Author Topic: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future  (Read 42468 times)

Ken_FSU

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2023, 11:13:35 AM »
^ That's only phase 1.

Quote
The goal of the construction is to transform Riverfront Plaza into a park with a large green space and public amenities. Crews will eventually build walkways, gardens and a cafe with a playground.

When is the full project supposed to be completed and for how much?

In typical Jacksonville fashion, Phase 2 is tied to a speculative 44-story residential tower, tied to historic levels of weird subsidy, resulting from an RFP that no one else responded to.

DIA expects the redevelopment agreement to be fully pushed through City Council by late 2022 and construction to begin alongside the park this week.

Looking out my office window, the statue of Andrew Jackson must just be blocking the view of the cranes.

Ken_FSU

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2023, 11:34:47 AM »
Apologies if I'm being too cynical and salty, but as someone who's down here five days a week and does everything possible to support downtown businesses, it's just so depressing to see the Northbank actively move backwards during this last boom. It doesn't even seem like it should be possible with how much relocation we've had to Jacksonville post-pandemic, but we've somehow managed to achieve it. I think back to even like 2019, and things were so much better. Now, Zodiac has closed. Olio has closed. Jacob's is gone. Vagabond has left downtown twice now. Cowford closed down lunch service. Sweet Pete's closed lunch service several days a week. Big Pete's with its glorious microwaved Hungry Howie's pizza is shuttered. Bread & Board provisions and Jumping Jax have reduced their hours. 1904 is closing. My lunch-time stroll across the pedestrian ramp from the Landing to Friendship Park is now a wraparound stroll from a grass field to an abandoned construction site. There are more unhinged vagrants than I've ever seen downtown.

All the gaslighting about "progress and momentum" in the world can't change the day-to-day experience.

We need to blow things up with the existing DIA.

They've had their chance, and - in my opinion - they've failed to meaningfully move the needle on both the riverfront and in the city core.

That's not to say they haven't done some good things with the historic preservation fund, but my eyeballs tell me things are worse now than they were five years ago.

Time for a change, not for unanimous votes for extensions and raises.

Definition of insanity.

jcjohnpaint

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2023, 12:19:29 PM »
To really compare how many failures they have had you have to also look at our growth rate compared to peer cities that are not growing, or growing relatively slowly compared to Jax. I am for scrapping the DIA.

Ken_FSU

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2023, 12:23:17 PM »
^Just laying it out there across different categories, it isn't pretty.

Northbank Riverfront:
1. Landing Park RFP: Winner chosen exclusively because of proposed $12-$18 million public art; art later dismissed by DIA as unrealistic.
2. Landing Private Development: Only one response to RFP; massive subsidy; no development agreement in sight
3. Ford on Bay RFP #1: Site is RFP'd for a convention center; firms put in millions worth of work; decide CC is too expensive and site isn't right
4. Ford on Bay RFP #2: Spandrel wins, site sits unoccupied for two years, deal falls apart
5. Ford on Bay RFP #3: RFP issued with preference for development that will break ground immediately; winner chosen; still appears years from construction
6. Times-Union Center Park - renders since 2018; work still not started
7. LaVilla Townhouse Project - not riverfront, but quickly acknowledging how botched and unfair the initial RFP was with the selection of Vestcor

Southbank Riverfront:
1. River City Brewing/Related Development - restaurant demolished; Related deal fell apart; no deal for replacement
2. The District/Riversedge - seeking yet another extension
3. Friendship Fountain - closed for four years and counting

Major historical rehab projects:
1. Laura Street Trio - agreement hammered out; no progress; refused to take stance on new development agreement
2. Jones Bros Furniture - agreement hammered out; no construction
3. Ambassador Hotel - agreement hammered out; in limbo
4. Independent Life - agreement hammered out; in limbo
5. Mathers Social - two agreements hammered out; no construction

Major initiatives:
1. Retail/restaurant corridor program - grand plans to reach out to and potentially recruit 30 targeted business for incentivized downtown relocation; none have moved in
2. Downtown two-way street initiative - nothing converted
3. Master planning - dismissively bashes anyone who says they don't have a master plan; presents something that is not a master plan
4. Public Transportation - no firm stance taken on the half-billion investment in U2C or flagrantly obvious need for Skyway connection to Brooklyn
5. Historic demoliton - no firm stance taken against the continued demolition of historic building stock
6. Neighborhood Rebranding - so embarrassing and inauthentic (Soba, Noco) that they literally had to start over

It's not personal, but if you take VyStar, the Jags, and Groundwork Jax out of the picture (these projects were happening with or without the DIA), what CONCRETE has this iteration of the DIA accomplished in the last five years? Not speculative, not ten years down the line, but that the taxpayer can enjoy TODAY.

