Continuing the recent good news, another critical step for revitalizing downtown Jacksonville began falling into place this week.
The Downtown Investment Authority made a wise decision in selecting Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan as the master developer for The Shipyards and Metropolitan Park.
Those 70 acres of city-owned riverfront property have sat as a frustrating reminder of unfulfilled potential for more than two decades.
In picking Khan, the DIA chose a developer who has the boldness, vision and financial wherewithal to make it happen.
Past plans have fallen through for various reasons. Khan brings a track record of getting things done.
The details of the project will be hashed out during negotiations over the next several months.
The required public investment in the project and how the city would pay for it will become clearer then.
On the other side of the ledger, Khan’s proposal includes more than $500 million in private investment.
With this step, it’s easier now to see the Jacksonville downtown of the future, a future than will begin emerging not years from now but soon.
Khan will start with a five-star hotel, residences and office, retail and restaurant space in Metropolitan Park, adding greatly to what’s fast developing into a complete entertainment district.
To make up for the loss of Metropolitan Park, another park will be built on the part of The Shipyards where Hogans Creek meets the St. Johns River.
That will move the park closer to the flow of downtown, and residences will be put on the parcel west of the park.
Marinas, additional residences, office space, restaurants, public open space and an extended riverwalk are all in the plans.
But it’s not only The Shipyards and Metropolitan Park where the downtown of the future is becoming clearer.
The Laura Street Trio and the nearby Barnett building — often described as the city’s most valuable historic buildings — that have sat vacant for years also have a shot at new life.
Last February, the DIA set in motion redevelopment plans for the buildings when it entered into a financial partnership with The Molasky Group of Las Vegas and Southeast Group of Jacksonville.
The Molasky Group adds the financial capability to back the $79 million, long-talked-about project, which will bring more residential, office and commercial space to downtown in the restored buildings.
While it will take some time to get that project and Khan’s underway, the reality of the future downtown could begin appearing sooner on the other side of the river.
Peter Rummell’s 30-acre mixed use development on the Southbank, known as the District, which also will include public open space and an extension of the riverwalk there, is almost ready to go.
With a lot happening, the DIA deserves credit for moving downtown forward. It’s taken awhile, but the authority is now rolling.
The fact that there were three solid bids for The Shipyards and Metropolitan Park shows there is renewed interest in downtown. And in selecting Khan, the DIA was thoughtful and thorough.
While another bidder brought similar ideas for attractions and development, Khan’s financial strength was clearly an advantage.
And a third proposal was unique in that it would have created a “jobs factory” that would encourage and help bring the ideas of innovators to fruition.
That’s something that Jacksonville needs, DIA CEO Aundra Wallace said this week, but 70 acres of riverfront property wasn’t the right place for it.
Wallace said he will continue meeting with that group to see if other property in downtown would be suitable.
That certainly would be an asset not only for the community but also for a thriving downtown in the future that now seems in better focus than ever before.
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