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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jan. 12, 201807:00 AM EST

Brosche forms committee to review deal for The District

City Council president says she’s heard concerns about plan’s complexity.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor
City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche

City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche formed a special council committee to review a pending deal for The District, a 30-acre mixed-use development proposed for the Downtown Southbank by developer Peter Rummell and his Elements of Jacksonville LLC group.  

In a memo issued Thursday, Brosche named council member Matt Schellenberg as chair of the committee. It also includes council members Garrett Dennis, Lori Boyer, Bill Gulliford and Sam Newby. 

The District deal, approved Wednesday by the Downtown Investment Authority, includes up to $45 million in taxpayer money and has the city buying the property from JEA – a key change from what was to be a straightforward land sale between Elements and the utility. 

“This is an important and sizable commitment on behalf of the city and the taxpayers,” Brosche said Thursday. 

“I’d like for us to be prepared to do the work that the City Council has to do to make sure this is the right decision for the taxpayers,” she said. 

Brosche said she has yet to receive the packet of documents issued to DIA members detailing the terms of the deal and that she did not want to make any decisions on the project based on media reports.

“Ultimately my inability to be part of these conversations, as well as other members on council who are interested, is another reason why we need to separate this from our work and focus on it as a single issue,” Brosche said. 

Constituents tell her the deal is confusing.

“On a surface level, the concerns I’ve heard from the community is that this project has moved from simple to complex, from the city not being involved financially to where we are now,” Brosche said. 

“I think it’s been a surprise to many.”

On Monday and again before Tuesday night’s council meeting, Schellenberg asked Brosche to form the committee to review the deal. 

Schellenberg has been a vocal opponent of the deal as it is structured. 

Instead of purchasing the land from JEA, Elements would spend $18.6 million on public infrastructure and the city would spend $26.4 million on it.

The DIA plans to buy the land for $18.6 million, paying JEA $1.86 million upfront, with the $16.7 million balance paid to the utility over the next two decades. 

Rummell and development partner Michael Munz said the project will include $433 million in private capital. 

Schellenberg could not be reached immediately by phone Thursday afternoon.

He said Wednesday he had expected Elements to purchase the property outright from JEA and has suggested previously that JEA put the project back out to bid.  

Brosche said it will be up to Schellenberg to set a meeting date for the new committee.

JEA’s board of directors will meet Tuesday to review a key change to the deal, which shifts most of the JEA loan payments from the Southbank Tax Increment District to revenues generated by the project. 

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