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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jun. 9, 202005:20 PM EST

Ruby Beach incentives, Downtown facade grant program move to full DIA board

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Food and Beverage Retail Enhancement Program could be approved June 17.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

A Downtown Investment Authority board committee unanimously approved its first applicant for DIA’s Food and Beverage Retail Enhancement Program, which could be approved by the full DIA board next week.

The Downtown retail incentive program must be approved by the full DIA board before any grants can be awarded. DIA CEO Lori Boyer said May 20 she expects the board to consider final passage of the food and beverage incentive at its June 17 meeting.

Ruby Beach Brewing Co. is requesting a $75,000 forgivable loan from the program. The money will be used for build-out costs for its second phase of construction, which includes a taproom, second-floor event room and outdoor patio space at 228 E. Forsyth St., according to the application.

The application was included in the DIA Retail Enhancement and Property Disposition Committee meeting agenda packet.

Phase two is expected to cost $337,100. Landlord 228 Forsyth Inc., owned by Petra Realty’s Chris Hionides, will have to contribute $286,500 toward the second-phase costs, according to the program’s requirements.

The DIA board must approve the application, expected at the June 17 meeting. 

Board members Jim Citrano, Oliver Barakat, Carol Worsham and Todd Froats serve on the committee.

The company’s ability to succeed Downtown is a major factor in approving its application, said DIA CEO Lori Boyer. The application requires a business plan, market analysis, sales forecast and cash flow analysis to prove it will be solvent Downtown. 

“They are bringing their successful operation into Downtown Jacksonville, I think that’s a wonderful sign, the type of activity we are hoping to drive,” said DIA Director of Downtown Real Estate and Development Steve Kelley, who presented the application to the committee. 

Food and Beverage program amended

The committee also unanimously approved an amendment to the Food and Beverage Retail Enhancement Program that would keep applicants from also receiving money from the city’s Downtown Historic Preservation Trust Fund as a financial match for the food and beverage grant. 

If the DIA board approves the amendments, it also would add a provision that would require Sidewalk Enhancement Grant applicants to include a plan that would protect any furniture, equipment or fixtures that may be on the sidewalk from damage. 

Facade grant guidelines move forward

The committee unanimously approved the proposed Downtown Facade Grant Program, which would provide a grant up to $75,000 to renovate, restore or rehabilitate a storefront within the Downtown Northbank Community Redevelopment Area that has not been built in the past 25 years. 

The proposed program will go to the full board for a vote June 17.

Boyer said DIA looked at Renew Arlington CRA’s facade grant program, along with similar programs in other cities, to formulate the requirements. 

The grant is payable upon completion of the project. It is not a five-year forgivable loan, but a grant. It would allow applicants to use the grant renovate a building, then sell it. It is designed to improve the street-level facade of the building, up to the second floor. 

Last year, City Council approved $950,000 to be placed in a Northbank facade grant program as part of DIA’s budget.

“The amount is small, relatively, but it provides an opportunity for people to fund things that may not be actually historically eligible,” Boyer said. “Their building may not be designated, and they may not want to designate it and the improvement itself may not qualify. … Those types of things is what this is intended to accommodate.”

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