We've recently learned that the downtown campus the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), once gleefully proclaimed a Christmas present to JEA, is now viewed as a crumbling albatross. To rid itself of the imposing liability, the JEA is moving forward with study to determine if it should retrofit, move, or demolish and rebuild their 19-story downtown headquarters. If we view this situation outside of the JEA's perspective, the resolution becomes quite clear.
3. Build a replacement on another site
Could this end up being an opportunity to enhance another underutilized block of downtown Jacksonville?
Going back to Option 2, the JEA relocating and returning the old mixed-use urban retail complex back to the tax rolls in the heart of the Northbank isn't a bad outcome. It's not unrealistic to assume that the JEA may be in need of operational improvements that will help it efficiently run for the next 20-30 years. Given the amount of dead zones, surface parking lots and underutilized public property, it also would not hurt to see a new development rise in the heart of the city.
Despite not having enough spaces for JEA's needs, a structurally sound +500 space parking garage with potentially 25,000 square feet of big box retail space at a key Northbank intersection is an amenity worth utilizing.
Last, if the JEA is going to end up spending $40 to $50 million regardless of the option selected, they might as well spend it on the one that is most suitable for their needs and downtown's as a whole.
Spending a lot of cash isn't required to see how things could play out in a manner that best benefits both the JEA and downtown's Northbank. Go ahead and reserve the cranes. If we're lucky, perhaps something within walking distance of an existing Skyway station can be found. We might as well kill two birds with one stone by sending a few extra riders the Skyway's way!
One of several underutilized areas of downtown, adjacent to the Skyway.
Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at firstname.lastname@example.org