Daniel Davis: Move jail out of Downtown, speed development process

The candidate for Jacksonville mayor wants outside groups to help the city maintain parks.

Jacksonville mayoral candidate and JAX Chamber President Daniel Davis.
Jacksonville mayoral candidate and JAX Chamber President Daniel Davis.
Photo by Monty Zickuhr
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Jacksonville mayoral candidate Daniel Davis says his strategy to revitalize Downtown would give the Downtown Investment Authority more autonomy to finalize development deals, fulfill the core’s demand for workforce housing and relocate the jail within his first term. 

With less than two weeks before Duval County’s May 16 runoff, the Republican and JAX Chamber CEO sat down with Daily Record news staff and outlined his economic development priorities if elected. 

The Daily Record is scheduling a similar interview with Democrat candidate Donna Deegan, founder of The Donna Foundation and former First Coast News anchor, that will appear at jaxdailyrecord.com before the May 16 election.

Moving the jail

Moving the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Pre-Trial Detention Facility from its longtime location on East Adams Street has been a goal Downtown among development advocates and government officials who say the jail occupies valuable land that could be used for private development. 

Mayor Lenny Curry included a $244.59 million line item for the relocation in his five-year, 2023-27 Capital Improvement Plan under a “beyond 5” year category. Although, no plan to move the jail has been released by the city.

The Duval County Jail features views of the St. Johns River.
City of Jacksonville

Davis said relocating the facility to the P-Farm, officially the Montgomery Correctional Center on the Northside, would be the best option. 

“I’m going to listen to the sheriff and, obviously, his team in what they would see as the most appropriate place,” Davis said. 

“I think it’s very important. If we’re serious about the development and what we think Downtown should be, we have to have a serious conversation about the Police Memorial Building and the jail and what the future is. It’s tired. The building is in desperate need of repair.”

Wherever it goes, Davis said he would want the move to happen in his first four-year term as mayor. 

Davis said he thinks technology has eliminated the need for the facility to be geographically close to the Duval County Courthouse for inmate hearings  and appearances. 

A new facility could also help the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office recruit and retain new officers, he said.

“The corrections officers are working in deplorable conditions. (Duval County Sheriff) T.K. (Waters) is doing a great job recruiting, now we’re starting to see good classes of corrections (officers) coming in,” Davis said.

“But you see it and you can understand why somebody wouldn’t want to work in that environment,” he said.

“And so, we have to make sure that the corrections officers are in a safe place, that they’re being paid appropriately and that they’re not required or have to do as much overtime. Because right now we have so many vacancies they have (to fill).”

Downtown and DIA autonomy 

Davis said he wants to speed up the time it takes the city to complete incentive deals with private developers and for projects to be permitted.

He wants to give the DIA and its board of directors more autonomy on some deals, with City Council and mayoral oversight, to streamline the process.

“But we cannot make it harder to develop in Downtown than it is out in the suburbs,” Davis said. 

“We already have infrastructure in place here and in many ways we create a harder process for a developer to get an answer or to get to yes,” he said.

“Time and certainty are what make developments work. Uncertainty and not knowing what time causes people to just say I’ll go somewhere else,” he said.

An artist's rendering of Riverfront Plaza Park along the Downtown Northbank. It is at the site of the former Jacksonville Landing.

City parks

Davis said he supports the DIA’s efforts to build park space along the Downtown riverfront.

The DIA and city Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department have proposed a 7-acre, $15 million-plus park at Riverfront Plaza, the site of the former Jacksonville Landing, and a $38 million to $40 million park and facilities at Shipyards West along Bay Street.

Davis said he would like to see the city partner with nonprofit or for-profit groups to raise money to maintain parks.

“I do believe that we need to maintain that public park space in an appropriate fashion,” he said. “And I don’t think the city is capable of maintaining the parks at that level.” 

Davis said he would “like to put together a friends of the parks group that could help raise private dollars (and) partnership with the city publicly to maintain what the city builds,” he said. 

“The city should build world-class parks, and they should be maintained that way. And I think that there is a solution for a public-private partnership.”

Workforce housing

Davis said workforce housing development needs to continue to be a part of Downtown development. 

He proposes evaluating all available city surplus property to see if it’s viable for workforce housing to make projects financially attractive to developers. 

“When a teacher or firefighter can’t afford to live where they work, we’ve got a problem,” Davis said. 

“And I think that we have to create more opportunities there.”

Paying for plans

Davis said paying for city infrastructure improvements, economic investment and adding 200 police officers could be done by reducing the size of the city government to free up money. 

Davis didn’t indicate what departments he thought could see cuts, but said City Hall doesn’t need to add employees and could research private sector alternatives for some government services. 

Police pensions

He said he’s hearing a desire to give police and firefighters a pension retirement option but would only support a “revenue neutral” plan. 

City Council passed Mayor Lenny Curry’s plan in 2017 to defer the city’s pension debt and closed the existing pension plan to new police officers and firefighters. 

In 2016, voters approved a half-cent sales tax to pay down pension debt.

The first year

Davis said much of his first year would be similar to how he approached his first year at JAX Chamber by looking at operational efficiency and “getting the nuts and bolts right of running city government.” 

“I really want to keep my head down the first year and just get government on track and running the right way,” he said.



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