Jaguars unveil plan for transformation of Jacksonville site

The eagerly anticipated vision to transform the Shipyards riverfront downtown property into a vibrant entertainment and leisure district was presented by Jaguars owner, Shad Khan, and team president, Mark Lamping, on behalf of Iguana Investments, a new development entity created by Khan specifically for the Shipyards project.

The vision was presented at the Jaguars’ annual state of the franchise event, where updates involving the Jaguars were shared with City leaders and news media in attendance, and online with the public via live streaming.

The property, which encompasses approximately 48-acres of City-owned property on the north bank of the St. Johns River, is central to Khan’s long-stated vision to bring new life and positive economic impact to Jacksonville’s urban core. By creating a year-round destination that bridges EverBank Field and the Sports Complex to Downtown Jacksonville, Khan said the Shipyards project – should it become reality – promises to serve the entire region for generations to come.

Khan said after the event, “The Shipyards would give Downtown Jacksonville the kind of iconic identity that many downtown districts in the United States enjoy and we currently lack. But it doesn’t work or make sense if it doesn’t provide jobs, boost our economy and self-confidence, stabilize the future of the Jaguars franchise and improve our overall quality of life.  Our proposal to partner with the City of Jacksonville on this project will achieve this and more.

The opportunity to make the most of our natural resources and potential as a city is here and it’s long overdue. It’s time we re-engage with our riverfront, an asset that many cities can only dream of.  It’s time to make Downtown Jacksonville the place to be every day of the year, to open a business, spend a weekend or even call home.  I am very appreciative of the consideration by Mayor Alvin Brown, the City of Jacksonville and the City Council members who were here today, and I assure everyone in Jacksonville that my commitment to making this happen is unqualified.”

The Kansas City-based office of global architecture giant, Populous has provided the initial conceptual design support to Iguana Investments for the project. Ben Stindt, senior architect and principal at Populous, joined Khan and Lamping in presenting the vision on Tuesday. Populous was the original designer of EverBank Field and has worked with the City and the Jags on the EverBank Field improvements project, including video boards and other upgrades.

Khan said, “It is important for the design and feel of EverBank Field and the Shipyards to work in unison, which made Populous the perfect partner to provide the initial design concepts for the Shipyards. Populous has been very helpful in assisting us in molding the many concepts and ideas that have surfaced over the past year. We are grateful for their expertise.”

According to the Iguana Investments’ vision, the goal of the development is to create a modern, urban, walkable destination that connects the Sports Complex and Downtown Jacksonville, activates Bay Street, engages with the Hogan’s Creek Greenway and hosts activities throughout the year. The vision is guided by the principles of embracing the St. Johns River and riverfront, showcasing Jacksonville’s unique character and listening to the market as to what types of development will flourish at the Shipyards.

The site would be developed into a mixed-use district with public park space, a river walk and other uses that may be supported by the market, with potential options including residential, office, retail, restaurants, a hotel, a football-themed public space and a marina. Feasibility studies, market research and due diligence by Iguana Investments and the City of Jacksonville would be conducted to determine the specific types of development that would be thrive long-term at the Shipyards.

Lamping said, “We have been very clear that a stronger Jacksonville, and particularly a stronger Downtown Jacksonville, will equate to a more stable and successful Jaguars franchise. The improvements to EverBank Field last year speak to ensuring that Downtown Jacksonville continues to be home to the NFL and the Jaguars, and to current and future major sporting and entertainment events. The upgrades to EverBank Field were the outcome of listening to our customers, and the results have been tremendous.”

“We are ready to move forward immediately on this project that is critical to the future of Jacksonville and the Jaguars,” Khan said. “It is our hope that the DIA shares our sense of urgency and resolve. The opportunity to change Jacksonville is here.”

The Shipyards served Jacksonville as a manufacturing and repair centre for small ships, barges, ferry boats and freightliners, but began to decline in the 1980s and, other than a brief period in the 1990s when the site was home to the River City Music Sheds, the property has largely remained vacant and unused. Since the demolition of the Music Sheds in 2001, the Shipyards has been at the centre of numerous failed development plans, bankruptcies and legal disputes.