A City Council Committee of the Whole voted 15-4 to advance a $245.3 million taxpayer-backed incentives package for Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s proposed Lot J entertainment and retail venue west of TIAA Bank Field.
The Council’s action Jan. 7 sets up a final vote next week on the $450 million development that is a partnership between the city, Khan company Gecko Investments LLC and Baltimore, Maryland-based The Cordish Companies.
Council members Matt Carlucci, Al Ferraro, Danny Becton and President Tommy Hazouri voted against the bill.
If the vote count holds, the Jaguars and its development partners will have the 13 votes necessary for final passage of Ordinance 2020-0648 at the Council’s Jan. 12 meeting.
Lot J is west of the city-owned stadium and the site where Khan and Cordish propose a 100,000-square-foot Live! Arena with bars and restaurants; 75,000 square feet of retail space; a minimum 35,000 square feet of office space; two luxury midrise apartments with a minimum 350 units; a minimum 120-room hotel; a 600-space parking garage; and a 600-space surface parking lot.
Jaguars President Mark Lamping told reporters after the vote that the Lot J debate “isn’t over by any stretch.”
“We feel really good that there seems to be consensus. The City Council has put their fingerprints on this agreement. They’ve come to the belief that they’ve made it significantly better for the city and for the taxpayers,” Lamping said. “We went into this process with a commitment to compromise and try to find common ground where we could because ... we do have a shared interest.”
The Council made several changes to the bill during the 10-hour meeting that included several concessions by the Jaguars.
An amendment by Council member Ron Salem that requires Khan’s development company Gecko to pay the city 100% of the net sale proceeds of the company’s stake in Lot J if the Jaguars leave Jacksonville before 2034 passed 19-0.
Gecko and Jaguars lobbyist Paul Harden agreed that the payment to the city would be no less than $50 million.
The amendment doesn’t include sale proceeds Cordish would gain from selling its share of Lot J.
Before the meeting Jan. 7, Salem said he negotiated the amendment language directly with the Jaguars. He considers it a compromise in the place of a stadium lease extension with the team.
Gecko will have to sell its interest in Lot J within two years of a Jaguars’ departure, according to the amendment.
The amendment would no longer apply if Khan sells the Jaguars franchise. If non-Gecko affiliated company moves the team out of Jacksonville, the city will not receive the Lot J net sale proceeds.
Loan stays in
An effort to remove the 50-year, no-interest $65.5 million breadbox loan from the incentive package failed 5-14.
Hazouri introduced the amendment to address the piece of the city incentives that’s generated the most public criticism.
“I think that it’s a waste of money,” Hazouri said in an interview before the meeting. “They call it a breadbox. It’s going to contribute to putting us in a bread line if we continue to give away the store.”
The Downtown Investment Authority staff said in its Dec. 1 analysis of the deal that Gecko and Cordish did not provide enough information to determine if the loan is necessary to make the project viable.
Cordish COO Zed Smith denied Council member Randy DeFoor’s request Jan. 7 to share the project pro forma and financial viability gap analysis with the city.
When asked why the developer would decline to provide the information, Lamping noted that Cordish is the managing partner of the development team.
“We are comfortable that this project can be successful. But at the same time we know this is not going to be a financial home run for us, nor was it ever intended to be such,” Lamping said.
The bill includes $208 million in city bond debt to fund the project proposed by the Mayor Lenny Curry administration that the Council Auditor’s Office estimates will cost taxpayers $395.8 million with interest over 30 years.