JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville councilman is calling for millions to go towards infrastructure improvements across Duval County following this week’s announcement that the city plans to contribute more than $200 million towards the Lot J development.
Councilman Garrett Dennis introduced legislation Wednesday to borrow an additional $41.5 million on top of the money needed for Lot J to fund capital improvement projects in all 14 council districts.
“While I believe in investing in a vibrant downtown, the needs of all citizens throughout Jacksonville are just as great, if not greater," Dennis said. “This legislation would immediately fund projects to make much-needed infrastructure improvements and increase the quality of life for citizens in every corner of Jacksonville. This funding will also address septic tank phase-outs, which is a significant need in our community.”
The multi-million dollar Lot J project will be paid for through a 50-50 partnership between Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s development team and The Cordish Companies, a national developer with large-scale projects in major cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Kansas City.
The total direct public investment from the city will be over $152 million which includes $77.7 million for city-owned infrastructure.
The city will also provide a $65.5 million interest-free loan to the developer which can be repaid over a 50-year period, bringing the total estimated amount of city funds to be spent on the project to at least $218 million.
In all, Kahn and the development company would have to invest nearly $230 million.
“It should not be either-or,” Dennis told News4Jax. “If we can give over $200 million to Lot J and a billionaire NFL owner, then we can give $40 million throughout the city.”
According to a memo from City Council President Tommy Hazouri, the city has indicated that the Lot J legislation will be filed Oct. 13 for introduction at the City Council meeting. Public hearings and meetings will follow.
News4Jax asked the mayor’s office why it would be proposing lending or subsidizing a billionaire. In prepared remarks from earlier this week the mayor’s office stated:
“A project of this scope does not happen without a private-public partnership...It requires a lead investor and visionary and we are fortunate to have both in Shad Khan. Private developers could not and cannot do this alone. The agreement is extremely fair for Jacksonville and benefits the community."
Jacksonville resident Alexis Jay questions the timing of the project.
“I don’t know if it’s important right now to be working on that project since there’s so much other things people need help with right now,” Jay said.
People outside of the downtown area who spoke to News4Jax this week say their neighborhoods need the city’s attention more than a new entertainment complex. Northside residents say they feel pushed to the side again following Monday’s unveiling of plans for the Lot J development.
In 2016, the mayor’s office broke ground on Payne Avenue Walk to build 12 single-unit houses in what it calls “one of the city’s most vulnerable communities, plagued with crime, violence and blight.”
As of Monday, only seven of those homes stand, but the city says it currently has a contract in place to build three additional homes within the next few months.
At a news conference on Monday about the Lot J plans, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said the project won’t leave out neighborhoods like Moncrief and will give job opportunities to thousands of Jacksonville residents, including those who live on the Northside.
Others said the project will provide a much-needed boost to downtown.
One local real estate agent believes the project would increase the value of downtown overall.
The Downtown Investment Authority and the City Council must still vote to approve the Lot J development before it moves forward. The city said the project would take at least three years to complete.