DIA Board gives their blessing over Lot J deal; Ball now in City Council court

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After four hours of presentations and discussions, the DIA has approved of the final staff report published yesterday, with a few changes.

There were a total of 23 recommendations made in the staff report. The changes the board did decide to make were made to two of the three main issues the Jaguars disagreed with. The first being a recommendation that the DIA could not recommend a full need for the infrastructure budget, specifically regarding the parking garage. This is due to a lack of information the DIA had. Jaguars President Mark Lamping said that they have given all the information over all of the infrastructure information to Public Works.

The Board voted 7 to 1 to cut this line out of the forwarded report as it was more of a statement and not a recommendation.

The Board also discussed greatly about if any changes should be made to the recommendation regarding the breadbox loan. The $65.5 million loan was, in the DIA staff report, an incentive that was not needed, according to the information that they had.

Lori Boyer, the DIA CEO, said that if they had that information, they would be able to give more specifics of the recommendation.

“But I can’t make a recommendation that it should be reduced by $10 or $10 million, because I don’t have the level of detail that gives me the ability to make that,” Boyer said.

The fact that there wasn’t information to make a detailed recommendation was the reason some board members wanted to take out the recommendation of a possible reduction or exclusion of the loan, a move that was supported by other board members. One board member, Oliver Barakat, made a suggestion that would recommend the City Council to get more information about the loan to determine if it was necessary, but that was denied.

The last main issue Lamping had with the list of recommendations was regarding the lease term agreements. He didn’t agree with the board’s recommendation because it contradicted with what the City Council had recommended in previous discussions. This term will be discussed in more detail at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

The other recommendations had primarily little discussion. One of the items that the Jaguars did agree to was the addition of a room surcharge for the hotel and for the developer to pay property taxes for the office building.

The board unanimously approved of the report and decided to send it, including the items the board voted against, to City Council.

MORE CONTEXT FROM OTHER PRESENTATIONS

While the presentations from Cordish Companies and the Northeast Florida Regional Council did not impact the staff report, they were able to give more context to the overall project.

The developer, Cordish Companies, also talked about the importance of the project. Zed Smith, the representative from Cordish throughout the Lot J negotiations, says they are in for the long haul and wants to expand more in the community. They won’t compete for entertainment with the Live! Venue, rather they will work with local entertainment venues to keep people in the area for longer and spend more money.

He also detailed the company’s experience with building a new venue in Kansas City during the global financial crisis in 2008.

“In fact, we doubled down in Kansas City and continued to plan for the for the growth of Kansas City as it relates to Jacksonville. I think what we’ve tried to do here is position ourselves very well for the future of Jacksonville. And I understand that this project is a heavy lift,” Smith said.

The Northeast Florida Regional Council presented on the potential for job creation from the Lot J project. They note that the project could create 495 jobs, but in reality it would only be 129 total new jobs as many of the workers would just be taken from existing nearby hotels, restaurants, retail, and other businesses.

CITY COUNCIL AND THE POTENTIAL VOTE

City Council will meet Thursday morning at 10 a.m. to discuss the DIA comprehensive staff report and the decision made by the DIA board. They will also hear from the Council Auditor on recent agreements to the contracts, and there will be a question and answer portion with the Jaguars, Cordish Companies, the Administration, and other city entities.

City Council members will have a chance to vote to push the bill forward to a final vote. This move is encouraged by Mayor Lenny Curry as he and Lamping doesn’t want to delay the negotiations any more as they have been ongoing, outside of the city council, for two years.

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee is a General Assignment Reporter for 104.5 WOKV.

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