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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jun. 9, 202108:00 PM EST

Council OKs expanded Downtown Vision borders, tax assessment

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Council OKs expanded Downtown Vision borders, tax assessment
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

More Downtown property owners soon will pay a special tax assessment to fund budget and staffing increases for Downtown Vision Inc. as well as expand the boundary of the business improvement district it serves. 

The Jacksonville City Council voted 16-2 on June 8 for Ordinance 2021-0292 that increases the size of the DVI district from 0.5 to 1.3 square miles. 

According to the legislative summary filed with the bill, the vote also will bump the nonprofit organization’s budget from $1.699 million in fiscal year 2020-21 to a proposed $2.514 million in FY 2021-22.

The legislation increases the city’s contribution to DVI from $510,615 to $661,898 in the next fiscal year. 

The bill is waiting for Mayor Lenny Curry’s signature.

DVI, founded in 2000 by ordinance, provides advocacy and other services to a business improvement district in a half-mile-square area of Downtown’s Northbank and Southbank.

The DVI board of directors requested that Council expand the boundaries to 1.3 square miles.

The expansion will result in a new tax for property owners in the expanded area. DVI is funded by a 1.1-mil tax assessment.

In March, DVI CEO Jake Gordon told its partner city agency, the Downtown Investment Authority, it is a “commonsense expansion” that allows DVI to deploy its Downtown Ambassadors into more areas on the Northbank and Southbank.

Gordon said the expansion will capture recent and proposed residential and public park development in LaVilla and retail and corporate office growth along Riverside Avenue, including Fidelity National Information Services Inc.’s new headquarters in Brooklyn. 

It will extend its work on the Northbank Riverwalk to the Riverside Arts Market.

“We want to be able to add more value and add more people. With a lot more residents Downtown and with a lot more activity, there’s just a lot more need,” Gordon said in March.

The bill also adds some Downtown residential properties to the tax assessment.

It excludes people who own their homes within the boundaries with a homestead property tax exemption.

Residential construction would have a five-year exemption after receiving a certificate of occupancy. Gordon said that would give new developments time to achieve market stability.

Affordable housing that receives money through the Florida Housing Finance Corp. and adaptive reuse projects funded through the city’s Historic Preservation Trust Fund also are exempt from the additional tax assessment.

The bill makes the DIA responsible for oversight of the additional tax revenue.

Council members LeAnna Cumber and Rory Diamond voted against the tax assessment increase. 

Both lawmakers have been vocal in their opposition to recent tax hikes, including the 6-cent increase to Duval County’s Local Option Gas Tax and the Duval County Public Schools half-cent sales tax to fund $1.9 billion in facilities improvements.

Cumber represents Council District 5, which includes the Downtown Southbank that will receive the expanded DVI services.

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