By: Mike Mendenhall
Jacksonville City Council approved a $3.5 million city-backed construction completion grant for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc.’s Brooklyn parking garage at 800 Forest St.
Council voted 18-0 to approve Ordinance 2020-0756 that appropriates the grant for the insurance company’s four-level, 869-space, 269,080-square-foot garage that’s now complete.
The grant is tied to Fidelity National Information Services Inc.’s $156 million, 12-story headquarters under construction at 347 Riverside Ave.
The Downtown Investment Authority offered Florida Blue the taxpayer incentive and the city-owned Forest Street property so that the insurer could make its former 4½-acre riverfront surface lot available for the FIS project.
Danis Builders LLC broke ground on Florida Blue’s $225 million garage in January 2020.
The city transferred ownership of the Forest Street property valued at $3.17 million to the insurer on Feb. 14. It was formerly a water retention pond.
The parking garage serves workers at the 532 Riverside Ave. tower occupied by Guidewell Inc., the parent company of Florida Blue.
In agreement with the city, Florida Blue will make parking spots available to the public after 6 p.m. weeknights and all day on weekends.
However, DIA officials told the Council Finance Committee last week the authority would try to negotiate expanded public access to include weekday daytime hours.
DIA staff said that might be possible because some Guidewell and Florida Blue personnel are working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The garage was designed to retrofit some of the ground-floor space into 60-foot-deep retail bays, but there is no timeline for that.
Roadwork and FIS
A city Public Works Department’s road realignment project at Forest Street, Riverside Avenue and the Alfred DuPont Place intersection, also linked to the FIS headquarters construction, is moving forward.
The city filed plans in December for the street realignment to “provide better safety and drainage improvements in the area,” according to February 2020 Council legislation tied to the project.
The realignment also is designed to improve pedestrian access to the FIS headquarters and the Sidney J. Gefen Riverwalk Park. It will realign Forest Street with Alfred DuPont Place.
England-Thims & Miller Inc. is the engineering firm listed on the plans.
Council voted 19-0 on April 14 to approve Ordinance 2020-0142, which pays FIS $2.015 million to complete the intersection work on behalf of the city.
If the project costs more than $2 million, FIS will pay the overage, according to the ordinance.