Lisa King: Mixed-Use Renovation of Downtown Buildings

May 12, 2015 6 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

If Lisa King is elected to the City Council, one of the things that she says that she will support is mixed use development of the existing historic structures instead of letting them be torn down and creating dead, expensive to renovate spaces.

The needs of District 2 will always be my first priority. However, the fate of downtown affects all of us, no matter where we live in Jacksonville. As a mother and a grandmother, I want job opportunities here in Jacksonville for my children and grandchildren. Large companies look at a thriving downtown as one measure of what they need to attract workers. Downtown functions as our city’s “living room” – it is a shared space from which we share an identity. Whether to attend a football game, a concert or performance, watch fireworks or a boat parade, downtown is where we gather. It is in every citizen’s interest that it thrives. My top priority is to focus on the redevelopment of downtown historic properties into mixed use including housing. Retail and commercial follow housing.

My company developed a small mixed-use historic building (2 retail bays and 12 apartments) in downtown over 10 years ago. We have a waiting list for our apartments – “millennials” (people under age 30) love downtowns. Our historic building inventory downtown, in close proximity to the river, is unique in Florida. We cannot miss the opportunity to invite redevelopment by creating greater access to our river.

Historic buildings downtown have sat vacant because redevelopment is difficult without public participation in financing them, and has become nearly impossible since the recession. There are a limited number of historic properties in downtown, almost all in highly visible locations. We should determine which are most viable for mixed used development, develop cost estimates and determine the financing gap for each project. The aggregate of this gap could be financed through a variety of funding mechanisms. First, however, the TRUE Commission’s Debt Oversight Committee should review the status of current bonds financed through downtown’s current tax increment. This is not a new idea – really a fulfillment of former Council President Matt Carlucci’s Historic Preservation Trust Fund. Developers should be vetted through a Request for Qualifications process, and could then compete against each other, building by building.

 The City should learn from its mistakes in past public/private partnership deals, such as the Shipyards, and have ironclad “claw-back” provisions for non-performance. We should be paid in full upon resale, or if kept in the developer’s portfolio longer term, have a reasonable repayment schedule.