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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Nov. 18, 202010:00 AM EST

Council Finance Chair Carlucci asks for DIA review in Lot J substitute bill

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Urban Land Institute North Florida calls for transparency in Shad Khan’s $450 million project partnership with the city. 
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

City Council member Matt Carlucci filed substitute legislation to include Downtown Investment Authority review of Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s proposed $450 million Lot J development and taxpayer-backed incentive package for the project. 

Matt Carlucci

Carlucci, chair of the Council Finance Committee, wants to strike several ordinance code waivers in Mayor Lenny Curry’s legislation.

Curry’s bill limits the DIA’s role in Lot J’s analysis and approval compared with past Downtown development projects. That includes sidestepping the Downtown Development Review Board.

 In an emailed statement Nov. 17, Carlucci argues that bypassing the DIA undercuts the independent authority and could establish an unfair precedent.

“As part of its job, the DIA will assess the economic feasibility and economic impact of any proposed project. I see no reason to bypass the usual codified DIA and accompanying processes which all other projects must adhere to,” Carlucci wrote.

“This is established policy and a prudent thing to do,” he wrote.

“In short, the work of the DIA helps us with our fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Jacksonville. I would like to invite my Council colleagues to consider signing on as a sponsor.”

 Carlucci said last week he would introduce an amendment to Ordinance 2020-0648 at the Nov. 19 Council Committee of the Whole. 

 His replacement bill filed Nov. 17 adds the DIA oversight language but keeps the remainder of the legislation, leaving intact $233 million in city investment negotiated by Curry administration staff.

Council will consider the substitute bill after the DIA board’s expected vote Nov. 18 on the $12.5 million Recapture Enhanced Value Grant for the 400-unit residential component of the project. 

Khan development company Gecko Investments LLC and partner Baltimore, Maryland-based The Cordish Companies also proposed a city-owned 100,000-square-foot Live! District entertainment venue; 75,000 square feet or retail; 40,000 square feet of Class A office space; and a 150- to 250-room hotel at Lot J.

Carlucci’s legislation comes after Council President Tommy Hazouri spoke out against the agreement as it exists in the original bill. He said in a Nov. 17 Florida Times-Union report that the city appears to be “getting the shaft” in the deal.

Mixed reviews

The Urban Land Institute North Florida calls for more analysis of Lot J.

In a letter to Curry, Hazouri and city lawmakers, ULI North Florida District Council Chair Tarik Bateh offered the organization’s expertise in planning Lot J and urged transparency.

“While ULI is neither in favor of nor against any specific projects or proposals, including the Lot J Project, ULI does believe any project of such magnitude – financially, catalytically, and optically – deserves sufficient time and transparency to allow for all direct participants, as well as major stakeholders, to (i) conduct responsible diligence and analysis and (ii) hold inclusive, informed public discussion with ample opportunity for all sides and perspectives to contribute within a fully informed context; such that elected officials are equipped to make a fully informed decision which respectfully weighs and best aligns public and private interests,” the statement says.

ULI is the second civic group in two days to weigh in on Lot J. 

The Jacksonville Civic Council released a letter Nov. 16 supporting the deal and its potential to aid Downtown revitalization but also called on more time for City Council Auditor oversight.

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