Jacksonville mayor taps brakes on drive to build a downtown convention center

Mayor Lenny Curry wants the city's Downtown Investment Authority to focus first on bringing more amenities and hotel space to the city's central business district

Nov.November 18, 2018 02:50 PM

Rendering of convention center complex in downtown Jacksonville proposed by a company controlled by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Kahn and Rimrock Devlin DeBartolo Development LLC.

The city’s mayor is questioning the cost and timing of a plan to build a new convention center in downtown Jacksonville.

About two months ago, Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) received bids after publishing a request for proposals to build a convention center, hotel and parking garage.

But in a Nov. 14 letter to the authority’s chairman, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said the DIA should focus first on developing more downtown amenities before advancing its plan for a new convention center.

In his letter, Curry cited a 2017 feasibility study that cast doubt on the feasibility of a new convention center in downtown Jacksonville.

The study suggested that Jacksonville has fewer downtown amenities and less hotel space than other cities in the Southeast that compete for conventions.

Curry warned in his letter that if Jacksonville “diverts … considerable resources away from other developments for a convention center, we will still be lacking the additional lifestyle and entertainment that ultimately would ensure its success.”

The DIA received three bids to build a complex with a convention center and hotel on the former site of the Duval County Courthouse and City Hall Annex. Demolition of the buildings is under way to clear the site for development.

One of the bidders is a partnership formed by Rimrock Devlin DeBartolo LLC and a company controlled by Shad Kahn, the owner of the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

Under the partnership’s proposal, the city’s financial obligation would be $936 million under a 30-year lease deal requiring annual payments of $31.2 million.

Jacobs Engineering Group submitted a bid that would require the city to cover the construction cost by making $1.2 billion of payments over 25 years.

A third bidder, Preston Hollow proposed a convention center with a price tag from $450 million to $460 million. Preston Hollow wants the city to provide about half of the funding for a new convention center. [Jacksonville Daily Record]Mike Seemuth


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