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Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority Approves Shipyards Redevelopment Plan

Iguana Investments
Iguana Investments rendering of proposed shipyards project.

Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority moved forward with a plan to redevelop 70 acres of riverfront property downtown.

Officials gave the green light Tuesday to a proposal by Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s investment firm Iguana Investments.

The proposal wasn't the only one to include a mixed-use residential and entertainment district, but investment authority CEO Aundra Wallace said it was the only group  that could get it done fast.

“There are quite a lot of similarities between the actual proposals themselves, but it always comes down to who has the pockets to actually get the project done and who has the various different experiences of some of the elements of what’s actually being proposed,” he said. “That is how things actually weighed out.”

The Iguana proposal scored a full 20 points higher than its closest competitor on DIA’s rubric, which assigns point values in three categories: the proposal team’s qualifications, its redevelopment vision and financial capacity. Second place was a Persidium Group plan to build a fine art museum, aquarium and 1,000 foot observation deck, along with retail and residential space.

A Wess Holdings plan to create an innovation district, which would act as a “jobs factory,” combining some retail space with a tech startup hub, came in third.

DIA board members decided Persidium’s idea wouldn’t contribute as much to the local economy as Iguana’s, which is slated to cost a total of $500 million, and the innovation district idea didn't seem as clearly conceived.

But some board members also expressed apprehension about the Iguana proposal calling for sweeping exemptions to city planning laws and moving Metropolitan Park to the west, using its current location for a luxury hotel.

Jaguars President Mark Lamping, representing Iguana Investments, said it’s all up for negotiation.

“There’s going to be a dialogue and there’s going to be a lot of give and take from where we are today. It’s just the next step we took today. It’s not the final step by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

Iguana Investments and city officials will now begin an 18-month process that includes another investment authority vote and final city council approval.

The hope is the project could be approved, built and open around 2020.

Listen to this story on Redux

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.