River City Brewing Co., which has served seafood and steak at tables overlooking the St. Johns River for decades, could make way for a new apartment building on Southbank next to the Friendship Foundation and Acosta Bridge.
The land conversion would include a three-way deal involving the city who owns the land, as well as Maritime Concepts who owns the restaurant and which is long-term leased with the city for the land, and the affiliated group, a developer from Miami, who wants to build an eight-story apartment building on the site.
The city would pass the land on to the Related Group and grant tax breaks for 20 years, equivalent to 75 percent of the city taxes generated by the development. The tax breaks would add up to nearly $ 13 million in that time. This incentive would not affect the payment of school taxes.
Lori Boyer, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, said she supported the proposal.
“Our goal was to bring more residents to the city center, and that brings us closer and closer to this critical mass of this urban lifestyle,” she said. “This would just be another addition to the landscape that would help achieve this goal.”
If the redevelopment takes place, it would result in the demolition of the two-story 325-seat restaurant, which has been part of the riverside since the 1980s when it first opened as harbourmaster.
Miami-based Related Group would build an eight-story building with about 335 apartments and a parking garage on the site with a riverside swimming pool. The affiliated group would also build a ship store for boaters to buy ice cream and other items near the town’s boat ramp.
The Downtown Investment Authority’s summary of the proposed transaction states that the affiliated group has entered into investment deals totaling more than $ 600 million with 4,000 apartment buildings under construction. It would be its first Northeast Florida project.
“Their developments are known for their iconic architectural style, first-class equipment and high-quality construction,” says the DIA summary.
River City Brewing said in a statement that if the deal hits, it will be relocated.
“If the affiliate group’s negotiations with the city are successful, River City Brewery will continue its hugely popular operations at an alternate location in Jacksonville,” the statement said.
The restaurant’s large windows look out over the river, giving guests expansive views of the downtown Northbank skyline, the lights reflecting off the water at night.
Loyal customers over the years have included former mayor Jake Godbold, who had a special table waiting for him until his death in January when he went there for lunch.
Boyer said restaurants are important to an active riverfront. So if River City Brewing is demolished, the city will look into other “in close proximity” options for restaurant locations.
The Downtown Investment Authority’s Strategic Implementation Committee will take up the potential deal at its October 9th meeting.
Boyer said the developer was negotiating with Maritime Concepts to purchase its lease with the city for the land. This 99-year lease has 77 years until 2097.
“You come to the table with a proposal and we respond to the proposal,” said Boyer.
Maritime Concepts also owns the River City Marina, which was damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Boyer said the proposed redevelopment would reconstruct the marina. The city would pay up to $ 1.14 million to work in the marina. The city would spend an additional $ 1.6 million to reconfigure the boat ramp access and provide parking for it. The marina would still have a gas station for boaters.
The city’s property covers approximately 3.4 acres, valued at $ 4.9 million by the Duval County’s real estate appraiser’s office. There is a parking lot on the property next to the restaurant. The city receives approximately $ 40,000 a year from the lease. The property does not currently generate any property taxes.
Boyer said the proposed site plan would leave town with some of the lease land that the town would use to expand St. Johns River Park, the centerpiece of which is the Friendship Fountain. The developer would build a widened river path for public use.
She said the draft of the proposed apartment building would not detract from sight lines to the river for the proposed expansion of the campus of the neighboring Science and History Museum.
When a residential home is built on the site, it will be linked to the Southbank Apartments by building ventures across the Acosta Bridge. The Southbank Apartments will have 185 units.