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Jax Daily Record Friday, Aug. 23, 201905:20 AM EST

Deal for Florida Blue parking garage in Brooklyn goes to City Council

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Agreement would clear the path for Florida Blue's surface lot along Riverside Avenue to become the headquarters for Project Sharp.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

The City Council will consider a redevelopment agreement with Florida Blue for a new parking garage in Brooklyn. 

The garage would replace the insurance company’s existing Riverside Avenue surface parking lot, making the space available for the international headquarters of a company code-named Project Sharp.

Legislation filed Thursday would authorize the city to give a $3.5 million completion grant to build a 750-space, $22.5 million parking garage on city-owned property at Magnolia, Park and Forest streets two blocks west of the Riverside Avenue lot.

The city would transfer ownership of the 2.3-acre parcel,  appraised at $3.17 million, to Florida Blue at no cost.

The bill was introduced by City Council President Scott Wilson on behalf of the Downtown Investment Authority. The agreement was approved by the DIA board Aug. 7.

Florida Blue uses the riverfront parking lot at 323 Riverside Ave. for its Downtown employees. An aerial photograph included in DIA documentation shows the lot as the intended site for Sharp’s proposed $145 million headquarters.

Described as an international financial technology services company, Sharp matches the needs of Jacksonville-based FIS, a Fortune 500 company. The agreement states Sharp would maintain its existing 1,216 jobs in Jacksonville, which matches the FIS workforce.

This aerial photograph included in DIA documentation shows the Florida Blue surface parking lot as the intended site for Project Sharp’s proposed $145 million headquarters.

Sharp would create 500 jobs with an annual average salary of $85,000 and build the estimated 300,000-square-foot headquarters office building. 

A development agreement for Sharp cleared a first reading on the City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday. 

According to Ordinance 2019-626 and the approved companion DIA resolution, Florida Blue and the city would enter a 39-year lease for public access to the parking spaces after 6 p.m. on weeknights and 24-hours per day on weekends. Florida Blue would also be responsible for maintenance of the garage. 

DIA officials say the parking will meet demand and support existing and proposed retail businesses and restaurants on Riverside Avenue and nearby Park Street. 

Construction would begin no later than March 1 and be completed by March 31, 2021, if the council approves the deal.

The vacant city-owned property does not generate tax revenue, but DIA officials expect the garage to bring in $5.1 million over 20 years, or approximately $255,000 annually once in private ownership.

The City Council will hold a first reading of the Florida Blue agreement during its 5 p.m. Aug. 27 meeting at City Hall, 117 W. Duval St.

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