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Downtown board fights to keep investment money
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Downtown board fights to keep investment money

Downtown board fights to keep investment money
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown

Downtown board fights to keep investment money

The Downtown Investment Authority moving to get its money back, although it’s unclear if that will make a difference.

A frustrated board voted Wednesday evening to pass a resolution to “ensure the designation of the $9 million allocated to the Downtown Economic Development Trust Fund by  ordinance 2013-89-E remain in the Downtown Economic Development Trust Fund.”  This comes in response to Jacksonville’s Finance committee moving to reclaim that money to put in special council contingency, which is used to help during budget negotiations.

The money, in addition to $2 million that had been allocated for countywide development, was generated from refinancing bonds. Council members who voted in favor of reclaiming the money said the DIA had shown little progress and not given a good idea of what they would use the money for. As such, they said the money was more urgently needed for the city’s budget overall.

“It casts this specter of uncertainty- if we tee up a great project, whether it’s private sector or just a public sector project, what bucket of money are we going to access,” says DIA Chairman Oliver Barakat.

In the resolution, obtained by WOKV, the DIA says there are six projects they want to invest in, including the Laura Street Trio, Bostwick Building, Shipyards and more.  The resolution also mentions that this is the first meeting where the board, as well as its newly installed CEO, is now all in place, which means they are ready to move forward, if they have the funding.

“We can’t have everything that we want, but we can get some of the things that we want and get off the ground and get moving, that’s what’s most important to us,” says DIA CEO Aundra Wallace.

While the DIA ultimately passed the resolution, members were frustrated that their extent to act essentially ended there. Several board members said they wanted face-to-face interaction with councilmembers or some other, more significant way to act.

“While a resolution is an important part of what we should do, it’s not gunna create the results that we’re looking for at this point,” Barakat says.

Nonetheless he doesn’t think the fight over the money is over just yet.  Wallace says the back and forth is actually productive, because it necessitates accountability.  Because the DIA would have needed council approval to pull out any of the money anyways, Wallace says they would have had to show a strong case for each project- something they will continue to do when fighting for money from a different revenue source in front of city council if the money is in fact taken away.

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