Lot J plans on hold, key element missing for $445 million project

The $445 million entertainment project at Lot J is on hold.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The $445 million entertainment project at Lot J is on hold.

But it appears the plans may be on pause for very short time.

The plans rolled out last week call for a 50-50 split between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the city and the plans still need City Council approval to get started.

But the plan was missing a key element when it was introduced to the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday night — the details of the parking garage agreement. It’s one area where the city could make a profit from Lot J.

Roxanne Smith said she isn’t aware of the finer details of the Lot J project and what it will exactly cost the city. What Smith does believe and understand is that money should go somewhere else.

“I would rather for them to spend it in neighborhoods than on an entertainment zone,” Smith said.

The city plans to put more than $208 million into the project which the city would have to borrow.

It would be used to construct an elaborate entertainment zone which would include a new hotel, restaurants, bars and a live entertainment complex on and near the current Lot J parking lot.

City Council President Tommy Hazouri says in the plans presented to the council Tuesday night the financial details behind the two proposed parking structures were not included.

“The parking element, which is a big piece, it’s a moneymaker for us,” Hazouri said. “It was not part of the document we received. So the bill was not complete.”

For that reason, Hazouri put the measure on hold.

If the city can come to terms with the Jaguars and work out a financial deal, the plan will be presented to the City Council again during a special emergency meeting.

Mayor Lenny Curry did not comment about the hold Wednesday, but his chief of staff Jordan Elsbury issued a statement:

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and the Jaguars staff had said they hoped to start construction early next year.

Councilmember Reggie Gaffney had scheduled a special meeting Wednesday to discuss concerns over the project, but it was canceled because of the lack of action during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Gaffney supports the project because he says it will benefit his downtown district, adding that if Khan were to pull out of Jacksonville the city could still win.

“Some of my constituents say ‘Councilman Gaffney he (Khan) may leave.’ Well, the good thing about this particular project, if he chooses to leave the deal is still we control Lot J,” Gaffney said.

Khan said last week he would not be making this kind of investment if he planned to sell or move the team.

Hazouri said he is hopeful City Council can get legislation in and hold a special meeting soon to introduce the measure. After that, there would possibly be a public hearing on the matter by the end of the month.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.