JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Jacksonville developer Steve Atkins showed off his $1.1 billion plan for Riverfront Jacksonville that would bring 10 new buildings on a stretch of the Downtown Northbank that runs from where the Jacksonville Landing once stood all the way to vacant land where the old county courthouse was demolished.
The huge development would bring some features to Jacksonville for the first time such as underground parking garages that would contain vaults for collecting water run-off from storms.
In a flood event such as Hurricane Irma in 2017, the underground garages would be evacuated of vehicles and used entirely for holding floodwater until the threat passes and the water would be pumped out.
Atkins said he will seek to get a development agreement between the city and his firm Southeast Development Group on what would be the most expensive public-private partnership in city history.
The preliminary scope of financing would have the city shoulder $536 million of the cost for infrastructure, riverfront parks, the riverwalk, marina improvements and the proposal's Exhibition, Entertainment and Technology Center that Akins envisions rising up behind the Hyatt Regency Riverfront Hotel.
A key to Southeast Development's approach is it would have a master developer for parcels of city-owned land that the Downtown Investment Authority has been marketing separately up to this point.
"I'm a big believer in master plans and I think that the type of development that we need to see on the Northbank, particularly in what is essentially the face of Jacksonville, needs to be addressed in a master plan," Atkins said. "I think that's critical."
The $559 million in private investment would go toward constructing 10 buildings that would have hotel rooms, apartments, condominiums, commercial office, retail and entertainment space.
Atkins said Riverfront Jacksonville would set buildings back from the river so the development could incorporate green space for the public to enjoy being along the river while also bringing new construction into that area of Downtown.
"You need to marry that green space with the right comprehensive approach to private development because you want to program and activate that green space in a real way," he said.
The Downtown Investment Authority currently is doing a design competition for building park space at Riverfront Plaza, the new name of the site where the Landing was razed. DIA officials have said that after determining the layout of green space, they will then seek development proposals for the remaining land.
The DIA separately sought developers last year for the vacant land where the old City Hall Annex and former county courthouse used to stand along Bay Street.
The DIA board selected Spandrel Development Partners in February 2020 for those parcels. The selection has not resulted in a development agreement, however.
DIA CEO Lori Boyer said the agency remains in talks with Spandrel. The said the firm has proposed changes to their development plan that will "likely require a re-bid and we are in discussion with other prospective bidders as well."
Atkins has been involved in Downtown development with the restoration of the historic Barnett Bank tower and plans for doing the same with the Laura Street Trio.