Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer disagrees with some of the comments made over the weekend in London by Jaguars owner Shad Khan.
In an interview with Jaguars.com Khan said, “This has been like a 50-year objective in Jacksonville to do something Downtown,” adding, “We are as anxious as anyone to break this curse and get something going.”
Khan was referring to breaking ground on his $450 million Lot J project, which he expects to happen by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
“Well, to say the least, I was disappointed in that. As a major investor in Downtown and an important player in the redevelopment of Downtown, I look for a positive, supportive attitude. And you know, that was a concern as it was expressed,” Boyer said Monday on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.
Boyer went on to say she thinks Khan’s project is “wonderful” and it’s “a great project in concept.” But she also expressed concern about Khan’s criticism of Jacksonville’s hotel industry.
Khan had said, “Right now, the decision-makers, the influencers want to come to Jacksonville for business and get the hell out of there. It’s bad for the image, and it’s bad for business,” according WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union, which was present for the same media interview.
Khan then relayed a story of an unidentified executive, who he said left Jacksonville unsatisfied with his Jacksonville hotel accommodations.
As part of the Lot J development Khan said he “would like to envision a Four Seasons,” the Times-Union quoted the Jaguars owner as saying.
Boyer defended Jacksonville's existing hotel industry.
“I think we have some very nice hotels Downtown. So I’m not nearly as critical of what we have available," she said.
However, Boyer conceded Downtown Jacksonville does have some hotel occupancy issues, admitting, “Clearly we don’t have a Four Seasons or something of that type here.”
Boyer addressed a wide range of Downtown locations and projects on WJCT's First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.
The Jacksonville Landing
Boyer said the demolition of the Jacksonville Landing is expected to be completed in the spring. She said between now and then, the old Landing study information is being reviewed. The DIA is looking at old design proposals to decide whether the city needs to hire a consultant to update the designs before putting out requests for proposals.
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She said the DIA is also looking at how to ensure whatever is developed at the Landing site has iconic architecture.
The Ford On Bay
Now that demolition of the old Duval County Courthouse and City Hall Annex has been completed, the question is what comes next.
The land has been given the working name of “The Ford On Bay,” with the site out for bid right now.
“We had over 130 re-marketing prospects,” Boyer said.
The question of adaptive reuse came up in regards to the Landing and the courthouse/annex sites, which were both targeted for demolition.
Boyer said she wasn’t seeing anyone come forward with any solid proposals to do adaptive reuse projects for either site, which in turn led to the city's decision to demolish the structures at both sites.
“If you have a vacant piece of land, you are much more likely to get interest and creative input on what can go there, than if you’re constraining someone to use an existing building," Boyer said.
New Restaurant Districts
Boyer said she’s working on what she describes as a "major initiative" to create two Downtown restaurant districts.
One would run from City Hall down to the Landing along Laura and Hogan streets.
The other one is aimed at the Downtown area known as The Elbow.
“I think that with some concentrated incentives focused on restaurants, bars, those types of facilities in that area, you can create a walkable corridor, and my goal is to have free parking at the Ed Ball Garage and the Yates Garage at night,” she said.
Boyer also addressed a variety of other topics, including a proposed 54-story Downtown mixed use tower, two-way streets Downtown, the First Baptist Church properties, bike lanes and the planned Emerald Trail pedestrian path. Listen to the full interview with Boyer here.