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JEA Land Swap Could Revitalize Area Near Duval Courthouse

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Jacksonville’s public utility, JEA, wants to build a new headquarters downtown, and it’s working with the city to pave the way.

The Jaxson co-founder Ennis Davis says it would be the Northbank’s first new skyscraper in more than a decade.

JEA is planning to build a new headquarters after a 2015 accounting found the cost of upgrading its outdated fire-protection, elevator and other systems would be greater than building a new structure altogether.

Now the utility is asking the city for a parking lot it owns at the corner of Adams and Julia streets, next to the Duval County Courthouse. In exchange, JEA would give up its current headquarters, which the city could sell as is or demolish and use as it sees fit.

Davis says developers may be interested in the 19-story tower on Church Street because of its potential for mixed uses and its historical significance. It was built in the 1962 as the Downtown Center, and it was once home to both a rotating restaurant on the roof and the iconic Ivey’s department store. It also has its own parking garage, a hot commodity in the urban core.

If the deal goes through, the proposed new headquarters would be the first new skyscraper built downtown north of the St. Johns River in 15 years. Davis says it would help revitalize an area with lots of empty retail space, as more than 800 JEA employees come to work each day.

The city has about two months to consider the deal.

Contact Jessica Palombo at 904-358-6315, jpalombo@wjct.org or on Twitter at @JessicaPubRadio.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP