downtown redevelopment efforts. These actions should serve as a catalyst for other companies that are considering an investment in downtown.”
In addition, the administration sponsored legislation to increase parking capacity in the urban core through an agreement with Parador Partners, LLC, owners of the SunTrust office building. The proposal outlines a reimbursement plan for Parador Partners in the event that the company privately funds and acquires the surface parking lot adjacent to the building and constructs a multi-story parking garage.
As part of the agreement, the company would construct a parking facility that will contain a minimum of 500 parking spaces to serve the needs of the tenants in the SunTrust building and surrounding offices and also dedicate 200 short-term parking spaces for the general public, including patrons of The Jacksonville Landing.
In return, once the structure is complete, the city will reimburse up to $3.5 million in construction costs. Currently, the SunTrust building is the only Class A office facility in downtown that does not have any parking inventory within its control.
Funding for this project will come from unspent downtown capital dollars previously dedicated to the renovation of Metropolitan Park. This agreement does not affect the city’s obligations under the current lease between the City of Jacksonville and The Jacksonville Landing (JLI). Should JLI ever meet their obligation with the city to construct an additional parking garage facility, funding is still appropriated to meet the city’s financial obligation.  
“Time and time again we have heard from downtown real estate professionals that the lack of parking is a hindrance to downtown’s competitiveness, resulting in high vacancy rates in our urban core,” said Mayor Peyton. “The proposed parking structure will add much needed parking capacity for the office buildings and will also benefit the many retail facilities in the area, including The Jacksonville Landing.”  
Another piece of legislation was also filed that proposes the donation of city land to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) for the development of a Regional Transportation Center (RTC). The RTC will link several existing and planned modes of public transit, including JTA fixed route and trolley services, existing Skyway, Bus Rapid Transit services and an intercity bus terminal including Greyhound service in Jacksonville. A significant first step in this effort is JTA’s intent to move forward with plans to relocate the Greyhound bus terminal out of the downtown core to the future RTC on the west end of downtown Jacksonville.
The City of Jacksonville had previously committed $5 million in the five-year Capital Improvement Plan toward the RTC development. In lieu of contributing cash, Ordinance 2011-361 proposes the donation of city land to JTA valued less than $5 million.  Part of the land – bounded by Adams, Johnson, Houston and Stuart streets – will house the relocated Greyhound terminal and the new intercity bus terminal. Under the terms of a letter of intent, Greyhound would lease a portion of the land and the remaining parcel will be used as leverage to provide funding for the bus terminal construction.
This ordinance provides that the bus terminal property will revert to the city if the bus terminal is not constructed within three years and the other parcels will revert to the city if they are not developed with RTC related uses within 10 years. Parcels currently used for Convention Center overflow parking will continue to be used by the city and the city will retain all parking revenues. Replacement parking will be provided by JTA when the parcels are ultimately developed.
“Along with the investments we have made to improve the city’s downtown public spaces, these announcements signify significant important steps and positive forward momentum in the redevelopment of downtown Jacksonville.  Combined, these projects will help bolster our urban core, enable our downtown to truly become the vibrant destination we can be proud of and help position the community for a post recession recovery,” said Mayor Peyton.
Source: City of Jacksonville