Downtown Investment Authority recommends approving Lot J ‘with some conditions’

The Downtown Investment Authority wants some major changes to the Lot J proposal. What happens by next Tuesday night could determine if the city decides to make the largest development investment in Duval County history.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We could learn soon if the controversial Lot J entertainment complex proposed by Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan will happen or not.

After a contentious Jacksonville City Council meeting last month, the project -- which calls for $233 million in city dollars and loans -- the Downtown Investment Authority was asked to review the proposal and make a recommendation.

On Tuesday, the DIA’s staff released their findings and its board is set to vote on it Wednesday afternoon.

“Our recommendation is one of approval but with some conditions,” DIA CEO Lori Boyer said. “It’s a grand scale, catalytic project. It’s not the typical that we are dealing with. The projections of economic impact and the projections of what it can do for the community is beyond the typical evaluation that we did -- no question about that.”

Boyer said the development group, which includes the Jaguars and the Cordish Companies, may not agree with the recommendations as the DIA has many questions. Among them: the amount the city will pay for infrastructure -- including groundwork, cleanup and even some construction -- which could cost the city more than $92 million.

The 46-page report points to many pros and cons and makes several recommendations, including:

  • “Absent construction costs and project detail information, we cannot verify the need for the full infrastructure budget.”
  • Questioning the need for a $65.5 million interest free-loan to Shad Khan and the developer. The report reads: “Our analysis of financial feasibility and construction costs, based on the information provided, does not reveal a need for this additional incentive as currently structured. Nevertheless, we understand that this may be non-negotiable from the developer’s perspective.”

The report concludes with the DIA saying: “We must acknowledge the tremendous positive impact this project could have on the immediate vicinity, and all of Downtown.”

City Council President Tommy Hazouri told News4Jax that now that the council is getting the DIA report, members will still want to hear from the council auditor and then will probably have questions. Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting is scheduled from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and could end with the council deciding to vote at the final council meeting of the year on Dec. 8.

This week, we could learn if the controversial Lot J project will happen. Right now it's in the hands of the Downtown Investment Authority.

Mayor: If Lot J deal doesn’t go through, NFL could drop affiliation

On Monday night, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry sent a Twitter storm of messages calling on the City Council to make a decision on the development of Lot J.

Curry started the thread implying that if Jacksonville residents want to remain an NFL city, the Lot J deal would help. Ninety minutes and six tweets later, Curry was also calling on voters to contact their City Council member to let their voices be heard as well.

“Green button for yes. Red button for no. Either way, go on the board,” he said in his second tweet.

The mayor made it clear he supports the Lot J deal and what it stands for. He pointed to local media for not advocating for the $450 million mixed-use development and called for a stop to the stalling.

“I’ve only heard 1 strong media voice speaking in favor of the importance of this deal for the city,” Curry wrote in his final tweet on the issue.

Council member Matt Carlucci was also on Twitter Monday night. He said the Lot J Development, Jaguars stadium upgrades and the Jaguars’ lease should be negotiated as one deal.

Carlucci went on to release five recommendations on how to move forward to assure transparency, accountability and public confidence.

About the Authors:

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