5. Jacksonville 1-C Parcel One Holding Company: Jax Sports & Entertainment District, Lot J

The TIAA Bank Field parking lot identified by Jacksonville 1-C Parcel One Holding Company as a potential location for JEA’s corporate headquarters.

The final site under consideration by JEA is one that has been discussed the most in local media circles. In fact, many believe the fix is already in and that JEA’s move to Iguana’s long proposed Lot J development at TIAA Bank Field is almost guaranteed to happen. Through Iguana Investments Florida LLC, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and The Cordish Companies would like JEA to serve as its corporate anchor for their redevelopment plans around TIAA Bank Field and the Shipyards. Calling it a “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow downtown Jacksonville”, it is true that JEA’s move to the long discussed dreams around the Shipyards could finally help the long promised but delayed project get off the ground.

“As the anchor tenant for an entirely new development within the sports complex, JEA would pave the way for a true work-live-play urban destination,” his statement reads.

“The newly imagined Shipyards is currently planned to feature access to residential, retail, hotel and entertainment options, which all play an essential role in recruiting and retaining top businesses and talent to downtown Jacksonville.

“With JEA establishing a presence, the potential upside to Lot J is amplified by the timing and implementation of other significant upgrades in the area, including the elevated lane removal and the vision the City of Jacksonville has set in motion to improve connectivity to the river and foster development south of Bay Street”

Statement by Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping

If selected by JEA, the new corporate headquarters would be constructed as a Southpoint office park style building near Veterans Memorial Wall in TIAA Bank Field’s Lot J parking lot. In addition, a parking garage would be needed to replace existing surface parking. With JEA and an additional $50 million to remove the Hart Bridge ramps, it is believed that these public expenditures would help pave the way for the future redevelopment of the Sports & Entertainment District into a true work, live and play destination over the next decade.

While the community certainly would like to see the successful redevelopment of the Shipyards and Lot J happen, JEA as a tenant would be a troubling turn of events for downtown as a whole. From an urban revitalization perspective, JEA relocating from downtown to help Lot J finally get off the ground would be the quintessential definition of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Under this scenario, there should be significant concerns that Lot J and the Shipyards could actually become a significant stumbling block to the development of a walkable downtown district in the short term. Located a mile away from the core and without an existing high frequency transit connection (no, we’re not holding our breath for the U2C to be extended to the Sports & Entertainment District any time soon), downtown business owners would have to suffer the immediate impact of losing 836 workers they currently rely on for survival with no plans on the horizon for that number of downtown employees to be replaced.

Then last but not least, there’s the resiliency concern of relocating a public utility’s corporate headquarters from higher ground into an area more prone to flooding during hurricanes and tropical storms. Maybe it’s time to ask what would it take to get Flex-N-Gate to serve as the anchor tenant, enabling Lot J to get off the ground without having to poach hundreds of employees from the core with the assistance of public subsidies? In that scenario, Lot J, downtown and Jacksonville all win.

Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com