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Fidelity expansion to include hotel, condos, rest.


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March 5, 2004

Fidelity expansion to include hotel, condos, restaurant

Ryan Geddes

Staff Writer

RIVERSIDE -- Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman Bill Foley said he intends to build an upscale condo building, hotel and restaurant when the company expands its Jacksonville-based headquarters, the location of which Foley said should be determined by the end of March.

Fidelity has been shopping for expansion space since it moved its headquarters to 601 Riverside Ave. from Santa Barbara, Calif., in August after acquiring Alltel Corp.'s financial services division.

"I have a vision that a group would do a condo project and a boutique hotel, with room for a really good restaurant," Foley said.

Foley said he would form a private group to develop the residential and hospitality properties after Fidelity earmarks land for a 280,000-square-foot office expansion.

The 50- to 80-room hotel would be high-end, Foley said, catering to affluent business travelers, and the restaurant would be run by a Montana-based restaurateur who has partnered with Foley on restaurant projects in the past.

Although Fidelity has publicly aired its interest in Tri-Legacy Group LLC's burgeoning The Shipyards development as an alternative expansion site to the 5.9 acres of Riverside land adjacent to its campus, Foley downplayed the likelihood of such a move.

"It's a fairly low probability," Foley said. "It's easier for us to stick where we are."

Fidelity is under contract to purchase the Riverside property for an undisclosed price, but the deal has not yet closed. Because the company is under pressure to add space quickly to prepare for an influx of up to 1,000 people relocating to Jacksonville, Foley said The Shipyards' timetable might not be fast enough for the company's needs.

The city is partnering with Tri-Legacy to develop The Shipyards over a 10-year period, agreeing to chip in $75 million in bonds and tax rebates for the project's first phase.

"We need space now," Foley said. "Fidelity has a time frame, and the city needs to go through its processes."

Tri-Legacy president Ham Traylor said a Fidelity move to The Shipyards would accelerate the development's progress and energize the area near Alltel Stadium.

"FNF is in a unique position in that there is a site available at their location," Traylor said. "At the same time, I would think that for a high-profile company like Fidelity National, another site might have a higher visibility factor for them."

Wherever the Fortune 500 company chooses to expand, it will likely be Downtown and in one centralized location, as opposed to scattered buildings throughout the area.

"We don't want to be out in the hinterlands," Foley said. "Our incentive package is pretty much in place right now."

That package comprises $12.5 million in city and state tax rebate financing in return for multi-year job creation.

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