Sample size is big enough to know it's not working.

We need people with vision who have done this successfully in other cities, aggressively pushed projects across the finish line in spite of interest rates/material costs/supply chain issues, and injected new life into dying urban cores.

We don't need the same old network of myopic locals glacially wasting away economic cycles with no urgency, no assertiveness, and no accountability.

Plenty of external circumstances, political decisions, and developer over-reaches have clearly factored into the above, but there is just a GLARINGLY obvious pattern of failures, delays, botched RFPs, and projects falling apart that just can't be ignored. The buck has to stop with DIA leadership. They're ultimately responsible for the progress of Downtown Jacksonville. And that progress just ain't there. If anything, we've regressed.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2023, 12:57:25 PM by Ken_FSU »

jaxlongtimer

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2023, 02:28:32 PM »
^ To add and reiterate, the only reason is seems "projects" even arise is due to generous incentives.  It is clear incentives aren't going to work when underlying economic forces are not in play.  Until we have an entity that looks at more than just offering carrots to developers and addresses creating real demand for downtown, not some imaginary "if we built they will come" model, no matter what form we use or who is in charge, we will not succeed. 

When I look at successful downtowns, they are not spending big bucks on incentives but rather making streetscapes attractive, creating functional and attractive green spaces, building around cultural institutions and events, incorporating public art, insuring small retail businesses can be supported and accommodated, incorporating one-of-a-kind restaurants, etc. 

I don't see DIA focused on any of these things.  Ultimately, seduced developers are realizing that due to lack of community demand, they can't get returns on their investment, even with over the top incentives, and they back down or out or delay indefinitely in the hopes this City finally gets its act together, which, to date, it never has.

We need to scrap how DIA, DVI, JTA, Planning Department, Public Works, FDOT, NFTPO, etc. work and coordinate and rebuild a whole new model for planning (there is a new idea!) the future of this City.

jcjohnpaint

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #20 on: July 11, 2023, 03:31:28 PM »
Personally, I feel like all of these organizations are filled with the same kinds of folks that are on the council. It is the same people split up into small groups, so there are more of them to spread the love. I think it would be great to have all of them take a 10-year vacation and see what happens. I think the outcome would be much better.

simms3

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #21 on: July 11, 2023, 04:10:07 PM »
The DIA should be led and staffed by people with a thick (virtual) Rolodex of national and international investors and developers, and a proven track record of revitalizing a major urban area in a comparable city.

From the standpoint of having knowledge and awareness of what the possibilities are and what the realistic trajectory of our city is, I agree with you.

From the standpoint of having people like this so they can in turn attract their former employers etc, I disagree that's needed and don't think that's necessarily realistic.

IF someone moved to Jacksonville after working long enough at a major nationally or internationally renowned investor/developer to have sway/influence/rolodex there and in the broader national marketplace, it is far more likely they would be finding deals - suburban, niche (PVB office space for instance), or urban (maybe) to work on here in NE FL that personally makes them money than it is for them to join staff of a downtown city agency.  One can always dream, though.

In Jacksonville we have very well connected local business men and real estate guys (for example, founder of Rockpoint is from here and lives here).  We have a very well connected brokerage community (I'd like to be able to say I'm included in that).  We have some local developers who are also well connected and going out and finding outside investors to partner with, as well.

The problem isn't that there aren't people in Jax who can't / aren't bringing visibility to the rest of the country (and there is a national spotlight, to a degree, on Jacksonville thanks to the growth story here).  The problem is really just one of fundamentals - the right set of characteristics hasn't been created downtown yet.

And thank God we have a couple of local developers now, backed largely by a local LP/debt, to do some downtown projects that are starting to pave the way for that outside money to take a harder look.

An example where we *have* the fundamentals in place for a lot more high end, high density development now is at the beach.  The Azure condo project by Related has garnered A LOT of attention.  Nobody wants to do a similar condo in town right now because resales of existing condos top out well below construction hard costs (per square foot), but at the beach there WOULD be more Azures happening and more higher density stuff.  But the beach citizens have LOUDLY rejected anything of that sort with height limits (plus their rejection of the Tribridge development at the former KMart was a LOUD negative signal as well).

