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Rummell

Rummell says private investment group might assist Downtown, other areas

by Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

Peter Rummell, immediate past chairman of the Jacksonville Civic Council, said Tuesday evening some Jacksonville business leaders want to examine creating a private investment group that would pool funds to assist Downtown development and other efforts.

Rummell, chairman of the global Urban Land Institute, spoke to the institute's North Florida group at "Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2013" program at EverBank Field.

Rummell referred to a private investment group in Cincinnati that "put together a pool of money to make things happen."

The group is 3CDC, Cincinnati Center Development Corp.

Rummell wants to invite a group leader to Jacksonville or visit him in Cincinnati. Rummell wants to "see if we can get him to come and share lessons learned," he said.

He said after the event that the local effort would be to put together a pool of investment capital that could help with Downtown development and other efforts.

He said the Downtown Investment Authority, which began meeting in October, would provide "focus and muscle" to the redevelopment efforts.

Rummell said this morning the private investment group would not be just civic council members. He said there was no official status at the moment and no funding amount in mind.

"The Cincinnati lesson is that sometimes the private sector needs to take the lead and that is what we are trying to figure out here," he said.

"The focus would be Downtown, but I wouldn't rule out something smart outside the core," he said.

The nine-member authority, with five members appointed by the mayor and four by the City Council president, was created to lead efforts to redevelop Downtown.

Mayor Alvin Brown announced Tuesday that the City is committing $9 million to Downtown revitalization to leverage private investment.

Another $2 million will be directed to economic expansion outside of Downtown and directed by Brown's new Office of Economic Development.

Brown said in a news release the savings will be "reinvested in projects with private-sector investment that invigorate Downtown and elevate the Jacksonville economy."

"I look forward to working with our City Council, the business community and all stakeholders to ensure that these investments pay dividends for many years to come," said Brown in the release.

Ted Carter, who awaits Council approval as the inaugural chief executive officer of the office, attended the Tuesday institute event.

Brown said the $11 million investment, which requires Council approval, results from debt refinancing. The money will be available in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Proposed legislation calls for the $9 million to be appropriated to the Downtown Economic Development Fund and provide funding for the authority for its use in revitalizing Downtown after Council approval of a Downtown redevelopment plan.

A fact sheet from the mayor's office said any expenditures from the fund before Council approves a plan are subject to Council approval.

"My hope is over time, independent of this investor group, that the DIA becomes the legal driving force for Downtown decisions and the City Council will be comfortable with their process and focus," Rummell said.

"City Council is never a rubber stamp, but it would be nice if the two of them developed a trust and working partnership that let the majority of the work and decision-making be done by the DIA. Otherwise, why are they there?" he said.

Rummell said the Cincinnati insights would provide some guidance to a private investment group. "Let's find out how they were structured and how he got started," Rummell said of the group.

Rummell also told the institute's members of real estate brokers, developers, architects, engineers and others that Jacksonville leaders need to focus on the area's strengths.

"You build a real place by being a real place," he said.

The effort should be making Jacksonville and Northeast Florida "the realest place we can make it."

Rummell said he has traveled the past 18 months to Beijing; Shanghai; Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney; Istanbul; London; Paris; Vancouver; Toronto; and many major U.S. cities.

He said he developed an "overriding thought."

"I have decided that Jacksonville is the perfect size for what we want to do," he said.

It's large enough to "be on the map" and offer diverse lifestyle, entertainment and other choices, "but not so big that we're impersonal, that you can't identify with neighborhoods."

"It's not so big that you can't make a difference," he said.

Rummell referred to Jacksonville's reputation and national recognition for philanthropy.

"I don't think that's the sort of thing you can buy. That's in the water," he said.

"The combination of spirit and size, we have to figure out how not to waste" it, he said, calling it a "unique opportunity to build on what we've got."

Rummell recommends that Jacksonville leaders need to "move around and steal every good idea we can" from cities that have been successful.

"We're on the cusp of something huge," he said. "We're agile, movable, flexible."

Rummell began his real estate career in 1971 with the Sea Pines Co., which developed Hilton Head Island and Amelia Island.

Starting in 1977, he was general manager of Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach for the Arvida Corp. He joined the Rockefeller Center Management Corp. in New York as vice chairman in 1983 and left there in 1985 to become president of Disney Development Co., which was responsible for The Walt Disney Co.'s non-theme park land, directing hotel and related development at the company's theme park locations in Orlando, Anaheim, Calif., Paris and Tokyo.

During Rummell's 12 years at Disney, the new town of Celebration in Florida was created.

Rummell later became chairman of the merged Disney Development Co. and Walt Disney Imagineering, the company's design and creative division for theme park development.

In 1977, he left Disney and became chairman and CEO of The St. Joe Co., transitioning it from a regional manufacturing conglomerate focused on paper making to a real estate company.

He retired from St. Joe in 2008 and became CEO of Nicklaus Companies, founded by golfer Jack Nicklaus, with services including golf-course design, development of golf and real estate communities, and marketing and licensing of golf products and services.

Rummell retired in August 2009 and sits on several boards.

He also chaired the civic council, a group of about 50 civic and business leaders focused on creating a vision and strategies for city progress.

He was the inaugural chairman of the council, formed in 2010. It replaced the former Jacksonville Non-Group.

In February 2011, Rummell and Downtown advocate Preston Haskell unveiled the civic council's Northbank Redevelopment Task Force Final Report to revitalize Downtown Jacksonville. Among its recommendations was a Downtown improvement authority.

kmathis@baileypub.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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