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Jax Daily Record Friday, Oct. 28, 201612:00 PM EST

Board deadlocks on $1.95M in incentives for $33.9M private investment from Leggett

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North Jacksonville developer Steve Leggett wants to develop what is tentatively called River City Crossing with the assistance of up to $1.95 million in incentives from the city for infrastructure.

The project’s $33.9 million in private capital investment would include $4.8 million for work that includes internal roadways that would be dedicated to the city, Leggett proposes.

River City Crossing is a mixed-use project comprising almost 163 acres at Owens Road and Max Leggett Parkway, bordered on the east by Hyatt Road. It is designed in two phases.

The city assistance would apply only to uses that qualify as targeted industries, including office, office-medical, bank and warehouse/flex space. Most of that would be developed in the second phase.

Leggett proposes almost 202,000 square feet for those uses, creating 160 jobs.

The property sits north of the River City Marketplace regional retail and entertainment center and is across Max Leggett Parkway from the new UF Health North campus.

The project is within the Jacksonville International Airport Community Redevelopment Area, which was created by City Council in 1990 to generate economic growth.

However, the JIA CRA advisory board voted 2-2 Thursday on a motion to approve the incentives, meaning the motion didn’t carry. It now goes to council, which would meet as the JIA CRA board.

Three members of the advisory board did not attend the afternoon meeting at City Hall.

Advisory board chair Stephen Swann and member Lad Daniels opposed the incentives, saying the area has received enough taxpayer assistance.

“I don’t think Mr. Leggett needs the help on this one,” said Daniels, a former council member.

Daniels said he was having problems “incentivizing any more projects,” especially in the area of the CRA that includes the marketplace.

The 14,245-acre CRA generally encompasses most of the JIA area and runs south to Dunn Avenue and extends east to North Main Street.

Swann said he wants to see further justification for the incentives.

Board members Michael Stewart and Warren Alvarez, a former North Jacksonville council member, voted to approve the incentives.

“There’s a big need out there,” Alvarez said referring to assisted living facilities, one of the proposed uses on Leggett’s property.

“It will be highly successful,” he said.

Council district representative Reggie Gaffney urged support.

“I am 100 percent behind this project and I think we all should be,” he said.

Leggett said the demographics of the area remained a challenge for retailers. He said the area was doing well, “but nobody needs to do any victory laps yet.”

He also said the developed property would generate more taxes than it does now and the incentives were for a short term.

“This is a prime example of a public-private partnership,” Gaffney said.

Office of Economic Development Executive Director Kirk Wendland said his staff has been working on the deal for six months.

The CRA plan says the city should be working on attracting the type of development Leggett proposes, he said.

Leggett’s land-use lawyer, T.R. Hainline of Rogers Towers, said it was difficult for a landowner to meet the criteria “and find there’s another litmus test.”

Assistant General Counsel Susan Grandin said the advisory board would report the 2-2 vote to the JIA CRA board, which comprises the full council.

Gaffney pledged to “do my best” to persuade the other 18 council members to support the project.

Through Uptown Signature Development Inc., Leggett requests a Recapture Enhanced Value grant of up to $1.75 million and a Tax Increment District Infrastructure Development grant of $200,000.

The REV grant would be based on 50 percent of the incremental increase in property taxes over 10 years.

The TID grant would be disbursed after the project infrastructure is complete. An Office of Economic Development project summary says the supporting infrastructure for both phases is estimated at $4.8 million.

Wendland told the advisory board that $200,000 in return for $4.6 million of investment “is good leveraging.”

River City Crossing would expand job opportunities in the CRA and be accessible to residents in some of the city’s high unemployment areas, according to the summary.

“The River City Crossing development project will make a significant capital investment and reduce the amount of vacant land within the CRA, adding to the City’s commercial tax base for years to come,” the summary says.

Leggett recently sold land for the North Jacksonville development of a 1,500-employee Amazon.com fulfillment center.

He also is considering a name like Uptown Village Center for the River City Crossing project.

The site’s first phase already is seeing activity. Leggett recently sold almost 18 acres to Integra Land Co. of Lake Mary to develop the 300-unit Integra River Run apartment community. Multifamily is not among the uses that trigger incentives.

The site is being cleared. The community should start coming on line in May with the clubhouse, followed by the first units in July.

Also in the first phase, Leggett is preparing four outparcels at Owens Road and Max Leggett Parkway for uses such as a gas station-convenience store and restaurants.

He said some of those parcels could be combined for a hotel.

In addition to the uses that qualify for assistance, Leggett said the project’s second phase could include assisted living.

The second phase comprises 12 parcels identified for a bank, office and office-medical as well as warehouse and flex space.

There also are three large conservation easements and two stormwater management facilities.

UPS still has no comment on plans

UPS Public Relations Director Susan Rosenberg said Thursday there is nothing to announce about the site plans filed with the city for a 264,000-square-foot expansion of its Jacksonville package center in Northwest Jacksonville.

The plans coincide with city legislation for incentives to assist the unidentified Project Mountain expand its Northwest Jacksonville logistics center. The project is evaluating four other cities and considers the incentives a material factor in its decision.

City Council is fast-tracking the legislation for the $4.3 million Recapture Enhanced Value grant.

Rosenberg said UPS facilities in Jacksonville and other areas are being reviewed.

She said UPS has stated, and reiterated with its earnings report Thursday, that the company continues to optimize and expand its processing network.

Rosenberg said the company would share project details when UPS leadership makes a decision.

The UPS center is in Westside Industrial Park. Jacksonville’s center is one of the large hubs in the UPS ground network.

She said Jacksonville’s airport is a gateway for some UPS aircraft, but regional air hub operations are in Columbia, S.C., Miami and at its UPS Worldport international air hub in Louisville, Ky.

The package centers that operate at hubs are where UPS dispatches the familiar brown trucks for local pickup and delivery.

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@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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