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Landmark downtown restaurant River City Brewing could make way for apartment building

The conversion of the property would involve a three-way deal involving the city, Maritime Concepts, which has a long-term lease on the land, and a developer.
Credit: Emily Barnes/Florida Times-Union
River City Brewing Co. has been serving diners on the Southbank for decades. The restaurant could be torn down as part of a redevelopment proposal for an eight-story apartment building on the site.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The River City Brewing Co. restaurant that's been serving seafood and steak at tables overlooking the St. Johns River for decades could make way for a new apartment building on the Southbank next to Friendship Foundation and the Acosta Bridge.

The conversion of the property would involve a three-way deal involving the city, which owns the land, along with Maritime Concepts, which has a long-term lease with the city for the land, and a developer that wants to build an eight-story apartment building on the site.

If the redevelopment happens, it would result in the demolition of the two-level, 325-seat restaurant that's been part of the riverfront since the 1980s when it first opened as Harbormasters.

The restaurant's large windows face the river, giving diners a view of the Northbank downtown skyline whose lights reflect off the water at night.

Over the years, its loyal customers have included former Mayor Jake Godbold who had a special table waiting for him when he went there for lunch up until his death in January.

Credit: Bob Self/Florida Times-Union
The late Jake Godbold was a regular at River City Brewing Co.

The Downtown Investment Authority's Strategic Implementation Committee will take up the potential deal at its Oct. 9 meeting, according to the meeting agenda released Thursday by DIA.

Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer said she supports the proposal. The residential building would have around 325 apartments.

"Our goal has been to get more residents downtown and in doing that, we're getting closer and closer to having this critical mass of this urban lifestyle," she said. "This would just be one more addition on the landscape that would help fulfill that goal."

She said restaurants are important for an active riverfront, so if River City Brewing is torn down, the city will look at other options "in the immediate vicinity" for restaurant sites.

Maritime Concepts has a long-term ground lease that runs through 2097. "They really have site control for 77 years," Boyer said.

She said the developer has been negotiating with Maritime to buy out that lease, which in turn would allow the developer to put in an offer for the property.

"They're coming to the table with a proposal, and we're responding to the proposal," Boyer said.

Credit: The Florida Times-Union
Part of River City Brewing Company's appeal is its closeness to the St. Johns River as this 1994 file photo shows. The owner of the restaurant also owns the marina next to the restaurant.

Maritime Concepts also owns the River City Marina that Hurricane Irma damaged in 2017.

Boyer said the proposed redevelopment would reconstruct the marina. The city would continue to have a boat ramp at the site. Boyer said the proposal would build a store by the ramp where boaters can stock up on items such as ice for their excursions.

The city-owned property covers about 3.4 acres valued by the Duval County Property Appraiser's office at $4.9 million. In addition to the restaurant, a parking lot is on the land.

Boyer said the proposed site plan would leave the city with some of the land covered by the ground lease, which the city would use to expand St. Johns River Park, whose centerpiece is Friendship Fountain.

She said the design of the proposed apartment building would not affect sight-lines to the river for the neighboring Museum of Science & History's planned expansion of its campus.

If an apartment building does go up on the site, it would join the Southbank Apartments by Ventures being built on the other side of the Acosta Bridge. Southbank Apartments will have 185 units.

Read the original version of this story from our news partners, the Florida Times-Union.

Credit: Emily Barnes/Florida Times-Union
River City Brewing Co., seen in this 2007 photo, is on the Southbank of Downtown.

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