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Jax Daily Record Friday, Sep. 11, 202005:10 AM EST

Bill would boost city incentives for Downtown redevelopment

Developers could use money for fire code upgrades, interior renovations and more.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

A bill making its way through City Council seeks to boost historic redevelopment in the North Core and throughout Downtown.

Two Council committees are scheduled next week to debate Ordinance 2020-0527 expanding city programs that offer incentives for the renovation and redevelopment of historic properties and old Downtown properties.

The Downtown Investment Authority board approved a resolution in July recommending Council enact the Downtown Preservation and Revitalization Program.

The program, created by DIA Director of Downtown Real Estate and Development Steve Kelley and CEO Lori Boyer, increases the city’s buy-in on historic projects. 

Boyer said the plan offers money for fire and other building code compliance upgrades like sprinkler systems that many developers tell the DIA is a roadblock to redeveloping older and historic structures. 

If approved, the proposal would reimburse 75% of code compliance costs for designated historic structures and up to 25% for aging buildings that are not designated.

The plan keeps the existing Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund for grants under $100,000. These incentives could be approved by the DIA without Council approval.

No more than 50% of total development costs will come from public money under the plan if the developer equity is greater than 15% of the project.  

The city would cover up to 75% of costs associated with exterior renovation and the same for interior restoration of historic features like an historic elevator or plastered cornices.

 “From a policy perspective, we felt the exterior was particularly important to other businesses, other properties Downtown, improving the market value Downtown,” Boyer said during a July 7 DIA meeting.

The city would cover 30% of the cost of interior renovation including new gypsum, granite or flooring, elements that Boyer said could be needed to make a building viable.

The incentives would require the developer to take a 20% gap loan to qualify.

Finance Committee Chair Matt Carlucci, Council president in 2001 when a task force led to the creation of the trust, is co-sponsoring the legislation with the DIA.

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