JACKSONVILLE – Lot J's scope and timetable is coming into focus.
As Jaguars President Mark Lamping sees it, making the project a reality is critical for the Jaguars – and for downtown Jacksonville.
"What we are proposing is something that would be catalytic," Lamping said Thursday during the 2019 State of the Franchise event at TIAA Bank Field.
Lamping on Thursday reaffirmed the plan for the "Lot J" project, so-called because it will be located in what is now TIAA Bank Field's "Lot J" parking lot on the southwest corner of the stadium. The project site becomes even more accessible to downtown visitors and workers in part because of the pending removal of two elevated lanes extending from the Hart Bridge.
The $500 million plan – created alongside with development partner The Cordish Companies – includes a Live! Arena entertainment district, a 200-room "boutique" hotel, a 300-unit residential tower and an office building. Lamping said the next step in the project is a financing agreement with the city that will guarantee the project's completion.
"It's something that's necessary, and it's something that the time is now," Lamping said. "We can't continue to wait. We have talked year in and year out that we're only going to be as strong as downtown Jacksonville.
"Through the partnership with [Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry], and his staff, hopefully we can get this going and get cranes visible in downtown Jacksonville for the first time in a long time."
Jaguars Owner Shad Khan has talked often in seven years as owner of the importance of a thriving downtown to the team's stability. He talked Thursday of his confidence level in a project such as Lot J.
"If it was easy, it would have been done probably 50 years ago," Khan said. "Obviously, it is something even way before my time, there have been many attempts made, unsuccessfully. But I think it's very, very important, and we are committed more so than ever. Things change, we look for a different way to get it done – the vitality, the energy, the economic growth, the difference making, all of that really belongs here.
"I think we are going to be pushing and working with the city for them to do their part so we can do our part. I think it is really, really important for the area and for the city."
Lamping emphasized the importance of developing downtown, saying that the St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville's Southside supports 150,000 jobs – approximately three for every job in downtown Jacksonville.
"This migration toward the southeast is continuing in this community," Lamping said. "I think major community gathering places belong in what is the heart of the community. We think downtown is that."
Lamping said the hope is that the Lot J project will begin shortly after the Jaguars' 2019 season. He anticipates the project should take about 18 months.
"Hopefully, it's delayed because of home playoff games," Lamping said, adding, "In order for us to get started, and we are prepared to get going, the Jaguars and The Cordish Companies are prepared to go forward as soon as we get an agreement, first with the mayor's office and then through to the City Council.
"We have not been at this point yet, but we're here now, and I'm confident given the mayor's agenda and belief in having downtown grow and have it be significantly more desirable for people to work, to live and for people to visit.
"As long as we focus on those shared goals then I have no doubt that we will reach an agreement. Then it will be up to the City Council to hopefully ratify that."
Lamping, who said the plan is now out for bid with the city expected to decide "sometime before the end of the year," called the project "the necessary first step to unlock the full development potential of the Shipyards and Lot J."