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Riverpointe Scope Narrows

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Southbank project's scope narrows

New partnership says it doesn't need city incentives to build

By RYAN GEDDES

The Times-Union

When South Shore Group Partners LLC first announced a plan for a residential project near the Aetna building on the Southbank, it was on a grand scale -- 550 units in soaring twin towers that would have become Jacksonville's tallest buildings.

But since the ambitious project's August approval by the Downtown Development Authority, international real estate developer Hines Corp. has agreed to partner with South Shore on its development. The new partnership now has a refined plan with a narrower scope.

And they say they don't need any city money to pull it off.

At its Wednesday morning meeting, the DDA unanimously voted to grant South Shore Partners the right to develop 300 residential units and 50,000 square feet of retail space on the group's three-acre parcel of riverfront land at 841 Prudential Drive. In return, South Shore Partners would build a 12-foot-wide Riverwalk extension in front of the property, grant the city easements for public access, connect the current Riverwalk to the new one under the Acosta and railroad bridges, and set the residential tower farther back from the river than the previous plan allowed.

"We have been actively working in Jacksonville for about nine years, and we have been looking for the right opportunity to do something downtown," said Walt O'Shea, vice president with Hines, which is also developing the Palencia community in northeast St. Johns County.

The private, Dallas-based company controls $11 billion in assets worldwide and has worked with such award-winning architects as I.M. Pei & Partners, Frank Gehry & Associates and Robert A.M. Stern Architects. The latter company also designed the new downtown library, scheduled to open this year.

The company has named famed architecture firm Arquitectonica International Corp. as the architect for the project. The twin-tower design prepared by Jacksonville-based KBJ Architects will not be used, O'Shea said. Arquitectonica is based in Miami with offices worldwide and has won numerous awards internationally.

Most Southbank residential developers have approached the city for incentives with their recent projects, but O'Shea said at the meeting that the South Shore partnership would not require financial assistance for Riverpointe. Developers of San Marco Place and St. Johns Center, both new residential condominium projects on the Southbank, have received about $15.6 million in incentives between them.

Hines does not yet have an estimate on how much the new project will cost to build.

Bob Rhodes, chairman of the DDA, said the Riverpointe project could be a turning point for residential development on the Southbank and that similar future projects in the area would be considered in light of South Shore's decision to completely privately finance their project.

"This reflects the fact that we have made market on the Southbank, and of course it is going to be considered going forward," said Rhodes.

The design of the proposed residential tower would have to be approved by the Downtown Development Authority's Design Review Committee. Hines has not yet set a date to meet with the DRC.

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It now looks like they are proposing a single tower. Hopefully we will still get a

new Jax tallest or at least something comparable to the surrounding skyline.

I can't wait to see what they are envisioning.

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Well, if we are talking 300 units in one tower, then you could have up to 50 floors if there were only 6 units per floor. This could be possible given the relatively small space they have to work with and this could be the tallest building in Jacksonville potentially. I wonder when they will release a rendering..

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I hope that they will be releasing one soon. The article said that they were going in front of the development council shortly. I can't wait to see what they have in mind for Riverpointe. I liked the old design, but from what I've heard about the current developer, the new design will knock everybody out! Let's hope...

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Arquitectonica is a well known quality firm, so the design should definately be interesting.

It now looks like they are proposing a single tower. Hopefully we will still get a

new Jax tallest or at least something comparable to the surrounding skyline.

I can't wait to see what they are envisioning.

Keep in mind the development is now a two phase project. Hines has only signed on to do the phase being discussed. If its successful, like Berkman, a twin or a completely different tower would most likely be built on the other side of Aetna.

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And Berkman has a sign on Bay announcing their Phase II, so we'll see that relatively soon!

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Though we haven't heard about any building permits issued. Also, even though it's probably just a clone of phase 1, won't phase 2 also have to go through the design review process? This probably means the project is still a year from anything meaningful happening. Phase 1 took darn near 4 years from deal to grand opening. I always hate how long these things seem to take!

Also, did the sign say that phase two would be apartments or condos?. Condos are more lucrative these days, but the bank will usually want at least 50% pre-sales before financing. That could hold things up too.

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The inside scoop I am hearing re Berkamn Phase II is that it will break ground in June. This is the intention of the developer of Phase I who has the rights to build the second tower. I believe it will be condo, but am not sure. I will try and find out. I also believe the design will be roughly the same as the existing tower, though I wish they would make it a little different or taller. They like the design - there is one very similar in Buckhead, Atlanta which they built too.

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I'd like to see a different design too, or at least some bay street retail ... but if they actually manage to break ground in a few months, then I won't complain a bit! I certainly hope a June groundbreaking comes to fruition.

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According to the sign the developer has up, the 200 units at Berkman II, will initially be apartments.

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When I return in 2008, I'll be looking for an apartment first and Berkman II, if it goes all steam ahead soon, just might fit the bill since my wife will be working at JSO.

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More on Berkman Phase II: The building will be initially apartments as was the first tower, but with the intention on the part of the developer of doing a condo conversion in the future. The reason for this is it is easier to get financing for an apt project, b/c lenders require 50% sold usually before giving the go ahead for a condo project. I am still working on finding out about the size/design, but I think it will be similar to Phase I but with no townhouses.

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More on Berkman Phase II:  The building will be initially apartments as was the first tower, but with the intention on the part of the developer of doing a condo conversion in the future.  The reason for this is it is easier to get financing for an apt project, b/c lenders require 50% sold usually before giving the go ahead for a condo project.  I am still working on finding out about the size/design, but I think it will be similar to Phase I but with no townhouses.

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This was the same strategy as the first tower, only Berkman got an offer to sell before the five years elapsed.

Previously published reports stated that there would be 6 or 7 townhouses in the second phase.

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