Florida Blue, CSX among 16 bidders interested in helping Duval Schools with relocation, including from its riverfront headquarters

The Florida Times-Union | By Emily Bloch | April 12, 2022

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that all bidders — including CSX Transportation and Florida Blue — expressed interest in purchasing 1701 Prudential Drive. The story now reflects that listed bidders were not distinguished by the scope of their interest in the school district’s potential relocation. Bidders include groups with the intent of potentially purchasing but also selling property to the school district.

After years of vague discussion surrounding the potential sale of Duval County Public Schools’ riverfront headquarters, this week marked the closest the school district has come to making that plan a reality. 

Following the Wednesday deadline for groups to submit their bids toward the sale of 1701 Prudential Drive and other properties, as well as the school district’s relocation, records show at least 40 groups looked over the school district’s plans and 16 bids were made. Bids were not distinguished between groups interested in purchasing property from or selling property to the school district. 

As first reported by The Jacksonville Daily Record, notable bidders include the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Florida Blue and CSX Transportation. Because the scope of the work falls under an invitation to negotiate, details from each bid are not public until after the School Board selects a group to work with. Spokespeople at both Florida Blue and CSX Transportation confirmed that their respective groups did not bid to purchase the riverfront property, though additional details were not immediately available. 

“There were multiple properties in the solicitation,” Duval Schools spokesman Tracy Pierce said. “Therefore, it is possible that any respondent’s submission could include various combinations of proposals to buy from or sell to the district.”

The process hasn’t unfolded without some delays. The school district opened up the invitation to negotiate in November with a Feb. 25 deadline for bids. Since then, eight addendums were placed on the original bid document and the deadline was extended several times. 

Pierce said the delays were “fairly common” and prompted by requests for additional information from potential respondents as well as a technicality on the School Board’s end.

The district needed to modify its own internal policy regarding invitations to negotiate and how they align with Florida Statutes. On Tuesday evening, the School Board voted unanimously to modify the language in its policy to include the same 72-hour deadline for bid protests that state law calls for. 

“We wanted that clarification completed to avoid any issue in this process,” Pierce said. Following the board’s vote, bids were released the following day. 

According to the district’s invitation to negotiate language, the goal is to sell the existing nearly 5-acre headquarters along the St. Johns River and relocate to a consolidated space. In 2019, the building was appraised for a value of about $13 million. In the initial bid document, listed specs say the new building can downsize from the current 122,822 to 100,000 square feet. In September, the School Board approved spending up to $60 million over a 20 year period on its potential new building. 

The district also listed smaller surplus properties, that are listed as “optional surplus property opportunities,” as potential add-ons for potential buyers. Optional properties include a warehouse located at 11231 Phillips Industrial Blvd. and 4019 Boulevard Center Drive, which is currently leased to a conference center operator through 2023.

The goal is to better the district’s “operational footprint, improve organizational effectiveness, business strategies, and daily operations to better serve DCPS’ students, employees, and taxpayers,” the district’s invitation to negotiate said. 

School Board member Lori Hershey was the member who put the initial resolution to potentially sell in place. 

“I believe we have the responsibility to be good stewards of the people we represent,” Hershey said when the board initially opted to move forward with potentially selling. “I think it’s time to have a conversation over true opportunity regarding our location. I think we are in a good position now … the value of the property has increased between $4 and $6 million in four years, we’ve paid off and own the building and property.”

What’s next?

According to District Purchasing Services Director Terrence Wright, proposals need to be reviewed by the school district’s adviser, CBRE — a commercial real estate service group. From there, the group will prepare an analysis for an evaluation committee, composed of six school district employees, to review. 

The evaluation committee members will be asked to complete a conflict of interest self-assessment to avoid questionable scenarios where a member could personally benefit from a contract. The city’s Office of General Counsel and the ethics office will determine if a conflict of interest exists with any member of the evaluation committee, Wright said.

No deadline for when bid scores are due has been established.

“The evaluation committee will meet to determine which of the proposals will move to the negotiation phase,” Wright said. “Once this determination is made, a recommendation will be prepared for the School Board to approve this ‘shortlist.’ If the School Board approves this list, the evaluation committee will then transition into the negotiation committee.  Negotiations will then start with those proposers.”

When asked about a timeline for the process, Wright said there isn’t one. 

“The goal is to move the process as quickly as possible,” he said. “However, we do want to make sure the evaluation committee has an adequate amount of time to thoroughly review and score each proposal received.”

Here’s a complete list of the bidders: 

  • EastGroup Properties Inc.
  • Amkin West Bay LLC
  • Vanderbilt Office Properties and SREIT Deerwood Park South LLC
  • PSF 1 Jax Metro LLC
  • Suddath Van Lines Inc.
  • Silver Hills and the Edwards Companies
  • Midtown Centre Office LLC
  • The Easton Group
  • Related Development LLC
  • Ryan Companies US Inc.
  • Jacksonville Transportation Authority
  • CSX Transportation Inc.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc.
  • Southside Industrial Development Group
  • Merritt Acquisitions LLC
  • Spectrum Properties Ltd.
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