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Shad Khan's Company Unveils Riverfront Convention Center, Hotel Plans

Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s investment company is submitting plans for a downtown riverfront convention center and hotel.

Iguana Investments is proposing the project along with the DeBartolo Development Company and Rimrock Devlin Development

Iguana Investments has submitted the plans to the Jacksonville Downtown Investment Authority and released a series of renderings.

“Today’s proposal represents the first step in delivering the vision we first shared three years ago for the rebirth of downtown Jacksonville,” said Khan in a news release emailed to WJCT News. 

“The Shipyards is the optimal and obvious site for a new Jacksonville convention center.  First, you have the prime riverfront access and the sense of being a true destination that only the Shipyards can offer.  Then, you have the synergies with the existing sports venues plus the anticipated mixed-use development planned for Lot J.  We’re doing big things in Jacksonville and this plan with DeBartolo and Rimrock is our boldest plan to date,” Khan added.

The proposal includes a 490,000-square-foot state-of-the-art public convention center and a 350-room convention hotel with views of and access to the St. Johns River and public Riverwalk, according to Iguana Investments.

Jaguars President Mark Lamping spoke with reporters Thursday saying, “estimates are somewhere between $425 and $450 million in terms of this first phase of the Shipyards development.”

The convention center hotel would include a 200,000-square-foot multipurpose exhibit hall, a 40,000-square-foot ballroom with elevated views of the river and 45 breakout rooms.

A full-service hotel would connect to the convention space and offer additional ballroom and meeting space, a rooftop pool and ground floor retail and restaurant opportunities along Bay Street, according to the news release.

“We were naturally drawn to this opportunity because of the impact it will have on downtown Jacksonville, and it’s one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved with in my career. With the development team we have assembled, we have the leadership and resources to make this vision a reality,” said Edward Kobel, president and COO of DeBartolo Development Group. 

“Jacksonville is our home, and our goal has always been to be involved with, and contribute to, the transformation of downtown Jacksonville into a vibrant city core,” said Micah Linton and Wallace Devlin of Rimrock Devlin Development.

Competing Convention Center Sites

Thursday’s announcement comes on the heels of three companies' offering bids for a new downtown convention center a short distance away from the stadium at the site of the old Duval County Courthouse and former City Hall Annex.

Our Florida Times-Union news partner reports the three bids were just a starting point that would depend on getting a development deal and financing in place for a project the city’s own analysis said might not be justified yet. 

WJCT News reached out to Mayor Lenny Curry's office for comment to see if one location was preferred over the other. 

The mayor was unavailable but his Chief of Staff Brian Hughes said, "Obviously the ongoing development of downtown includes an important discussion of entertainment and convention facilities. DIA is in receipt of proposals and now there is an additional proposal that considers an alternate location. We look forward to continuing the discussions and seeing what best serves the plans to continue making downtown an economic hub that pushes job creation and economic growth for the entire city.” 

Future of Metropolitan Park

The DIA selected Iguana Investments in April 2017 as the master developer of the Jacksonville’s Shipyards and Metropolitan Park, a 70-acre stretch of riverfront property scross the street from TIAA Bank Field in downtown Jacksonville.   

In April 2018, at the Jaguars’ annual State of the Franchise meeting, the Jaguars and Iguana Investments unveiled a far-reaching development plan for the area around TIAA Bank Field that would turn it into an entertainment complex.

The Cordish Companies was selected for that project because of the developer’s track record in putting together downtown entertainment-themed districts, including some that are next to sports facilities.

Jaguars President Mark Lamping said in April that overall investment could total somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 Billion.

Removal Of Hart Bridge Ramps Figure Into Plans

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been supportive of Khan’s plans and has been working on securing the funding needed to begin demolishing part of the elevated downtown expressway system that connects the Hart Bridge to downtown.

The Jaguars have said demolishing the ramp system is a key component to realizing the full potential of the redevelopment plans.

Lamping reiterated that Thursday saying, "you will see construction on Lot J before you see construction on this [convention center] project. The reason for that is, is that the elevated lanes of the Hart Bridge do not conflict with our development on Lot J." 

Lamping also confirmed that he has had discussions with JEA about potentially relocating its headquarters to a new facility on what is currently the Lot J parking lot at the stadium complex.  “We know that they have office space needs. We also know that wherever they go they’re going to bring close to 850 employees,” said Lamping.

JEA's board was shown the proposal for a Lot J headquarters on Monday, according to our Florida Times-Union news partner.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.