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Aundra Wallace: A New Convention Center Would Spur Additional Growth

Kevin Meerschaert

Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace said building a new convention center, hotel and parking garage on the site of the old county courthouse and city hall annex should spark more entertainment development projects all the way to the sports complex.

Appearing Wednesday on WJCT’s First Coast Connect, Wallace talked about the numerous projects either proposed or already under construction to help revitalize the downtown area.

Earlier this month the DIA approved filing a Request for Proposals to see if there is a private company willing to invest in building convention center project that would have:

·         200,000 square feet of convention space.

·         A 40,000 square foot ballroom.

·         45 individual breakout rooms.

·         A 350 room hotel.

·         A parking garage featuring about 1700 spaces.

“One of the things that we are certainly looking at with the potential of a new convention center is being able to have connectivity to our present sports complex, which we are vastly working towards trying to have an entertainment district,” he said. “So when you bring those two pieces together it certainly gives the retail and nightlife component [to] customers.”

Wallace said when people attend conventions in different cities they want to know what entertainment options are available after the conventions close for the day.

Wallace said having a convention center in the urban core instead of at the Prime Osborn Center will help spur entertainment growth.     

Regarding The District - which is a residential, retail and hotel project proposed for the Southbank - Wallace said the developers, including Peter Rummell, will purchase the 30-acre site directly from JEA.   

Under their agreement with JEA, the developers have until July 16 to raise the $18.5 million needed to purchase the parcel.

If they want to seek any incentives from the city, they’ll return to the DIA and see if anything can be worked out, Wallace said.

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.