Jacksonville NAACP says it can’t back Lot J development deal

President sends letter to city leaders expressing concern over $445M proposal

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council is expected to discuss again next week -- and possibly vote on -- a $445 million development project in Lot J next to TIAA Bank Field.

The deal calls for the city to invest $233 million in direct spending or loans by the city of Jacksonville to the Cordish Companies, the developer for Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

After Thursday’s debate over the project turned tense, the president of the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP sent a letter to Mayor Lenny Curry and council president Tommy Hazouri, explaining why the organization could not back the Lot J development deal.

READ: Letter from Jacksonville branch of NAACP opposing Lot J plan

NAACP president Isaiah Rumlin shared his concerns about the city possibly moving forward with the project during an interview Friday on “The Morning Show.”

Rumlin said he feels the deal doesn’t make financial sense for the city.

“Well, at the end of the day, it’s going to be a bad deal for the citizens of Jacksonville,” Rumlin said. “We feel that putting $233 million of taxpayers’ dollars into a project -- wherein it’s estimated that the net worth of Shad Khan is close to $8 to $10 billion -- is not protecting the people and citizens of Jacksonville. We have other pressing issues that are affecting the northside of Jacksonville, the westside of Jacksonville, Arlington. We have crime problems.”

Rumlin also said there are several other infrastructure problems that should be handled first before the project moves forward and expressed concern over what he called a lack of inclusion for minority and veteran owned businesses.

The potential developer on the project has stated that at least 25% of hired contractors would be minority-owned companies.

Mayor Lenny Curry said it’s not a matter of choosing between the city’s important issues but that the new development can happen while also still addressing local neighborhood issues.

“The infrastructure investments I’ve made as mayor, the most recent one was almost $200 million for the year. The year before I got into office, the city of Jacksonville invested $20 million in neighborhoods. My first year in office, I invested over $70 million in neighborhoods. The last few years, it’s been $100-plus million. This year almost $200 million. So my budgets have represented an investment in neighborhoods,” Curry said during an interview on “The Morning Show” on Thursday. “We’ve invested in neighborhoods before bringing a downtown project in like this. And are going to continue to invest in neighborhoods. It’s not a zero-sum game. We can do it all.”

While there is no decision made at this point on how the Lot J proposal will move forward, Rumlin is insisting on more transparency and overall integrity.

“We plan to continue to lobby each City Council member and voice our concerns, concerning Lot J. It’s a bad deal for the city,” Rumlin said. “And plus, you have the future renovations to the stadium, where is all of that going to come in? We’re not against the Jaguars, but we just want to make sure that the citizens of Jacksonville are not taken for granted because of what happened with consolidation -- promises need to be kept. And they haven’t been kept. They’ve been broken.”

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