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Controversial Lot J deal defeated in City Council vote

After months of debate, City Council voted 12-7 against a deal to bring a major entertainment complex to Downtown Jacksonville.
After months of debate, City Council voted 12-7 against a deal to bring a major entertainment complex to Downtown Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After months of debate, City Council voted 12-7 against a deal to bring a major entertainment complex to Downtown Jacksonville.

For the deal to pass, there needed to be at least 13 votes in favor. Of the council members, Danny Becton, Matt Carlucci, Randy DeFoor, Garrett Dennis, Al Ferraro, Council President Tommy Hazouri and Joyce Morgan were all “no” votes.

News4Jax spoke with Jaguars President Mark Lamping following the meeting.

“We pulled the plug on Lot J. It’s dead,” Lamping said.

When asked if the Jaguars might consider another proposal for Lot J, Lamping said he thinks “it’s time to turn the page.”

“We’ll leave that behind,” Lamping said. “The next step was going to be development in the shipyards. We’re going to focus our attention on that.”

After the vote came in, Mayor Lenny Curry, who pushed for the project from the start, tweeted:

Curry had said the project would be good for Jacksonville and help ensure the Jaguars stick around long-term.

RELATED: Curry: If Lot J doesn’t happen now, it will never happen

The decision followed a marathon meeting a week ago where council members voted 15-4 in favor of the plan, but the final vote was needed Tuesday night for the project to become a reality.

Under the deal, the entertainment district, which was planned for Lot J outside TIAA Bank Field, would have been one of the biggest investments in the city’s history. Taxpayers would foot part of the bill for the $445 million project.

The proposed city investment included $233 million in direct spending or loans to the developer for Jaguars owner Shad Khan, the Cordish Companies.

Hazouri had been against the project, saying information was lacking.

“I blame the mayor, I can’t blame Cordish (Companies), or the Jaguars because they do what every developer does. They try to get the best deal that they can,” Hazouri said. “But we can’t set an example today by supporting this bill. And then we’ve already set a precedent for other developers to come in and want the same thing.”

Carlucci said there had been a lack of transparency.

“Nobody has provided us anything on what these actual hotels and apartments will cost per square foot, but we are spending a whole heck of a lot of money and we don’t know any backup information to justify what we are spending,” Carlucci told News4Jax a week ago. “I just think it ought to start over. I think it’s time to just pull the plug on it. The will of the community is just not there.”

Dennis said in the end, the taxpayers won.

“At the very beginning, I said that this deal had to be right for the taxpayers of Jacksonville, and I wasn’t going to support any high profile project if the taxpayers were getting screwed in this project, and in this deal, they were getting screwed,” Dennis said.

Dennis also spoke on The Morning Show about the vote. Press play below to watch:

Plans to develop Lot J into a multi-million dollar entertainment complex were rejected late last night. The council needed 13 votes- a super majority- for the deal to become a reality--- it fell one vote short.
Plans to develop Lot J into a multi-million dollar entertainment complex were rejected late last night. The council needed 13 votes- a super majority- for the deal to become a reality--- it fell one vote short.

As the public spoke out during comment, Former Jaguar Tony Boselli was among those who supported the project.

“I’ve heard for 25 years of great ideas, things we are going to do in this city to redevelop downtown and make downtown great. But none of them ever happened, nothing ever happened. A lot of talk, a lot of big ideas but nobody really puts their money where their mouth is,” Boselli said.

The deal had come under fire by community groups including the NAACP and OurJax. After the vote, OurJax released this statement.


About the Authors:

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

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.