Council member seeks to withdraw ordinance supporting Laura Street Trio developer

Citing the need for a “clean slate,” Matt Carlucci wants to retract his proposal to provide $60.5 million in incentives.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 12:36 p.m. July 1, 2024
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
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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After backing the developer of the Laura Street Trio in 2023, Jacksonville City Council member Matt Carlucci is seeking to withdraw legislation that would provide $60.5 million in incentives to resurrect the historic buildings in Downtown Jacksonville.

In a June 28 memo to Council President Randy White, Carlucci asks for his legislation, Ordinance 2023-0876, to be discharged from the Council Committee of the Whole and be placed on a future Council agenda so he can make a motion to withdraw it.

Matt Carlucci

His request came days after Ron Salem, whose term as Council president ended June 30, asked the City Council Special Committee on the Future of Downtown to review Carlucci’s ordinance as part of a broader charge to explore "all available options" pertaining to the Trio.

Carlucci sent his memo shortly after the Downtown Investment Authority board voted to reject SouthEast Development Group’s most recent proposal and to discontinue further discussions with the developer.

Steve Atkins, owner of the Trio and principal of SouthEast, sought DIA approval for $89.9 million in city incentives to turn the properties at Laura and Forsyth streets into a hotel, multifamily housing, bars, restaurants and retail operations at a cost of $194.2 million. 

“After extensive effort and collaboration from DIA staff, the administration, SouthEast Development Group, and myself, we have unfortunately not reached a consensus that satisfies all parties,” Carlucci wrote to White. “The latest term sheet includes financial demands that I believe are beyond what the City of Jacksonville can reasonably accommodate.”

Carlucci’s Ordinance 2023-0876 would provide $36.5 million in forgivable loans and property tax breaks, a $2 million forgivable loan and a $22 million “city participation loan” designed to guarantee a 25-year construction loan obtained by Atkins from Capital One Public Funding. 

Steve Atkins
Photo by Amy Ploss-Samson

In January, Council members opted not to vote on the ordinance but instead directed DIA staff to negotiate a new agreement with SouthEast. At that time, DIA and city staff raised numerous concerns about the proposal, including that it could violate a provision in the Florida constitution barring cities from lending money for private purposes and could expose the city to a maximum indebtedness of up to $265 million if the participation loan were paid off in 10 years and an additional $167 million beyond that. 

After ensuing back-and-forth with the DIA, Atkins offered his latest proposal in June. 

DIA board members said the proposal exceeded the DIA’s limits on incentives and guidelines designed to protect the city from financial risk in the event of projects falling through. The proposal called for most of the incentive funding to be delivered in the early stages of the project, whereas standard DIA incentives for preservation and revitalization are awarded upon completion. 

In addition, the proposal asked the city to provide a higher-than-average 45% of the total project cost. 

Board members rejected it on a 6-0 vote with member Jim Citrano absent. 

Carlucci, in his memo to White, said the parties had been “exceptionally patient and fair … often at my insistence,” since January.

“However, given the current circumstances with the proposal, it is in the best interest of the city to have a clean slate,” Carlucci wrote. “If the development team wishes to continue negotiations with the City Council Special Committee on the Future of Downtown, they should begin with a new bill.”

Atkins went into the DIA board meeting saying he wanted to discuss the Trio directly with Council members. He signaled afterward that he would offer his latest proposal as a starting point. 

The Trio comprises the Florida Life Insurance, Bisbee and Marble Bank buildings at northeast Laura and Forsyth streets. The buildings, which have been vacant for at least 30 years, were among the first built after the 1901 fire that destroyed much of Jacksonville. 

“The Laura Street Trio remains the crown jewel of Jacksonville, and I have been its biggest champion of preservation and revitalization since 2002 when the former Mayor John Delaney purchased the buildings to save them from demolition,” Carlucci wrote in his memo. “I will continue to evaluate future proposals with the same passion and prioritization. My commitment to the preservation and revitalization of these historic buildings in downtown Jacksonville remains unwavering.”



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