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Jax Daily Record Friday, Nov. 9, 200712:00 PM EST

City honored for performance in economic development and planning

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

The Jacksonville Economic Development Commission (JEDC), The City’s Planning and Development Department and Fidelity National Financial have received regional awards for projects involving urban development.

The JEDC has added to its trophy case the Florida Development Association’s 2007 Roy F. Kenzie Award in the “Planning Study” category for the four-part Task Force effort that resulted in a Downtown Action Plan. That plan addresses issues ranging from retail and housing development to open space and the pedestrian experience. The plan is based on public-private partnerships and more than 100 business and community leaders and experts in the various disciplines worked together to formulate the findings.

The JEDC and the Planning Department were honored by the Northeast Florida Regional Council (NFRC) for designating Downtown as a Transportation Concurrency Exemption Area (TCEA). The designation promotes mixed-use development projects that are designed to coordinate with transit options to mitigate the impacts of growth on the roadway system.

The NEFRC also awarded Fidelity National Financial, the JEDC and Cornerstone Regional Development Partnership the Regional Award for Excellence in Economic Development and Tourism for the relocation of Fidelity’s headquarters to Jacksonville. The company has invested more than $77 million in private capital and also created an employee base of 3,200 people.

In addition, the JEDC, the Planning Department and the engineering firm HDR were recognized by the Northeast Florida Chapter of the Florida Planning and Zoning Association with its 2007 Outstanding Public Development Award for the Bay Street Town Center project. It extends along Bay Street from Liberty to Ocean streets and encompasses 167,900 square feet of retail and office space available for development.

The JEDC award comes on the heels of the cancellation of its November meeting. The Commission traditionally meets each month to review projects, but has convened only once since the July meeting when the Commissioners approved a pair of Qualified Tax Incentives. The JEDC also canceled the November meeting scheduled for yesterday due to having no issues that require immediate action, said JEDC Deputy Director Paul Crawford.

“That’s doesn’t mean nothing is happening. We have plenty of things in the pipeline, but we don’t like to ask the Commissioners to meet unless we need them to take action on projects. There is a lot of preliminary work that has to be done by staff before an issue can be brought before the Commission,” he added.

Crawford also said projects that have already been approved by the JEDC are now in the implementation phase, including the Hallmark Partners and Miles Development mixed-use developments along Riverside Avenue in Brooklyn Park. Crawford said in addition to what’s being done by the private developers, the City is responsible for infrastructure improvements from streets and drainage to utilities.

“We went through a period when we had many projects come to fruition that needed approval in the same time-frame,” said Crawford. “Now the (JEDC) staff is working to coordinate all the public and private entities involved to ensure the infrastructure improvements that are involved in the projects proceed on time, on budget and at the level of quality that’s required.

“It’s quiet right now on the proposal side, but we’ve got a lot that’s in the incubation part of the process. It’s the natural cycle and it’s nice to have a little breather every once in a while.”

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