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Photo by David Chapman - Mayor Alvin Brown has recommended the Supervisor of Elections main office at 105 E. Monroe St. stay in its Downtown location.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 4, 201312:00 PM EST

Mayor's office wants Downtown SOE to stay put

by: David Chapman

Mayor Alvin Brown wants the Supervisor of Elections main office to remain Downtown and a new lease signed for the separate elections center.

Brown stated no preference for where the elections center should operate, whether at the existing site at Gateway Shopping Center with a new lease or at one of at least two other proposed locations.

The recommendation, issued Friday, shows Brown is opposed to proposals to build a new office in La Villa, estimated at $5 million to $11 million.

Brown's administration issued the report in response to a City Council resolution directing the administration review options for the consolidation and relocation of the supervisor of elections office.

The office has two buildings – its main Downtown office a 105 E. Monroe St. and the Gateway elections center at 5200-2 Norwood Ave. north of Downtown.

An initial administration report in November said the City-owned Yates Building at 231 E. Forsyth St. in Downtown was a "promising" possibility for a consolidated office, but that idea has been scrapped because of a lack of support from Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland and Property Appraiser Jim Overton.

Instead, Brown's administration has a "strong recommendation" for the main office to stay put and to pursue a new elections center lease at a location to be determined.

The City has received at least three proposals for the elections center, including one Friday from Demetree Brothers Inc.

Demetree has proposed a lease with two five-year options at Southgate Plaza, site of the former Duval County Traffic Court and Traffic Violations Bureau.

Demetree offers free rent for the first four months, followed by a base rate of $25,000 a month for months five-12.

Rent then would annually increase until year 10, when the monthly base rent would be $32,619.

The price is based on 50,000 square feet of space at an initial rate of $6 per square foot, although up to 70,000 square feet is available. Among the landlord concessions is construction of a loading dock, which Holland has said is needed.

The offer comes after an 11-year, 50,000-square-foot proposal from Grubb & Ellis Phoenix Realty Group for One Imeson. That offer features a year of free rent followed by monthly base rent beginning at $21,416 and topping out at $27,958 in the final year. It includes $670,000 for building improvements and $5,000 annually toward transportation costs.

Terranova Corp., which owns Gateway, has offered a 10-year lease for its current elections center site that would start at $24,583 a month in the first year and reach a maximum of $32,076 in the final year.

Terranova also would complete all building repairs and modifications the supervisor has requested and provide a $10,000 monthly credit in the current fiscal year, which would represent $60,000 in savings.

The center's current Gateway lease is about $51,000 a month.

City Council member Clay Yarborough filed legislation in December to support City construction of a consolidated facility in La Villa at a cost of $8 million, although substitute legislation lowered the price to $6 million.

The initially proposed site is 816 W. Union St., commonly referred to as the Sax property.

Soon after the legislation was filed, Brown said he did not support it nor construction of any new government building. He said the property might be commercially viable.

The Downtown Investment Authority requested a Request for Proposal on the property to determine its viability. Brown's report Friday said results of the RFP are expected in late March and that it "would not be prudent" to act on the property until then.

Brown's report said and elections building would cost $5 million to $11 million to design and build based on provided estimates.

Yarborough has said the building could be paid off in five years, which would include the sale of the main Downtown office, rent savings at the current Gateway elections center and minimal borrowing from the banking fund.

In its report, the administration refers to a financial analysis from January that disagrees with the timetable and states the option would cost more than the presented lease options.

Yarborough's legislation has yet to be voted on.

"The good that has resulted from filing the legislation is several interested parties have presented competitive, viable options that are in the best interest for Jacksonville taxpayers, and the bill has not even been voted on," Yarborough said Saturday.

"I believe a solution will be in place soon," he said.

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