By: Mike Mendenhall
Before a Downtown Investment Authority committee voted 5-0 Nov. 12 to advance a $12.5 million tax incentive for Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s Lot J development, team President Mark Lamping announced Khan’s plan to build and own a Four Seasons hotel at what is now Metropolitan Park in Downtown Jacksonville.
Lamping’s pitch came as the Downtown Investment Authority considers the 20-year Recapture Enhanced Value Grant and development rights for the $450 Lot J mixed-use project west of TIAA Bank Field.
In his presentation to the DIA committee, Lamping characterized the REV Grant’s approval and the full $233 million city investment proposal in Lot J before City Council as integral to reducing future requests for public dollars at the Shipyards along the St. Johns River.
“Lot J primes the pump,” Lamping said. “These additional developments come along and the necessity to have a public investment along with that reduces significantly. What is necessary to make Lot J happen, and assuming it does happen, that sets the stage for this first phase.
“The public involvement will be significantly less, both from a dollar standpoint and from a percentage of project standpoint because of Lot J,” Lamping said.
Lot J is a partnership between Khan development company Gecko Investments LLC, Baltimore-based The Cordish Companies and the city.
Lamping introduced a two-phase plan for the Shipyards and Metropolitan Park site.
In addition to a 116,000-square-foot hotel and 91,500 square feet of residential space, both under the Four Seasons brand, Khan wants to build a 50,000-square-foot orthopedic medical center and a 500-space “low profile” parking garage with a rooftop green space.
Lamping said the residential would include 20 to 30 for-sale units.
The hotel footprint includes:
• A 10,000-square-foot spa.
•11,000 square feet of food and beverage space.
• 8,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space facing the Jacksonville Riverwalk.
• 10,000 square feet of event space.
The project map that was part of Lamping’s presentation shows the Four Seasons hotel south of Lot J on what is now Metropolitan Park.
Phase II shows two 200-unit for-rent Parkside Residences; 200,000 square feet of office space; 50,000 square feet of retail; and 1,800 parking spaces.
The development does not include a convention center that had been a part of previous iterations of Khan’s vision for the property.
Unlike Lot J, Lamping said Khan would be the sole developer and retain ownership of the Four Seasons.
“We don’t have a development partner. It’s just Shad,” Lamping said. “Shad is ready to go as soon as we have the authority to go. So, literally, we would start as soon as we have the legal ability to start. In fact, this could conceivably be coming up at the same time as Lot J.”
If built, it would be the second Four Seasons ownership for Khan. He purchased the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto in 2016 for $225 million Canadian dollars.
Lamping said the medical center’s orthopedic focus is related to the Jaguars’ needs as an NFL team.
But Khan hopes to tap into Jacksonville’s medical market bolstered by the reputations of Mayo Clinic, Baptist Health, UF Health Jacksonville and other health systems.
Lamping said some hotel rooms could cater to patients and their families.
“Given the significant and high-quality medical infrastructure that we have here in Jacksonville, we think there is a significant opportunity if we have the facilities to really be able to focus on medical tourism,” Lamping said. “There are people who come into Jacksonville from all over the world for care at any number of our outstanding facilities here.”
The plan also would extend the Downtown Northbank Riverwalk to the Shipyards development and include more than 24 acres of public park space.
For Khan to use the Metropolitan Park property for development, the city must first get permission.
The DIA is waiting for the National Park Service to decide if the city can swap Metropolitan Park for Shipyards property to satisfy the requirements of a 1981 grant agreement that prohibits selling the 24.7-acre park without a comparable replacement.
To the west of the Parkside Residences, the map shows three empty parcels for the proposed Metropolitan Park replacement. The Museum of Science & History has said it plans to move to that area.
There is additional park space at the east end of the development.
Carlucci, DIA and the REV grant
The REV grant approved by the Strategic Implementation Committee on Nov. 12 still needs full DIA board approval when it meets Nov. 18 and by Council as part of the Lot J agreement.
The legislation introduced to Council by Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration includes several ordinance code waivers that give the DIA a more limited role in Lot J’s approval than in past Downtown development projects.
The bill waives a rule that requires the city and DIA to calculate the amount and maximum term of the REV grant, according to a DIA staff report.
The proposed waiver allows the DIA to vote on the REV grant without knowing the total development cost of Lot J’s residential component, Cordish and Gecko’s exact investment in the residential units.
Council Finance Committee Matt Carlucci said he fears that could add to public concern that the project is lacking full transparency and oversight.
Carlucci said he intends to introduce an amendment to the bill Nov. 19 to strike the waivers when the Council Committee of the Whole reconvenes to debate the bill.
“They’ve (DIA board) been waived out by the administration’s Lot J bill but I’m waiving them back in,” Carlucci said in an interview Nov. 12.
The legislation also delegates full approval of the development agreement to the Council, a task that typically involves the DIA.
DIA board member Jim Citrano Jr. questioned DIA CEO Lori Boyer on Nov. 12 about the rush to approve the REV grant.
“If it does meet all the development goals we have set, why wouldn’t we simply wait until it’s a little bit further along?” he said.
Boyer agreed that Lot J’s progress is in an earlier stage than other projects that have come to DIA requesting a tax incentive. She deferred to the waivers in the bill that allow the vote.
“The DIA was put together with a singular mission to spur economic development Downtown and review economic agreements and they have been cut out of this process with this deal. They are as close to an independent eye as we have here in Jacksonville,” Carlucci said. “Cutting them out of the process is wrong.”
Managing Editor Monty Zickuhr contributed to this report.