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Getting a vacant property roll may not have to cost you
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Getting a vacant property roll may not have to cost you

Getting a vacant property roll may not have to cost you
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown

Getting a vacant property roll may not have to cost you

Does taking an inventory of Jacksonville’s land need to come with a price tag for you?

One City Councilman is offering a plan similar to what the administration wants to achieve, but one he says would come at no tax payer cost.  Councilman Reggie Brown has put forward a bill that would prevent the city from constructing any new building if a suitable, vacant one already exists.  It’s a thought that started with the discussion on whether the Duval County Supervisor of Elections should move in to any number of existing buildings or construct a new one at a city owned site.

“Let’s explore that first- let’s fill these buildings- before we even take up a conversation about spending tax payer dollars,” Brown says.

He says the thought of spending tax dollars to build a new facility with such a high vacancy rate doesn’t make sense- a thought mirrored by most of his colleagues on the Rules Committee who moved the bill forward Monday morning.

But the first step to filling the buildings, is knowing where they are, how many there are and what state of repair they’re in.  It’s a list Brown doesn’t have- and he says he’s asked the administration for.

His focus is mainly on the vacant real estate, which is different than a city proposal which was also read- although not discussed- by Rules Monday.  The administration is looking to allocate $150,000 to inventory and assess all city owned property.

So while there is a definite difference in scope, I asked Brown about the administration’s proposal, and its apparent similarities.

“We’re going in the same direction… I don’t know whether I’m OK or not with spending the money,” he says.

Brown says having an expert, like the outside company the city would hire with the $150,000, is valuable- but it undervalues what the city has available.

“We have some very talented people here with the city, especially within Council, and I think it’s just a matter of pulling people together,” Brown says.

He told me between the in-house resources like the Real Estate Department, local knowledge from the city workers who have worked with Jacksonville for years, and passion from the people involved- as well as volunteers he expects would be willing to go in on the project- the project can get done with no cost to tax payers.

Whichever action ultimately winds up being the final solution- perhaps both concurrently as we have now- Brown says the important thing is to get the ball rolling.  With big ticket items like the old county courthouse sitting empty, he says there is a lot of opportunity for the city.

“That’s prime real estate, so we can’t just continue to allow the properties to sit there as if it’s abandoned,” he says.

Whether buildings like that are ultimately renovated, sold, demolished or any other number or outcomes, Brown wants to make sure it’s a return on your money.

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