The Downtown Investment Authority Wednesday approved two downtown development proposals — the renovation of the old Jones Brothers Furniture building and the Jacksonville University film school’s move to WJCT Studios.
The Jones building project stirred up the most debate.
Chris Hionedes and his son Elias are well-known Jacksonville developers. The elder Hionedes owns the Jones building downtown and his son is a manager for the company ACE JAX. ACE wants to buy the building and turn it into a mixed use development that includes apartments, retail and office space.
The problem for some members of the DIA is his father owes the city money and has incurred multiple code violations at his Springfield properties. Some residents spoke up, objecting to the city’s giving the younger Hionedes $2.2 million in grants and loans.
ACE JAX wants a $1.5 million grant from the Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund and a 21-year, $750,000 loan from the Downtown Economic Development Trust Fund. The first year, the company would only make payments on the 1.5 percent annual interest.
The younger Hionedes stayed silent on the subject after contentious debate and the eventual approval of the furniture building development.
“I’m not going to comment on anything not involving this project,” he said.
The DIA also approved a $100,000, interest-free loan for JU’s film school to move to WJCT’s downtown studios. The loan would be in addition to JU’s own $100,000 investment and go to renovate portions of the television studio and enroll 60 Chinese students from the Beijing Film Academy by the fall of 2019.
JU Provost Donnie Horner said the move is part of a strategic plan focusing on downtown.
“With what we have in the Suntrust building, with the notion of our water taxi service back and forth to the university on occasion, our OCEARCH boat, our MVO Search is docked downtown whenever it’s in port — it just left a few days ago — so, we just saw this as a natural progression of our commitment to downtown,” he said.
The film school’s move follows the university’s recent addition of a downtown satellite campus for its healthcare sciences and business schools, at the SunTrust Tower.
Horner said the school would be the largest film school between Miami and Atlanta, Georgia.
Both projects are pending city council’s go-ahead.