Public and Private Sector Finally working together?

August 8, 2006 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The say the early bird catches the worm. With the recent news about the Landing deal, lets just hope the opportunity hasn’t passed us by and that we see redevelopment happen sooner, rather than later..

Recently, news was released that the Landing agreement, originally announced 5  months ago, may be finally signed any day now. As part of the deal, the city  will sell the east parking lot to Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC for $4.7  million. $2.56 million coming from the Humana settlement will be used to make  headway for several other downtown projects, including the 35-story Riverwatch  condo hotel tower across the street. Those projects include $600,000 for the  mayor’s downtown greening initiative and $600,000 for improvements to Friendship  Fountain. Also, the settlement gives Cameron Kuhn’s River Watch project the  green light, helping the city finally fulfill its 20+ year parking obligation by  including 375 parking spaces in its garage for Landing patrons.
 This is a far cry from the city’s position earlier this year. Back in February,  while seriously courting first-rate tenants such as Cheesecake Factory and  Barnes & Noble, the Landing had the rug pulled from under it in favor of the  ill-advised “Big Idea”. The Big Idea, conceived by the Mayor’s office on a  weekend getaway, called for lanes being reduced on the Main Street Bridge, for  wider sidewalks featuring hot dog and Ice Cream vendors, as well as buying out  River City Brewing’s long term lease for a small town fishing village of shops  similar to a development in Hilton Head, SC. Worst of all, it also had the city  assuming the role of developer, in which it would demolish most of the Landing  in favor of passive green space featuring a merry-go-round.
 Cameron Kuhn’s 35 story RiverWatch Tower will include 200 condo/hotel units, 200  residential condos, a 375 space parking garage and 15,000sf of ground level  retail across the street from the Landing. As a part of the agreement, this  project will be given the green light to proceed. Plans call for ground to be  broken later this year.
 Needless to say, after months of heavy criticism, if this deal goes through, it  is the type Mayor Peyton and the JEDC should seek to make on a regular basis,  instead of a one-time occasion. Selling under utilized city-owned property, then  using the money generated to fund other downtown public projects is the ideal  example of working WITH the private sector, instead of tying up market rate  projects by attempting to compete against them. This method of public  deal-making should also be conducted with the County Courthouse project, the  Greening of Main pocket park site, and acres of land still being held by the  city in the area that was once known as the community of LaVilla.
 With county courthouse estimates (for the full building) well above $300  million, the money generated by selling the City Hall Annex and County  Courthouse sites (downtown’s most valued city owned site) could make an  impressive dent in those estimates. Going vertical and issuing RFP's for the  remaining blocks could net the city more. If JEA can get $40 million from  issuing an RFP for a brownfield site, why not the city of Jacksonville, for the  Northbank’s most sought after riverfront parcel?