JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two different civic organizations have lodged concerns about the proposal to create an entertainment complex near TIAA Bank Field in downtown Jacksonville, but Mayor Lenny Curry is clear that he wants the project to go through.
“I believe this is a big, bold, visionary project,” Curry said. “You know, we’ve had moments in this town where we’ve invested in things. We did the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Times-Union Performing Arts Center. We got an NFL team here. We did the amphitheater at a 50-50 partnership a couple of years ago. The administration before me did upgrades to the stadium -- 50-50 partnership. This is another big 50-50 partnership that will really make a huge difference in our downtown quality of life.”
As a 50-50 partnership, the city’s investment would be $233 million to support the entertainment complex.
Pushback has come from private citizens to organizations like the Jax Civic Council and OurJax. The request is to slow down the process and provide full transparency.
“What does that mean, it’s rushed? What does that mean? We are following the process we follow as a city. The administration has put forth legislation that includes the development of Lot J. The City Council will take their time and do their work. And then they’ll ultimately have to press a green button or a red button -- a yes or a no,” Curry said. “So I don’t understand the statement that it’s being rushed. It’s in the legislative body now, and they’ll take their time and do the work they need to do, as they should.”
On Monday, the Civic Council sent a letter to each council member and the mayor, asking for accountability and contract protection to make sure the city would be protected if the Jaguars or Khan pulls out of the city.
There are also questions about the financial terms: Will the return on investment be reasonable for the taxpayers?
“Look, the decision will be: Do we want, as a city -- do we want to do business with our owner that’s willing to put a couple of hundred million dollars in phase one of his money in a city asset or not? For me, the answer is yes,” Curry said. “I hope the City Council ultimately gets their questions -- they’ll get their questions answered. And I hope they agree with me. But if they don’t, that’s their job. And they’ll hit the red button, and it’ll be a no.”
But Curry said that’s not the outcome he wants.
“Look, their questions are going to get answered, and I think we’re gonna get there,” he said.
The City Council hopes to start getting more of those answers at 5 p.m. Thursday when the second hearing for the Lot J project begins.