• Jacksonville mayor wants new convention center put on hold

    By: Kevin Clark , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    Jacksonville’s mayor wants to pump the brakes on a new convention center in Jacksonville for now. 

    The city’s Downtown Investment Authority has spent much of this year considering a convention center. They solicited proposals early in the year for a new facility at the old County Courthouse and City Hall Annex site, and three bids were submitted midyear.

    In September, the DIA voted to move forward with negotiations from one of those proposals, made by the Jacobs Engineering Group.

    Now, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has sent a letter to DIA Board Chairman Jim Bailey questioning if it is the right time to move forward with any of those convention center plans. 

    Curry cited a feasibility study that was the foundation for soliciting the bids in the first place, saying it highlighted important questions to consider relating to cost, size, location and timing of the development.

    Curry says the convention center proposals that were received by the DIA were “thorough” and “impressive”, but said “these developments are daunting.”

    “The timelines for development and the substantial investment of public dollars would represent a dramatic shift in our capacity to participate in other pending public/private partnerships,” says Curry’s letter. 

    Curry says the feasibility study showed the majority of planners wouldn’t be interested in the area or this development without “destination development.”

    “We just want to make sure that once it’s built, it’s there, it can be successful,” said DIA Interim CEO Brian Hughes, who is also Curry’s Chief of Staff.

    Another wild card in this is that Jaguars owner Shad Khan has proposed a convention center project closer to the stadium.

    We asked Hughes if that has anything to do with Curry’s letter asking to put a downtown convention center on hold.

    “I don’t think the letter speaks to that,” said Hughes. “I think the letter is really speaking to just making sure that the timing and the amount of investment are done at the right time.”

    Curry says he wants to continue focusing on “near term” opportunities, and he therefore thinks it’s best to revisit the convention center concept in the future.

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