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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 12, 201706:50 AM EST

The Cawton Report: DIA may offer LaVilla property for development

Three housing projects, transportation hub are under construction in area.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

The Downtown Investment Authority could begin marketing property in LaVilla for development.

The idea was presented at the DIA board’s Strategic Implementation Committee meeting Friday for property at 905 W. Forsyth St., formerly the home of Lee & Cates Glass.

Duval County property records show the city bought the quarter-acre site in 2003.

“What we’re asking is to make a recommendation to the full DIA board that would cause staff to offer a notice of disposition,” said DIA Redevelopment Manager Guy Parola.

“In other words, market it to the masses,” he said.

The property is near developments under construction Downtown, including three housing projects and a Jacksonville Transportation Authority regional transportation hub.

“I think this is a prime area,” DIA board Chair Jim Bailey said. “I think with its proximity to the courthouse and this historic area, the demand is there.”

Parola told board members the property has received some developer interest in the past, which gives them “a good feeling” they could find a buyer.

The item will be debated at the November DIA board meeting.

‘I’m having a blast,” Brosche tells club

City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche on Wednesday reiterated her commitment to improving neighborhoods, parks and providing a better quality of life for Jacksonville residents.

“As I mentioned at my installation as council president, my vision is for Jacksonville to become the best city in the world to grow up in,” she told the Southside Business Men’s Club.

Brosche spent the previous night managing the 19-member council’s four-hour discussion and passage of legislation reforming public children’s services.

The discussion featured political maneuvering and questions about procedure, which Brosche said was a learning opportunity.

“I’m having a blast,” she told the group.

After her remarks, Brosche answered about a dozen questions from the group on topics such as Confederate monuments and a controversial traffic stop involving two council members.

On the monuments, Brosche repeated that “there is no legislation filed” and that “all options are on the table.”

About the traffic stop involving council members Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown, Brosche said any potential repercussions weren’t up to her.

“That will be leveled by the districts who elected them,” she said, “if they feel the need to level any repercussions.”

Belit deal adjusted for HQ office space

City Council members also approved two bills dealing with economic development Tuesday night.

The first is an amendment to an economic development agreement between the city and Belit Inc., the holding company of Jax Apex Technology Inc. and True Design Studios Inc. The agreement required that Belit build a 15,000-square-foot corporate headquarters.

In exchange for a $180,000 Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund grant, split by the city and state, Belit agreed to build the headquarters and hire 60 employees at an average salary of $56,750 by Dec. 31, 2019, while retaining 27 current employees.

The deal was signed Aug. 22, 2014.

Belit previously said it was unable to commit to new construction, “due to changing market conditions,” and instead spread its operation across several offices throughout Jacksonville.  

The altered legislation allows the company to purchase or construct enough office space to fulfill the 15,000-square-foot requirement.

If Belit does not lease the required space, it would refund $600 per job to the city.

City, JTA swap land near transit hub

Another item approved Tuesday night allows the city to swap a piece of property with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority in LaVilla near the regional transportation hub under construction.

Together, the two own about 12 acres of vacant property between Adams and Bay streets.

The city owns property at northwest Stuart and Houston Streets, near the Prime Osborn Convention Center, except for a .76-acre portion owned by JTA.

Across the street, at the northeast corner, the city owns a .51-acre parcel, next to the JTA property.

The land swap allows the city and the Downtown Investment Authority to own the entire city block at Stuart and Houston streets, which it eventually plans to sell or develop.

JTA now can take control of the land next to its property.

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