Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Atkins Withdraws Offer for Haydon Burns Library; Officials Will Ask to Consider the Second-Highest Bidder, Peterbrooke Chocolatier

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Atkins Withdraws Offer for Haydon Burns Library; Officials Will Ask to Consider the Second-Highest Bidder, Peterbrooke Chocolatier

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE LIGHT

The Atkins Group has withdrawn its offer to purchase the Haydon Burns Library for $5 million and develop it into a $40 million, mixed-use facility, company officials said on Monday, ending four months of negotiations. The decision throws back into uncertainty the future of the former library, whose fate was seemingly determined when a city committee chose Atkins' development proposal in July.

Once the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission receives official notice from Atkins to terminate negotiations, the commission will ask permission to begin negotiations with the second-highest bidder from the city's Competitive Sealed Proposal Evaluation Committee, said JEDC Deputy Director Jeanne Miller.

"Both sides worked in good faith to reach an agreement, but I'm sorry that Atkins felt they had to withdraw," Miller said.

The second-highest bidder in the July process was Peterbrooke Chocolatier, which proposed to renovate the old library to include a chocolate manufacturing and distribution center, candy-related educational center, retail store, and chocolate museum.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, which offered $1.5 million for the property, scored 13 points below The Atkins Group in CSPEC's competitive evaluation process. The committee scored three finalists based on criteria including purchase price, development experience, and economic impact of the proposal.

Atkins had proposed to tear down the building and replace it with a mixed-use project with between 70 and 100 condominiums, 14,500 square feet of retail space, and 8,500 square feet of dining, theater and entertainment venues.

The Atkins Group President Steve Atkins said he and the company became frustrated during the course of negotiations after city officials brought up new concerns on multiple occasions. Before Thanksgiving, city officials requested that Atkins put up a deposit during the due diligence process that could be ceded to the city if Atkins did not meet certain conditions. Atkins said that was the sticking point.

"The political atmosphere of the city was not supporting us," Atkins said. …

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