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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 16, 201712:00 PM EST

Downtown Vision seeking full contribution from city for its budget

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

It’s just the middle of March, but preparing budget proposals for the city spending plan that will go into effect Oct. 1 has begun.

Downtown Vision Inc., the nonprofit urban core advocacy organization established by ordinance and funded with an additional property tax assessment on Downtown commercial property, presented its plan on Wednesday to the Downtown Investment Authority.

Terry Durand-Stuebben, chair of DVI’s board of directors, said the organization’s mission is reflected in its budget proposal, with more than $754,000 of the $1.4 million budget allocated for making Downtown clean, safe and attractive.

Other priorities include “experience creation,” marketing and serving as a resource for Downtown information and statistics, she said.

Jake Gordon, DVI CEO, said the agency wants to get ahead of the process and wants to ensure the authority’s approval of its budget when the plan goes before the administration and City Council in a few months.

The budget projects revenue of $770,000 from commercial property, based on the additional 1.1 mill assessment.

The city’s annual contribution, based on the value of public property within the Business Improvement District, has for several years been $311,660, which Gordon said calculates to about 0.8 mills.

From 2001, when DVI was created, through the 2007-08 budget, the city paid 1.1 mills like the commercial property owners. But then budget issues caused by the recession led to cutbacks, one of which was the reduction in the appropriation for DVI.

Gordon said if the city contributes 1.1 mills in the 2017-18 budget, the amount would be increased to about $492,000, based on the city’s Downtown property assets being worth about $450 million.

Factored into the requested amount from the city is a credit of $34,000 because the city provides office space in the Ed Ball Building for DVI at below market rate, Gordon added.

The proposed budget also shows about $40,000 in voluntary contributions from owners of exempt property, including JEA, First Baptist Church and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

“Stakeholder support is critical,” said Durand-Stuebben.

If the city agrees to contribute the additional revenue, Gordon said it would be used to hire four additional Downtown Ambassadors that would be dedicated to the Northbank and Southbank Riverwalks.

The budget proposal was unanimously approved.

The authority also approved a resolution in support of the mayor’s office proposal to continue funding Friends of Hemming Park April1-Sept. 30 and allocating an additional $415,000 for operational expenses and capital improvements in the park.

Also, a consultant will be retained to conduct a survey of Downtown parking and develop a strategic plan to manage it.

Board member Oliver Barakat said there hasn’t been a Downtown parking study since 2007 and “a lot has changed since then.”

The authority received last week three proposals for redevelopment of the Shipyards property along the St. Johns River and East Bay Street.

A preliminary proposal evaluation meeting is scheduled at 11 a.m. Monday in the third floor conference room at City Hall.

[email protected]

(904) 356-2466

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