Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Joe, Haskell Vie to Develop YMCA; Riverside Facility Could Relocate

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Joe, Haskell Vie to Develop YMCA; Riverside Facility Could Relocate

Article excerpt

Byline: Earl Daniels, Times-Union staff writer

Two of Jacksonville's most notable companies are competing to reshape the Riverside Yates YMCA and the land it now occupies.

The neighbors on both sides of the YMCA facility at 221 Riverside Ave., The Haskell Co., a leading design-build company, and The St. Joe Co., Florida's largest landowner, want to win the bid to spend at least $10 million to redevelop the YMCA. In return, the winning bidder could build residential and commercial mixed-use development on valuable riverfront property.

"We could not be any happier," said Trigg Wilkes, president and chief executive of the YMCA of Florida's First Coast. "I wish it could happen faster."

The proposals come at crucial time as the city redevelops the Riverside-Brooklyn area and as business owners show more interest in the area. In the past few months, two corporations -- a Fortune 500 company among them -- have moved to Riverside Avenue. The state is also widening Riverside Avenue to improve traffic flow.

But exactly where the YMCA's facility will land, either on the riverfront or across the street, depends on where the city decides specific types of development should take place.

Wilkes said he could not share the specific details of the companies' plans yesterday because of confidentiality and competitive reasons, but he did indicate that the YMCA site would likely become a residential or commercial develop- ment.

City incentives may be part of the deal, Wilkes said, but he didn't know how much they may ask for.

Each company submitted two development scenarios which include redeveloping the facility at its existing location or at another Riverside or Brooklyn site.

Today, a YMCA committee will meet to develop a list of questions to determine which company will redevelop the facility. They want to make a decision by the end of the month.

The bidding process started in May when the YMCA sent out requests for qualifications to about 12 local companies to determine who would be interested in redeveloping the YMCA at its 4.5-acre site or at another location. St. Joe and Haskell were the only companies that responded.

St. Joe wants to redevelop the YMCA property, possibly into a mixed-use project that includes residential and commercial projects, said Michael Reininger, St. Joe's senior vice-president for creative services. "It is a wonderful site, which is underutilized and moved past its prime."

"Subject to being selected, we would explore the best alternative," he said.

Haskell officials did not return telephone calls yesterday to discuss their proposals.

YMCA officials say they need more space, but they also recognize that they're sitting on a prime piece of riverfront property. Last month, the city paid $1. …

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