Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Huge Development in Southbank's Plans; $500 Million Project Includes 3 35-Story Towers, Hotel, Park

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Huge Development in Southbank's Plans; $500 Million Project Includes 3 35-Story Towers, Hotel, Park

Article excerpt

Byline: M.C. MOEWE, The Times-Union

A $500 million project proposed for Jacksonville's Southbank calls for the construction of six buildings -- including three 35-story towers -- bringing 1,500 residential units, a public riverfront park, retail shops and a 28,000-square-foot grocery store, the developer said.

"This is really a city within a city," said Steve Pardo, a principal owner in Riverwalk Hotels, LLC, who said he submitted his project plans for San Marco Riverwalk for city approval Monday. "It will provide all the public and private amenities for those who live there residentially."

Plans call for the eventual demolition of the Radisson Riverwalk Hotel, the Chart House restaurant and about 2,000 square feet of office buildings standing on the 17-acre site at Riverplace Boulevard and Prudential Drive. "We intend to operate the hotel through 2010 and beyond depending on market conditions," Pardo said adding he plans to do a multimillion-dollar renovation to the 21-year-old hotel.

The office buildings will be torn down after the Super Bowl in February, Pardo said. His company is negotiating with the 20-year-old Chart House to open in one of three planned restaurant sites.

It takes an average of 115 days for the approval process. Pardo said he is tentatively scheduled to submit his plans to the city's Design Review Committee on Sept. 30. The project's three construction phases are expected to take seven to 10 years to complete.

The Miami-based company plans to submit a proposal that will ask the city for an as yet-undetermined amount of incentives for the public-accessible area of the development, Pardo said. Those areas include a park, 45,000 square feet in retail shops, the three restaurants, the hotel and a marina that can accommodate up to 300 boats.

Jill Leavy, with the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, said her office has not received that proposal.

Although his company will go ahead with the residential development regardless, the city support is crucial for the public accessible areas, Pardo said. "In order to have the public amenities such as the park and grocery store and the retail, we will need to have the support of the city," he said.

If all goes smoothly, his company will begin construction in spring 2005 on a nine-story hotel with 200 rooms and 6,000 square feet of meeting space, Pardo said. "We have not finalized the franchise but it will be a four-star hotel," he said.

The boutique-style grocery store will be located on the ground floor of the 28-story tower in 2007 or 2008, he said.

Construction on the first of three 35-story condominium towers would begin January 2006, Pardo said.

"The Southbank is going to change," said Suzanne Jenkins, the city councilwoman whose district includes the area. "Now it's very suburban. Everything is going to go up. …

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