DIA Staff Report Recommends Approval Of Lot J Project With Conditions

Dec 1, 2020

Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority has released its final staff report on Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s proposed $450 Lot J development project, which recommends approval with certain conditions.

“The project meets many of the established goals for Downtown redevelopment and would be a major addition to Downtown vibrancy,” the DIA staff report states.

However, the staff recommends the adoption of several conditions before final approval, such as including language in the development agreement that would require city approval of infrastructure budgets prior to construction and revising the parking agreement to expressly grant the city the right to retain the revenue generated by daily paid parkers using public spaces.

Staff analysis also found that there was no need for the city to provide the developer, The Cordish Companies, with an interest free 50-year “breadbox” loan of $65.5 million as it currently stands in the proposed deal. “Nevertheless, we understand that this may be non-negotiable from the Developer’s perspective, and actual construction and operating numbers might justify this incentive,” staff wrote.

Staff also cast doubt on the need for all of the proposed city funded infrastructure, including an $18 million residential parking garage, due to a lack of construction costs and project detail information.

In its final recommendation to the DIA board, staff acknowledged that many of the above-mentioned recommendations — and others outlined in the report — have already been proposed by Mayor Curry’s administration and the Office of General Counsel only to be rejected by the developer.

“Nevertheless, it is staff’s recommendation to the Board that these recommendations be incorporated as conditions by the Board to ensure the best possible project for the City,” the report reads. “If, when presented to City Council, the Developer does not agree, it will be up to City Council to then make the decision whether to proceed.”

The DIA will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, to go over the recommendations. If it passes the board it will then go before City Council, which is scheduled to discuss the proposal at a 10 a.m. Council of the Whole meeting on Thursday.

Mayor Curry took to social media Monday night, hinting that Jacksonville could lose the Jaguars franchise if the Lot J development falls through.

Legislation on the table would see the city borrow more than $200 million to invest in the project.

In the report, DIA staff calculated a return on investment for the city of 40¢ for each dollar invested over 20 years. During a City Council meeting in November, Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief Administrator Brian Hughes claimed the city would get $1.69 back for every dollar of investment. Meanwhile, the City Council Auditor’s office puts ROI at 44¢ on the dollar.

On social media and during a public forum in October, many residents that took part voiced strong opposition to the proposed development next to TIAA Bank Field and a recent Barcelo & Company poll showed 70% opposition to taxpayer funding for the Lot J deal.
Meanwhile, a local watchdog group called “Our Jax” has also called for a timeout on the Lot J development while more due diligence is done.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.