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Jax Daily Record Friday, Feb. 13, 201512:00 PM EST

City plan could mean $40M for Arlington

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A redevelopment initiative for Arlington could direct an estimated $40 million into revitalizing the aging suburb over the next 20 years, according to the city.

Renew Arlington is the name of Mayor Alvin Brown’s initiative to create a Community Redevelopment Area and Tax Increment Financing District to boost jobs and investment in one of Jacksonville’s older communities.

Brown has allocated more than $200,000 for the CRA study and plan that is expected to reach City Council for approval by year-end.

If council approves it, the city would determine a baseline value of taxable properties within the district boundaries. Starting in 2016, all of the additional property tax revenues would be redirected to revitalize the CRA.

That area, whose boundaries are tentative but will be determined by the plan, includes a large area around Jacksonville University at 2800 University Blvd. N.

The area moves south along the University Boulevard corridor to the Arlington Expressway and east along Merrill Road to the Interstate 295 East Beltway.

JU President Tim Cost has been working with city and community leaders to improve the area for most of the two years since he took the helm of the Arlington institution.

Brown made the efforts official Wednesday when he, Cost and council members Clay Yarborough and John Crescimbeni announced more details. Yarborough, whose district includes Arlington, is council president.

On Monday, the city issued a Request for Proposal from consultants or firms to provide professional services to create a “Finding of Necessity Study” and a comprehensive Community Redevelopment Area Plan for the University Boulevard/Merrill Road Corridor.

Proposals are due by 2 p.m. March 11.

At a public meeting in September about the project, city executive Karen Nasrallah explained the process. She is redevelopment manager at the city Office of Economic Development.

Before creating a Community Redevelopment Area, there must be a determination that the area meets the statutory definition of a blighted area, meeting at least two of 14 established conditions of blight. The definition must be documented by statistics.

The document of the “finding of necessity” requires council approval.

Then a redevelopment plan must be created with specifics: The boundaries with legal descriptions; the size, number and proposed use of buildings; the number of dwelling units; and any project or program the area wants to undertake.

City spokeswoman Kristen Sell said Thursday the city wants to concurrently work on both the “finding of necessity” and the community redevelopment plan. The RFP covers both steps.

Council would need to sign off on each. There also would be public hearings and proper notices and approvals.

The RFP wants the plan to provide a “three-dimensional” view of the area by assessing the market, economic and existing and future conditions that define the viability of revitalization efforts.

The plan will involve community and stakeholder involvement, a housing market study, a plan and policy framework, recommendations for funding sources and opportunities to partner with Jacksonville University.

The housing market study will look at existing conditions and future demand for residential housing in the Justina Road area.

The consultant must hold at least three community forums about the study efforts. In addition, the consultant will seek advice during individual or small group meetings, such as with business owners, and at larger workshops, such as with the area Citizens Planning Advisory Committee or an open house.

Bass Pro Shops in ‘early design’

A spokeswoman for Bass Pro Shops said the company continues “to be very excited” about its chosen site in St. Johns County, but did not elaborate about the plans or a timeline.

A St. Johns County Commission approval last week could spark the project, but the company hasn’t committed to a timetable even though it said in 2012 it could be open by now.

“The store is still in the early design stages, and as such, no new information is available at this time,” said spokeswoman Katie Mitchell, communications manager for Springfield, Mo.-based Bass Pro Shops Group.

Bass Pro Shops, which develops Outdoor World centers of merchandise and activities, announced Dec. 21, 2012, that it would open a 104,000-square-foot Outdoor World store in St. Johns County along Interstate 95 at the new Florida 9B interchange.

Last week, the St. Johns County Commission approved the Durbin Urban Services Area, owned by Gate Petroleum Co. That is where Bass Pro Shops intends to build on land donated by Gate, west of I-95 and south of Race Track Road.

The approval makes it easier for the Bass Pro Shops site to be rezoned and permitted for construction.

Also, Gate donated right-of-way for the Florida 9B extension and interchange. The Florida Department of Transportation’s sr9b.com website reports construction for the extension is funded to begin as early as late this year.

A St. Johns County executive said Florida 9B would be completed by 2018, and that Bass Pro Shops could start development as 9B is being constructed.

Mitchell referred to the announcement about St. Johns County on its company website, basspro.com, for more details.

That site shows nine Florida Bass Pro Shops stores and six “coming soon” to St. Johns County, Sarasota, North Palm Beach, Gainesville, Daytona and Brandon.

Sea Breeze applies for fund grant

Sea Breeze Food Service has applied to the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund for a $238,909 grant to assist its proposed $2.6 million expansion.

The Jacksonville-based food-service supplier asks for the grant to pay for sewer and road infrastructure improvements. It operates at 3807 Edgewood Drive.

Those improvements are necessary to support its 16,311-square-foot expansion to add a freezer, dry storage area and test kitchen.

It needs to connect to city sewer service at Ina Street and add a lift station; demolish the existing septic system; and widen and repave Keen Road, a public road.

Sea Breeze said it is committed to hiring at least five new employees and will make its best effort to hire workers from within the fund’s Northwest Jacksonville boundaries.

The application states that the city would benefit from any businesses that would pay to tap into the new sewer line on Edgewood. The road improvements would benefit other area businesses.

The sewer connection and lift station cost is $135,000; the road improvements are $103,909.

The Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund committee will review the request Feb. 24. The deal will need City Council approval.

Sea Breeze, owned and founded by Michael Griffin, reported sales of $30.7 million in 2013.

Griffin said in January that sales rose to almost $33.6 million last year and that he would likely add five to 15 employees with the expansion, which would reach $2.8 million.

[email protected]

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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