Should Chains Receive Tax Money To Open In Downtown?

December 19, 2014 28 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A Downtown Investment Authority program intended to help recruit retailers to downtown has resulted into two sandwich chains applying for incentives to open in downtown storefronts. One local developer believes this money should be set aside for local businesses. What's your opinion?

To compact with a landscape loaded with vacant storefronts, the Downtown Retail Enhancement Program was approved by the City Council last month. The program sets aside $750,000 in public funds to assist property and business owners with the cost of preparing or renovating commercial space in the Northbank core.

Awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, four businesses have already submitted applications for funding assistance.

$100,000 - for a restaurant at 120 East Forsyth Street

$28,000 - Jersey Mike's Subs inside the SunTrust Tower at 76 South Laura Street

$24,000 - Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches at 201 North Laura Street

$17,000 - Urban Grind Coffee Company at 45 West Bay Street

Sounds great right? Developer Mike Langton disagrees because two of the four applications were submitted by the Jimmy Johns and Jersey Mike's chains. Believing that the money should be used to encourage local businesses to open, Langton recently told the

Jacksonville Business Journal that "the other restaurants are chains, which in my opinion, defeats the purpose of having the program".

On the other hand, Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace believes that "chains are better than having empty buildings around the urban core".

Both have great points. In an ideal world, the Northbank would be filled with local mom & pop shops, occupied buildings and pedestrians all on the street. Providing subsidies in the form of a retail enhancement program certainly helps the dream.

However, the reality of downtown Jacksonville paints a pretty different picture. Abandoned buildings, blighted surface parking lots and empty sidewalks suggest that a beggar shouldn't be choosy this early in the urban revitalization game.

Either way, it appears the DIA's new retail enhancement program is immediately paying dividends by filling a few vacant storefronts. However, in your opinion, should these funds be allowed for local businesses only or any tax revenue generating business willing to open in downtown?

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at

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