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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Oct. 6, 202008:27 PM EST

DIA’s rewrite of historic redevelopment incentives moving to City Council

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The bill would increase the amount of public money available for restoration and adaptive reuse Downtown.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

A bill that seeks to boost historic building redevelopment and adaptive reuse in Downtown Jacksonville is headed to the full City Council for a final vote.

Ordinance 2020-0527 expands city programs that offer incentives for the renovation and redevelopment of historic properties and contributing structures to Downtown’s historic district that are at least 50 years old.

Hearings for the bill at the Oct. 6 Council Finance and Rules committees had little to no debate. Both panels approved the ordinance 7-0.

The program, created by the Downtown Investment Authority staff, increases the city’s buy-in for historic projects. 

Here are the bill’s components if approved by the full Council on Oct. 13:

• It keeps the existing Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund for forgivable loans of $100,000 or less. The incentive can be approved by the DIA without Council approval.

• The DIA wants to give smaller projects eligibility for grants with funding limits capped at 40% of the total development costs. According to a report from the Council Auditor’s Office, that level of taxpayer investment would require a minimum of 10% developer equity in the project.

• The legislation would create a Downtown Preservation and Restoration Program for projects above $100,000 that would require Council approval. 

The program offers forgivable and gap loans to cover development costs. City funding is limited to 25% to 70% of the eligible costs, depending if the developer is restoring a designated historic structure or returning an older, vacant building for use.

Developers could receive a forgivable loan for up to 30% of the total project cost for a local historic landmark.

• The plan offers money for fire and other building code compliance upgrades, like sprinkler systems, that developers have told the DIA is a roadblock to redeveloping older and historic structures.

Developers could be reimbursed for up to 75% of code compliance costs for designated historic structures and up to 25% for aging buildings that are not designated. 

The city would cover up to 75% of costs associated with interior and exterior restorations, such as an historic elevator or plastered cornices.

The city would cover 30% of the cost of interior renovation including new gypsum, granite or flooring, elements that DIA CEO Lori Boyer said Sept. 9 could be needed to make a building viable.

The incentives would require the developer to take a 20% gap loan to qualify.

• The bill removes the $1 million cap on historic incentives, which has been waived in recent years.

 For example, historic incentives awarded to ACE JAX LLC for its $11.1 million adaptive reuse for Jones Bros. Furniture building totaled $1.5 million. 

The Council approved $8 million for SouthEast Development Group of Jacksonville and The Molasky Group of Cos. to renovate the former Barnett National Bank Building and the proposed renovation of the Laura Street Trio. 

Council member and DIA liaison LeAnna Cumber filed an amendment to streamline the bill’s language and reduce the program’s forgivable loan periods from 10 to five years for developers who used more than one program incentive. Both committees unanimously approved the amended bill.

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