I always contend there WOULD be more infill and stuff going on in Riverside/Avondale, but the damn overlay/RAP gets in the way, from my observation.  In downtown, politics and lack of vision have always gotten in the way.
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simms3

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2023, 04:19:08 PM »
Most importantly, DIA needs to show the community a clear vision/plan for Downtown that reflects wide community inputs (not just what its staff and consultants think are best), be more disciplined about sticking to such a plan over a long period of time and not fawn over the developer rendering/project of the day.  If developers don't comply with the master plan, we need to say "sorry" and move on.  In support of this, there needs to be best-in-class downtown zoning regarding street engagement and aesthetics, green spaces, setbacks, height restrictions, architecture, scale, historic preservation, etc., not some random walk with developers.

I agree with some of this and not sure if I agree with all of it.  I am not a fan of "the experts" these days, as they constantly prove themselves to be wrong.  I'm also not a fan necessarily of "widespread" community "input", because we would never get anywhere, it would be a hodge podge mess, and a lot of input would be negative and anti-growth to begin with.  I don't know what the answer is.

We also need to say that we will incentivize developers by investing in community infrastructure that supports their project rather than "investing" directly into the project.  This would not only benefit the developers but the entire community and, hopefully, leverage such investments to support further development in the area (i,e, a multiplier effect) creating some real momentum.  The lone exception is incentives for historic structures and such incentives should be based on either multiple contractor bids shared with DIA or a 3rd party audit of the single bid contractor.

Strongly agree with this.  I think this actually makes a lot of sense.  I feel like IF we can get these things finished in a timely manner, the riverfront parks sort of serve as this.  I'm torn on two-way'ing the streets downtown, but since it is the stated plan, please for the love of God just freaking do it now...

The DIA board needs to be more diverse, and maybe enlarged, and include people not just tied to development, construction or real estate, but also representative of business owners, residents, nonprofits, environmentalists, historians, accountants, financial analysts, etc. Members should be representative of being a Jax resident for from 5 years to decades.  Terms should be staggered so that people are going to be selected by more than one mayor/city council over time, insuring the board isn't reflecting one mayor/city council's "philosophy" over downtown.

Strongly disagree with this.  Impractical and keep environmentalists as far away from real estate related activities as much as possible.  The Sierra Club, founded in SF, loudly rejected and protested every high density development proposed above the BART line in the middle of San Francisco while I was there.  These ideological whackos never make sense and they get in the way of everything.  They are largely the reason why we have the development patterns in suburban Jacksonville that we do that we all complain about (large 2,000 home windy road cul de sac communities with one entrance/exit onto main road).
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simms3

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2023, 04:25:18 PM »
There was a call for offers for a full block parcel near the Jags stadium recently.. there was a ton of interest at first.. maybe they are UC. I don't know honestly. Whoever the buyer is, it will be speculative.. and that's what is happening around downtown now. Just realistically the return per square foot is not there for projects outside of Brooklyn and the Southbank as of 7/2023. I think the DIA has done all it can, within the confines of market realities.

As much as I am not a fan of infinite REV grants, they are effective in helping get the ball rolling.. They have expanded those grants to small projects. They also do have quite a bit of authority to essentially negotiate city lands within their boundaries. I don't think it is a lack of power as much as it's an inability to make projects pencil out. Vestcor has been the biggest downtown developer, and they have only been able to do it through low-income benefits & incentives.

The items that need to be addressed, which are controversial I know, are: the crime, a plan for the jail, the public river space, and the jags stadium. Any developer is looking at those items more so than a few extra dollars of incentives. Rents just have not kept up with construction costs and that's why these new "asks" are insanely larger than previously requested for projects still 'happening.'

The DIA is doing all they can do.. there needs to be a more legitimate conversation about what is preventing the CC from coming together. It's holding everything else down with it. Once rents are reliably higher than $2.00 psf then conversations about smaller or denser projects become actually feasible. Right now they are kind of here and there in historic retrofits.

Agree with basically all of this, though, there are certainly still flaws with the DIA.  For instance, how do you run a [second] RFP on a site with a Right of First Refusal on it from the neighboring hotel who vocally wants convention/exhibition space there (after cancelling the first RFP that was in fact for a convention center)?  Was that an oversight from DIA?  Was that just because Lenny Curry demanded apartments on all of it and he was helping to ensure Shad Khan would get any new convention space near the Jags?  I mean how does that even happen?  There've been quite a few other glaring mistakes when awarding projects or incentives.

