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Ventures Development Group plans to build about 300 apartments on the Southbank Downtown next to the Aetna Building.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 19, 201712:00 PM EST

DIA approves grant capped at $7.6M for Southbank apartment project

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The next construction project Downtown took two steps forward Wednesday when the Downtown Investment Authority approved allocation of development rights and a Recapture Enhanced Value grant for the midrise project.

Ventures Development Group, based in Baton Rouge, La., proposes building up to 300 units of market-rate apartments on a 2.9-acre site along the St. Johns River next to the Aetna Building.

The REV grant is for 75 percent of the ad valorem taxes generated by the project for 15 years.

The grant is capped at a cumulative amount of $7.6 million.

According to the staff report submitted to DIA’s board of directors, the project will generate $15.2 million in ad valorem taxes in the first 20 years of its occupancy.

Authority CEO Aundra Wallace said with the grant, the developer’s construction cost per apartment will be $210,000, which he described as “right at the limit” for the project to be financially viable.

As per the Business Improvement District for Downtown approved by City Council, the board’s approval commits the grant with no action required from council.

A design workshop for the project was conducted in November by the Downtown Development Review Board, which will consider today approving the conceptual design of the building and streetscape.

The DIA board deferred action on a request for a Business Attraction Incentive agreement from IP Capital Partners, the landlord, and One Call Medical Inc. for One Call to lease about 83,000 square feet in the Aetna Building.

The lease would represent about half the space Aetna will vacate this year as the insurance company moves its operations to a suburban office park.

One Call currently leases space in the Aetna Building, but would move about 550 employees to Downtown from Baymeadows and create 107 new jobs in customer service and information technology.

The incentive would be capped at $1 million and paid in annual $100,000 installments over 10 years.

The company would be required each year to document it has at least 600 employees at the site and maintain a lease of at least 80,000 square feet.

Board member Oliver Barakat, senior vice president with the CBRE commercial real estate firm, supported the incentive agreement.

“Any time you can lease 80,000 square feet Downtown, it’s a good day,” he said.

But board member and attorney Brenna Durden questioned the language of the resolution for the incentive.

She said the way the agreement was written, the authority is not adequately protected in the event One Call fails to fulfill the requirements of the grant.

“I think this was brought to us too early,” she said.

Wallace said the resolution will be amended and placed on the agenda for the board’s meeting in February.

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