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Brown to stump for private investment: DIA to handle public funds

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

Mayor Alvin Brown said he will not have a direct influence in how $9 million for Downtown development will be spent, relying on the Downtown Investment Authority to make those decisions.

"We have some of the best minds in this City on the DIA," Brown said Wednesday, a day after announcing that more than $9 million would be allocated for Downtown and $2 million for Duval County economic development.

The $11 million allocation, resulting from bond refinancing, must be approved by City Council. Legislation had not been filed as of Thursday.

"I laid out a clear vision, the DIA embraced that vision and it is up to them to come up with ideas and opportunities to take Downtown to the next level," Brown said of the nine-member board, five of which he appointed with the remaining four appointed by the Council president.

Brown said the money is savings realized through refinancing the City's more than $1 billion worth of bonds.

Brown said the $9 million will provide the authority with resources it needs to leverage deals and operate and "shows a commitment for Downtown."

"You've got to put resources in," he said. "This is a way to really jump-start (it)."

The authority has not hired an executive director or submitted a comprehensive plan, which means any Downtown deal it facilitates must be approved by Council.

The authority can operate independently of the Council after the plan is approved, but only for deals that meet certain thresholds.

Brown said Wednesday he was not worried about Council approval of the $11 million allocation or any deal the authority might reach before a plan is approved.

"All of that is going to work out," he said.

He said Jacksonville has momentum and he did not want potential investors to balk because of Council inaction on the legislation.

Brown said he doesn't want investors to think "the City really isn't serious because City Council doesn't want this to happen."

Brown said he considers the legislation a way for his administration and Council to work together and he didn't want to speculate when asked whether Council members might alter the $11 million allocation.

"They believe in Downtown," he said.

Brown said the $9 million for Downtown is comparable to the assistance approved for Brooklyn residential deals with Hallmark Partners and Pope & Land.

The City will spend almost $12 million in incentives for the mixed-use developments that will bring almost 600 residential units to Downtown.

"I am hoping that 2013 will be a great year for Downtown," Brown said, referring to the allocation and the fast-track legislation that speeds up the incentives approval process in Council.

Brown said he will shift his focus now to working toward private-sector investment.

"I am the true CEO in this city, the ambassador for the city (by) marketing and selling Jacksonville. I am the face of Jacksonville, selling this city all over the globe to let people know we are open for business," Brown said.

"The mayor believes in tax incentives and tax credits," he said.

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

"The focus would be Downtown, but I wouldn't rule out something smart outside the core," Rummell told Daily Record Managing Editor Karen Mathis.

In a May 2012 meeting with members of the Urban Land Institute North Florida chapter, Brown discussed an idea to pitch the top 100 local successful "seasoned investors" to pool their money for a public-private partnership for three or four major projects. He didn't specify Downtown or any area.

He suggested $2 million each, which would create $200 million in private investment.

When asked Wednesday if there was a private group ready to step up, Brown was noncommittal.

"Everybody knows the players around here, it's not secret," he said.

He said has "planted the seed" for the business community to become involved.

dchapman@baileypub.com

(904) 356-2466

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