The old and the chosen new JEA headquarters sites are just a few blocks from each other, less than a half-mile walk: the current JEA building on West Church Street, showing every bit of its 56 years, and the empty city-owned block on West Adams Street, a prime spot to help breathe life into that part of the urban core.
Their close proximity tempers some of the immediate tangible economic benefits the new JEA headquarters may bring.
A company the size of JEA moving to the urban core from elsewhere would bring hundreds of new customers for restaurants, bars and shops. But many of the 760 utility employees making the short move are likely already eating or shopping at businesses near the West Adams Street location.
While the project doesn’t contribute to the residential density that Jacksonville’s urban core needs, it adds to the intangible feeling of progress.
When Ryan Companies begins work on the $72 million headquarters, the activity will be a sign that Jacksonville’s urban core is continuing its renaissance.
Christian Oldenburg, managing director of Colliers International Northeast Florida, said the courthouse's move generated a little more interest in land "out that direction". "The reality is things take time to take root", says Oldenburg.
It was critical that JEA decided to remain in the urban core versus heading to the suburbs. That loss would have been devastating at a time when Downtown is enjoying some long-awaited momentum.
Oldenburg said he it would have been nice to see JEA select Lot J and “hopefully get some momentum in that direction. But I understand that JEA’s job isn’t really to advance Downtown development... They have to make the decision best for their business.”
He believes Lot J developers saw JEA’s headquarters as an opportunity to “jumpstart” their project. “In the long run, provided they stick to it, there could be potentially another opportunity,” he said. “Maybe a better opportunity.”
Oldenburg said he understood why JEA decided to build a new headquarters but ideally would have liked the utility to absorb some of the current vacancy to reduce the vacancy rate and help stabilize the market.