Jacksonville, FL (June 23, 2020) — During the last zoom City Council meeting for the 2019-2020 Council Year, Councilman Becton voted against bill 2020-187, allowing the redevelopment plan between the city and Springfield lofts for a mixed-use project on Pearl and West 3rd Streets in the historic Springfield area. “The bill authorizes a redevelopment completion grant of $1 million payable on project completion; a Recapture Enhanced Value grant of up to $1 million payable over 10 years; and a development loan in the amount of $1 million, payable upon substantial completion of the project,” according to the bill summary. The funding of this development drew some red flags for Councilman Becton.
Councilman Becton told the Florida Times Union prior to the council meeting on Tuesday June 23rd, that there is too little of information being provided to the council at this time. “I’ve got some concerns on this project … There’s a lot of questions I just asked that I still don’t have answers to,” Councilman Becton said. However, the bill was still passed by both committees, NCSPHS & Finance, it was assigned once it was introduced in March.
The documents on file for the legislation state the developers plans to put about “$14 million in the project to redevelop the building into 78 residential units and 8,000 square feet of commercial/office space. “
During the City Council meeting, Councilman Becton spoke over zoom to his colleges and the rest of the 100+ participants watching and stated the following:
“In the NCSPHS committee last week, I expressed concern regarding General Fund, Taxpayer dollars being used to provide a $1 Million dollar Grant to a Private Developer, for this project to build apartments. First, I would like to say, Thank You to Kirk Wendland for his time and additional information that he provided me, this week to analyze this project more thoroughly.
This project contains three contributing funding sources by the city: 1) a REV Grant in the amount of $1 Million dollars payable over a 10-year period of 75% of taxes paid and additionally waiving our City’s Public Investment Policy, limiting that to 50%, 2) a $1 Million dollar loan for a 20-year term at 3% interest and finally 3) a $1 Million dollar grant, paid directly from our General Fund.
As to my further analysis, unfortunately, I am still having major concerns on the city’s direct payment and subsidy from our General Fund as an expenditure to a Private Developer for up to 78 residential apartments that would translate into about $180,000 per residential unit at the $14 million dollar investment amount. Luxury apartments by comparison, I have found costs between $100,000 to $120,000 per unit. I contend that based on the cost of these units, I understand why this project is not viable without public assistance and I certainly do not see them being affordable housing as they will need to re-coop their return on investment at higher rental rates. This subsidy, directly from our General Fund will also become a slippery slope that private developers throughout our city can now ask for their own subsidy.
As I can support the REV Grant and perhaps even the Loan, and consistent with past private subsidy’s which I also voted against, I cannot vote in support of providing a direct payment of tax payer dollars which are in essence Corporate Welfare to make this project viable.
I will offer a Floor Amendment that I can support to change the bill by offering the following modification: I offer a floor Amendment to modify the bill by increasing the REV Grant by $1 Million in Replacement for the $1 Million Dollar General Fund Grant.
Otherwise, I cannot support this bill”.
Despite Councilman Becton’s best efforts to alter the legislation as proposed, the City Council ultimately voted down his floor amendment after much debate. Bill 2020-187 was ultimately approved by City Council as Councilman Becton was the only Council Member to vote against the legislation.
The project would keep some of the existing buildings in the proposed area, such as the Job Corps building, but the agreement to fund this project will be rescinded if the developer doesn’t spend at the minimum $10.5 million.
The director of COJ’s Office of Economic Development, Kirk Wendland said construction is expect to start late this year and take about a year to complete, so the city’s payments toward this project could be expected to be made in 2022.