But, I do agree with basically all of your points.  The DIA can only really do what they can do.  At the end of the day, they aren't the implementers of public projects, or private projects for that matter.  How do we get the city to perform the work it is in charge of?  How does Friendship Fountain or the Northbank bulkhead take so many years?  That's not DIA's fault and makes their job harder.
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simms3

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2023, 04:28:15 PM »
Someone has to pay to maintain all those things. Clearly Columbus is willing to pay.

It’s a shame that we aren’t willing to do that.

Our parks look like absolute horse s**t but we brag about having the largest park system.  I honestly don't know if in other cities there is a bit more philanthropy going with the parks, but I know in Ortega that local residents put in the money to make some of those parks nice.  I remember once seeing a list of all major cities in America and their spending per acre on public parks and Jax was way dead last.
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simms3

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #25 on: July 11, 2023, 04:42:52 PM »
We need people with vision who have done this successfully in other cities, aggressively pushed projects across the finish line in spite of interest rates/material costs/supply chain issues, and injected new life into dying urban cores.

We don't need the same old network of myopic locals glacially wasting away economic cycles with no urgency, no assertiveness, and no accountability.

Plenty of external circumstances, political decisions, and developer over-reaches have clearly factored into the above, but there is just a GLARINGLY obvious pattern of failures, delays, botched RFPs, and projects falling apart that just can't be ignored. The buck has to stop with DIA leadership. They're ultimately responsible for the progress of Downtown Jacksonville. And that progress just ain't there. If anything, we've regressed.

That was a lengthy sad list you created, but I agree with your sentiments above.

Daniel Davis and the way our local chamber is run is a total parallel.  We all complained about Daniel's bloated huge salary there (was he really worth it)?  I'm sure he quoted the salaries of the other Chamber presidents in Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh, etc as they were all in that league.

HOWEVER, one big difference is that all of their Chamber presidents had HUGE resumes pertinent to a big city chamber president job.  In fact, these cities often trade Chamber presidents (I think Austin scooped up Nashville's president as an example).  These other cities have chamber presidents who ONLY do chamber work or state level economic development work.

In Jacksonville's case, we were perfectly fine giving that level salary to a young local guy who really had never done anything of this sort.  And that's how we operate.  We don't really look for the best in my opinion.  We are kind of just dumb locals trying to run ourselves as we see fit.

But that also makes these damn Chamber trips and Civic Council trips and other city "sponsored" trips so frustrating.  We take so many freaking trips to go out and see what other cities are doing and how they are running themselves, and it's just insane how useless these drinking trips really are.

I found this article while looking up stuff on Daniel Davis during the campaign.  It's from 2002.

https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/news/2002/oct/09/thoughts-chambers-leadership-trip/

From Denise Wallace, the then NEFBA president:

“It was my third trip..."

From Bonnie Knight of the Downtown Council (remember, this was from 2002):

“Their downtown. When we arrived, the place was full of pedestrians. There were lots of shops, lots to do. We’re on the verge of that and those of us from the Downtown Council really were impressed about what can be done.”

From Martha Barrett:

“I’ve been on all 22 Leadership trips and this was as good as any. It’s the opportunity to meet new people, and it’s also the opportunity to get things going. There are decision-makers on the trip; if you see something that’s applicable to Jacksonville, you can get people together right there and discuss it..."


So by 2002 there had already been 22 Leadership Trips.  I mean it is out of this world unreal...
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Charles Hunter

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #26 on: July 11, 2023, 04:55:49 PM »

jaxlongtimer

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #27 on: July 11, 2023, 07:21:34 PM »
^ Charles, need another link.  This one is password protected.   8).

Charles Hunter

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #28 on: July 11, 2023, 08:38:02 PM »
Rats! Wonder how I got in earlier? And why would a document on the DIA website be password protected? I saw it first on some FB page, but now I can't find that instance.  However, I did download it, but I don't know how to share from my device.

jaxoNOLE

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Re: The Downtown Investment Authority's Future
« Reply #29 on: July 11, 2023, 09:35:14 PM »
Rats! Wonder how I got in earlier? And why would a document on the DIA website be password protected? I saw it first on some FB page, but now I can't find that instance.  However, I did download it, but I don't know how to share from my device.


Maybe this?
https://issuu.com/dia.coj.net/docs/dia_downtown_master_plan_summary_web_issuu/1