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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jul. 19, 201905:24 PM EST

City seeking council approval to buy old Fire House No. 5 property from FNF

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Legislation seeking to purchase the Riverside Avenue parcel for $2.6 million will go before City Council on Tuesday.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

City officials want to purchase the old Fire Station No. 5 property on Riverside Avenue from Fidelity National Financial Inc.

Ordinance 2019-527, filed Friday by City Council President Scott Wilson at the request of Mayor Lenny Curry, would authorize $2.6 million from the city’s debt management/loan repayment fund to buy the former fire station property on 1.21 acres at 347 Riverside Ave.

FNF, a Jacksonville-based provider of title insurance services, owns the adjacent parcel to the north at Alfred Dupont Place.

The city also is making other land deals on Riverside Avenue.

The Downtown Investment Authority approved a deal with Florida Blue Inc. on June 19 to make its 4.5-acre riverfront surface parking lot bordering the two Fidelity properties available for development.

In return, the city would provide Florida Blue with a $3.5 million grant to build a $22.5 million parking deck on available city property along Magnolia Street at the site of an existing retention pond.

Combined, the land deals would free up 5.71 acres for development along the St. Johns River.

The former firehouse on Riverside Avenue was built in 1910 and used until 2008 when the city relocated the service to 234 Forest St.

Public Affairs Director Nikki Kimbleton said Friday she has no information on the city’s plans on the property, and the mayor’s office has no comment at this time.

A fact sheet attached to Ordinance 2019-527 says: “The purchase will assist in redeveloping a vacant property in the downtown Northbank, eliminate blight conditions in the area and provide job opportunities to residents of the area.”

The document also states the city would realign Forest Street with the old Fire Station No. 5 property, providing better access to the firehouse parcel and surrounding properties, as well as improve parking for Sidney J. Gefen Riverwalk Park. 

If approved by council, the bill would amend Curry’s proposed 2019-20 Capital Improvement Plan released Monday as part of the mayor’s proposed $1.3 billion budget. 

The legislative fact drafted by the city Finance and Administration Department says deferring the amendment to the CIP until the next budget year “will be detrimental to the best interests of the community” and “impede redevelopment of a vacant property in the Northbank area and allow blight conditions to persist.”  

The move to sell comes as Fidelity National Information Services grows. The Jacksonville-based Fortune 500 company, which was spun off in 2006 by FNF, has at least 1,400 employees, according to FIS, and recently agreed to buy Worldpay Inc., an e-commerce and payments provider.

The Fidelity companies share a Riverside Avenue campus.

Kim Snider, the FIS senior vice president of corporate communications, did not immediately return a phone call for comment Friday. In a June 18 email, Snider said FIS will likely expand in Jacksonville.

“(FIS) will soon be a $12B global company with a market cap in excess of $75B,” she said. “As a result, we expect we will have continued growth in our Jacksonville-based employee population prompting us to explore multiple options that can accommodate our growth plans.”

The legislation will have its first reading by council during its 5 p.m. meeting Tuesday at City Hall.  The bill then will move to the Finance Committee and the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committees before a final vote by the full council.

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