DeFoor on Lot J: Mayor Curry ‘irresponsible’ for not requiring ROI and ‘would be fired’ in private sector for no independent analysis

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The proposed Lot J development at TIAA Bank Field is raising questions about how many dollars and cents the city will pocket from the project that will require the city to borrow more than $200 million dollars.

“This will be the largest public private partnership in the history of Jacksonville,” says Randy DeFoor who is co-chair of the finance committee and along with chair Matt Carlucci will host a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday to dig for details from Jaguars representatives.

One issue is why the mayor’s office is relying on a financial analysis by a consultant who was hired by the Jaguars instead of doing their own research on the near half-billion dollar development. Johnson Consulting claims the retail space will generate $402 million dollars in tax revenue over 30 years among other calculations.

Mayor Lenny Curry defended his actions last Thursday, saying “The council auditor has asked for an ROI (Return on Investment) so we’re going to give them one but that’s not part of our investment policy because a return on investment calculation based on a facility we own is just not in the course of ordinary business.”

DeFoor says that would never happen in the private sector.

“To say there is no need for an independent analysis on return on investment is irresponsible,” Defoor said, adding “In my world you would be fired for that.”

In addition to the $208 million the city would borrow is the issue of how much interest it will pay on the money.

Donald Wiggins is professor emeritus of accounting and finance at the University of North Florida and says if the city does not pay back principal along the way, the interest will be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Lot J

*2% Interest Payments

Loan Amount

10 years $41.6m

20 years $83.2m

30 years $124.8m

*Paying No Principal

Action News Jax Ben Becker emailed the Mayor’s office regarding DeFoor’s comments as well as the City Council auditor to find out if the city has indeed submitted a financial analysis.

The Mayor’s office did not provide a comment by air time but later in the evening, Becker received this text message from Curry’s Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury: “It’s unfortunate that despite the calculations and project details that are readily available for this Council Member, she chooses to misinform her constituents and disparage the work of our negotiators, economic development team, and the Mayor. This Councilperson has had access to have her constituents' concerns directly addressed by city staff at city hall as well as by the development team while on a yacht. If the Council Member doesn’t support thousands of new jobs and a billion dollars of economic development in our downtown, she should notify the development team and vote against the project.”

Becker asked Defoor for her comment regarding Elsbury’s response and she said “Is he looking at the same deal?”

Elsbury went on to say a financial analysis and ROI has been submitted to the council auditor.

City Council will have a meeting along with city leaders and the Jaguars on November 5th followed by a public hearing on November 10th and the possibility of a final vote on November 19th.

“I want to have an open mind,” says DeFoor. “This could be a shot in the arm for Jacksonville if it’s done right.”

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