DIA Committee Discusses Proposed Plans For Demolished Buildings, Cathedral District

Feb 26, 2019

The Jacksonville Downtown Investment Authority is recommending the city scrap the unsolicited ‘Riverwalk Place’ proposal and instead seek a variety of redevelopment proposals for the recently demolished courthouse and City Hall annex sites.

DIA’s Strategic Implementation Committee met Tuesday to weigh in on the proposed plans the old City Hall annex and courthouse that cost $8 million to teardown, as well as the Cathedral District Master plan, before a March 20th full board meeting.

Related: Company Protest Bid To Demolish Old Courthouse and Annex

DIA interim CEO Brian Hughes stressed the significance of the decision.

“How we develop along the riverfront is really going to define generations of this urban core, this downtown that we have,” Hughes said. “And that’s important to everyone in Jacksonville.”

Hughes and the rest of the committee expressed a desire for mixed-use development.

The committee wanted to forgo the Riverwalk Place bid, which would include a five-story, 347-unit residential complex; a nine-story, 150-room limited-service hotel; 10,000 square feet for multiple restaurants; and a six-and-a-half story, 468-space parking garage.

Related: ‘Riverwalk Place’ Would Bring Housing, Hotel, Restaurants to Bay Street

Board members were concerned going forward with this proposal would mean that DIA and the City would be going into negotiations without considering other options that exist in the marketplace.

The committee unanimously decided to recommend issuing a Notice of Disposition, allowing companies to submit proposals with the expectation that the DIA would choose one of them. Board members also insisted on hiring a consultant.  

“The consultant would give us the direction we need,” said board member Ron Moody. “The consultants are national retail companies, so they’ll be able to reach out to a lot of investors and developers.

If the full board gives the green light in March, the DIA would hire a consultant within about two months and develop a plan in four to six months.

Hughes said the plans that end up being submitted will likely be for mixed-use developments.

“Those things include the right balance of residential, office, retail, entertainment, nightlife, restaurants. How do we blend all of those needs and how do we activate our riverfront, which is this great asset for people to come to downtown,” he said.     

As for the Cathedral District Master Plan, the committee is recommending taking the best parts of that plan and incorporating it into Jacksonville’s five year Business Investment and Development Plan (BID Plan) for downtown.

In November of 2018, the DIA committee got a presentation on the Cathedral District Master Plan, which proposes to redevelopment the 17-block neighborhood in Jacksonville’s downtown that is known as the Cathedral District.

“Rather than simply saying that Master Plan is everything we support, we get to pick from it the things that are most applicable to the work of DIA,” said Hughes. There are policy discussions in that Master Plan that go beyond the boundaries of what DIA is really expected to work on.”

The other options on the table were to take no action, adopt the Master Plan, and incorporate all of the plan into the city’s bid plan.

The recommendations for the former courthouse and the City Hall annex sites, as well as the Cathedral District, are slated to go in front of the Downtown Investment Authority Board for final approval next month.