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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Mar. 26, 201412:00 PM EST

No rush for Southbank Riverwalk

by: David Chapman

Completing the Southbank Riverwalk for $2 million had support from the majority of City Council members Tuesday.

It just didn’t have enough to get approved as an emergency.

Council member Denise Lee introduced a bill to transfer the money for the project, ensuring the 3,600-foot Downtown boardwalk would be completed. As planned, the $15 million project would stop at the Wyndham hotel property instead of extending the remaining 900 feet to the Duval County School Board building.

Despite an 11-8 majority, it fell two votes short of the emergency approval she requested. Now, it will go through council on one cycle, meaning it could be voted again in two weeks.

The funds would come from a riverwalk development project account for the improvements.

Lee said last week after a Recreation and Community Development meeting that she would pursue the funding as an emergency because “it needs to be done.”

She continued her pursuit Tuesday, saying an emergency was needed to alleviate concerns and “remove negativity” about the project being completed.

Council member John Crescimbeni, chair of the recreation committee, is a co-sponsor for the bill. He said he appreciated Lee stepping forward on the issue, but he wanted assurance from the city and developers, The Haskell Co., that the $2 million would cover the project.

Council member Bill Bishop said he supported the bill, but it was not a physical emergency and he wanted to make sure the addition really would come to $2 million. The additional two weeks would allow an extra level of review to assure the addition’s value, he said.

The bill will now head to the committee level next week.

Other action from Tuesday’s council meeting:

• An incentives deal for Greencore Group worth $296,500 of taxpayer dollars was approved. In return, the food-preparation company is slated to create 283 jobs and have a $10 million expansion to its North Jacksonville facility. The company makes sushi, sandwiches, salads and other ready-to-eat and ready-to cook-entrees for businesses like 7-Eleven, Trader Joe’s and Publix Super Markets Inc. The city will provide $155,000 through a Recapture Enhanced Value grant paid out over seven years and $141,500 from its Countywide Economic Development Fund.

• The “live here, work here” bill was repealed by a 14-5 vote and replaced with a policy that gives a preference to Duval County residents for city jobs.

Council member Reggie Brown spearheaded the idea in 2011, saying it would keep tax dollars within the county. Since then, though, council has provided several waivers for different hires, a move Crescimbeni said means the city wasn’t following the policy. Brown blamed the city for not enforcing the policy, which was “all about resources.”

• The Claude Nolan Building was designated a historic landmark structure by a 13-5 vote.

The former car dealership at 937 N. Main St. met four of the seven criteria needed and had the support of the owner. Several council members disagreed with the idea. Don Redman called it an “old dilapidated” building that “more than likely will never be restored.”

Trying to put a time frame on rehabilitating it, Stephen Joost proposed having a 10-year window for it to be restored or losing the designation, but Gulliford didn’t allow it to proceed after legal counsel said it was unclear whether it was a valid amendment.

Several supporters said they changed their mind on the vote after hearing an outpour of support from the community.

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