DIA approves amended resolution to keep Laura Street Trio talks alive

Developer Steve Atkins is expected to return in weeks with revisions.

The Laura Street Trio at Laura, Forsyth and Adams streets Downtown.
The Laura Street Trio at Laura, Forsyth and Adams streets Downtown.
Photo by Monty Zickuhr
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The Downtown Investment Authority voted April 17 to approve a resolution to allow the developer hoping to restore the Laura Street Trio a chance to return with a new proposal after rejecting his most recent proposal, but only after wordsmithing by DIA staff.

The vote was 5-0 with board member Micah Heavener abstaining. 

The resolution stipulates DIA is rejecting a proposal from Steve Atkins, principal of SouthEast Development Group, after negotiations hit a stalemate March 29 to redevelop the Florida Life Insurance, Bisbee and Marble Bank buildings that comprise the Trio at northeast Laura and Forsyth streets. 

It included a Capital One loan with an unconditional guarantee by the city, which the Office of General Counsel said was unconstitutional and could hold the city accountable for more than $265 million in debt liability and trigger a downgraded credit rating.

SouthEast Development Group proposes a $175.1 million multifamily, hotel and restaurant development plan for the Laura Street Trio property at Forsyth and Laura streets Downtown.

“The Developer has provided an alternative proposal, inclusive of a Capital One term sheet, that DIA cannot consider based on the advice of OGC and the CEO; and as of March 29, 2024, the developer was unwilling to proceed on any basis without inclusion of the Capital One financing,” says the resolution.

“The DIA therefore forwards to the Mayor and City Council its recommendation that the current Developer proposal presented March 29, 2024, be rejected.”

The resolution originally included the words “withdrawn” and “rejected.”

Jacksonville City Council member Matt Carlucci.

City Council member Matt Carlucci, who introduced legislation last year to provide city incentives for the project, asked that “withdrawn” be removed as it could “diminish” his role as sponsor and potentially allow for another Council member to make a play to kill the bill.

“It’s my baby,” he said. 

DIA agreed to the change.

Burr & Forman attorney Jason Gabriel, who represents Atkins, made clear that a new proposal might include a term sheet from Capital One, but it would not include language for an unconditional guarantee by the city. He said a new proposal could come within a few weeks. 

Council member Jimmy Peluso

Council member Jimmy Peluso, whose district includes Downtown, has expressed repeated frustrations with Atkins, raising concerns at an April 10 meeting about the city using eminent domain to take the property and offer it to another developer.

“Right now I think I’m in a similar space as a lot of folks, both in the development field and the public. We’re just frustrated and I’m at my wits’ end,” he said. “We’ve had an individual own these properties for some time and it just feels like this cat-and-mouse game.

“Why are we wasting so much time if we don’t have a serious actor to work with?”

Carlucci said “it’s not over.”

“It takes time and we’re not giving up,” he said.

In January, Council chose not to vote on legislation to help fund the Trio restoration, which included a package of incentives and a $22 million “city participation loan” that served to guarantee Capital One Public Funding. 

Instead, Council sent the legislation back to the DIA with instructions to work on a new agreement. DIA presented Atkins with three options. None of them contained the city participation loan.

According to the DIA, Atkins called them “nonstarters” in an email and offered “an only slightly modified proposal from Capital One that required an unconditional City guarantee.”

Peluso is skeptical of working with Atkins.

“Lets remember this developer has several deals on the table and he still hasn’t acted,” Peluso said.



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