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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jan. 12, 201805:22 PM EST

Curry not concerned about special council committee to examine The District deal

“As I’ve said on all issues, it’s the council president and the council’s prerogative to vet any issues they see fit,” mayor says.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

Mayor Lenny Curry said Friday he’s not concerned about City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche forming a special council committee to scrutinize the pending land sale and development deal known as The District.

“As I’ve said on all issues, it’s the council president and the council’s prerogative to vet any issues they see fit,” Curry said at his “Sack the Steelers” fan rally at City Hall.

Brosche announced Thursday she had formed a special committee to examine the project, naming as chair council member Matt Schellenberg, a vocal opponent of the deal.

When asked if he was satisfied with the terms of the deal, which involves the city purchasing the property from JEA for $18.6 million and investing $26.4 million into infrastructure construction, Curry said he would look at the terms like any other economic development deal.

“There’s always a process. This one happens to have the DIA and JEA involved,” Curry said.

“And when that process is complete, it will get to us and we’ll assess, as will council,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Downtown Investment Authority approved Elements of Jacksonville LLC’s proposal to develop the land previously used for JEA’s Southside Generating Station into a mixed-use project focused on healthy living.

Elements’ plans include 1,170 residential units, a 200-room Marriott-brand hotel, 200,000 square feet of Class A office space, 285,000 square feet of retail, 125 marina slips, an extension of the Southbank Riverwalk and public park land.

The DIA’s decision is contingent on the JEA board of directors approving a key provision that the authority changed that concerns how it would pay back a $16.8 million loan to the utility for the land sale.

Instead of the loan being paid back only with funds from the Southbank Tax Increment District, the payments would be split with 75 percent coming from the revenue generated by the project and 25 percent from the Southbank district.

The board is scheduled to meet at noon Tuesday at JEA headquarters at 21 W. Church St.

JEA CEO Paul McElroy and board Chairman Alan Howard met Friday with Sam Mousa, Curry’s chief administrative officer, and other administration officials to discuss the developments at City Hall.

Before the meeting, McElroy said he was not worried about Brosche’s committee. “It was always going to have to come through City Council,” he said.

“The deal is very complex and that’s for the city and the DIA to work through,” McElroy said. “We’re handling the land sale, so we’ll leave it at that.”

He said the meeting Friday was to “hammer out some details” before the JEA board meets. He deferred to the city and DIA on other questions.

Mousa said the meeting was “to discuss some drainage and sewage issues,” but did not offer specifics.  

Joining Schellenberg on the special committee are council Finance Committee Chair Garrett Dennis and council members Lori Boyer, Sam Newby and Bill Gulliford.

Dennis said Friday he had not been briefed on the deal, “other than what I’ve seen in the news.”

“As a council member, my job is to make sure that whatever comes before us is a deal that protects the city and the citizens, and that it’s a good return on our investment,” Dennis said.

He said his initial concern is that it seemed the administration was prioritizing infrastructure spending for a private development over areas that need the investment most, like Northwest Jacksonville.

“If we can find $26 million for The District, maybe we need to find $52 million and put $26 million in The District and put $26 million in Northwest Jax,” Dennis said.

 The special committee meets at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at City Hall, two days after the JEA board and one day after the DIA meets.

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