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Shipyards deal could be approved tonight

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Shipyards deal could be approved tonight

The Times-Union

An artist's rendering shows an arch with a 100-foot-high mast that would be at the end of an existing pier on the St. Johns River as part of LandMar Group's redevelopment plans for the downtown Shipyards project.

Special to the Times-Union

After weeks of consideration, Jacksonville's city council is expected to give LandMar Group LLC the go-ahead tonight to construct a $450 million residential and commercial development on the vacant 40-acre Shipyards property on the Northbank.

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I would like to know how much money Land Mar is investing in this deal that ISN'T being reimbursed. Reading the details of this plan, they get the land, and get reimbursed for most (all?) of their improvements through the taxes generated from the site. Plus they will receive the 3.5mm that was not given to TriLegacy.

Additionally, the public space is about half of what was promised originally under TriLegacy's plan.

The city should have bought the property before TriLegacy did. They had the opportunity to buy it for something like 8-10 mm as I recall. That's about 30% of what was spent on the new courthouse property. The cost of the expansion of the Riverwalk could have been added to the BJP. Then the city could have sold off the remainding property. At worst, it probably would have broken even.

Additionally, the city would have received it's full tax revenue from the improvements from day one.

As it stands now, the city is faced with not receiving a penny of tax revenue for 30 years and yet still has to provide the full cost of services to the new residents that will move into the development.

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I hope that the $450 mill will go a long way to properly developing the site (just to contrast, the I95/I295 interchange is about $101 mill and the I10/I95 interchange is about $148 mill). With all of the city incentives supplementing their investment they should be under a lot of pressure to knock the socks off uf the city and us. They had better build tall and thick!!

All of this darn waiting is killing me!!

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How can the city approve this without ever having seen a rendering (at least not one that was made public)?? It is ridiculous, given all the interest from developers downtown, that the City has gone with just one developer. And the pier, as you all know, is a horrible design in my opinion.

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I don't see the city approving anything they haven't reviewed. LandMar just hasn't made their plans public. Too bad there aren't any leaks.... so we can find out what's going on.

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Thats my take on it. Council probably knows what the proposal is ans well as any renderings. LandMar proabaly jsut wants to keep it a secret till its approved.

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A site plan type rendering was available and was included in the development agreement that was available at the RCD and Finanace committee meeting last week. It shows the extent of the Riverwalk improvements and the park space that is proposed. I don't think that there are any public renderings at this point. LandMar is probably going to have a big launch after the i's are dotted and t'sa are crossed on the development agreement.

I believe that LandMar is putting nearly $20 Million into riverwalk, infrustructure and parks that they aren't getting back directly. Of course, no taxes on the property really helps.

I was at the committe meeting and Councilman Alvarez made a similar comment about the city 'giving' away the property. The city could have made more if the sold the property outright. However, I think the city needs to get rid of the property, get it out on the street and let a competent developer get on with the show. We all know the city doesn't always make the best decisions when it comes to handling prime property.

On another note - The park space is less than what Tri Legacy proposed, but there is a two acre parcel adjacent to Kid's Campus that LandMar is going to deed back to the city so I think the total property going to the city is a wash.

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Prediction: The shipyard will be nothing more than a cheap, stuccoed eyesore. Landmar has a bad track record. It is clear to me that Burr has bad taste - that is the bottom line.

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sorry if you guys already saw this but these are the minutes from the waterways commision

JACKSONVILLE WATERWAYS COMMISSION

April 7, 2005

9:00 a.m

The monthly meeting of the Jacksonville Waterways Commission was called to order on Thursday, April 7, 2005, in the City Council Chamber, by the Chair, Council Member Lynette Self.

The minutes for the March 3, 2005 meeting were approved.

The Chair welcomed Susan Grandin, an attorney and local director of the Trust for Public Land, who was appointed by the City Council to fill the vacancy on the Waterways Commission created by the resignation of Commissioner Tullis.

Jeanne Miller, Interim Director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, made a presentation on public access to the shipyards property that LandMar proposes to develop (Ordinance 2005-390). She was joined by Ron Furlong, LandMar's Vice President for Development. The Waterways Commission had previously passed a resolution expression the Commission's intent on reviewing all legislation for proposed public access projects along the river. The Commission's focus at this particular presentation/meeting was to be informational, to assess the public access angle of the proposed development project. The Commission was not expected to make any recommendations after the presentation; following the presentation, the intent was to have the Commissioners raise questions and offer comments.

Ms. Miller stated that pursuant to the settlement that the City reached with the previous developer, TriLegacy, the City had two options: to either take a deed to the property in lieu of foreclosure or attempt to work out an agreement with LandMar. It was Ms. Miller's intention to discuss the scope of the proposed public improvements and in highlights discuss phases and timing. LandMar proposed to construct approximately 7.5 acres of riverfront public improvements. The first phase is the area between Berkman Plaza and Hogan's Creek, consists of 5 acres of riverfront space, including a 600' pier, and has an estimated cost of $30,140,000. The second phase is the area between Hogan's Creek and Kids Kampus, consisting of 2.5 acres at an estimated cost of $7.8 million. There are at least three new access points to be constructed: at what was formerly Catherine Street, at Hogan's Creek and a piazza. On timing, Phase I would take five (5) years, maximum, to complete from the date of the Agreement's approval, resolving permitting and design issues to completion of construction. Construction of Phase II would commence five years after the effective date of the Agreement. Completion of construction would be three years thereafter for a total of eight (8) years of construction time for Phase I and Phase II.

Bob Furlong discussed public spaces in the project's design. The Shipyards Riverwalk would be a 12' wide path approximately 5,380 feet in length between Berkman Plaza and Kids Kampus. There would be a sea wall and bulkhead; a landscaped strip with ornate, shade trees spaced 30' to 40' apart, benches, overhead lighting and other features to comply with the City's criteria for the riverwalk. There would he gathering places along the riverwalk. The main focal point of the riverwalk would be the Shipyard Pier, 50' wide and jutting 680' out into the river. After further discussing the piazza, landscaping and other features for gathering places, Mr. Furlong and Ms. Miller fielded questions and comments from the Commissioners.

Numerous and varied issues were raised, including: sovereignty rights (Lowe); selecting trees along the riverwalk that provide adequate shade (Bryan); the development's increased waste that the Buckman sewer plant would have to handle (Lamb); that there was a distinct lack of a green space venue (Anderson); that there should be boating slips for the public and that purchasing slips as a condo owner is not public access (Anderson). JEDC's Miller said that a public marina had not been envisioned as a component of the development's public improvements, that in the original proposed development project and the proposed new agreement, emphasis is on providing the public with access to the river. A marina for boating access was not a component. LandMar does not currently have a marina in the private side of the development plans. Having always been a strong community partner, LandMar would welcome discussions with the City and the Waterways Commission about a marina, particularly if public funding is a factor (and Commissioner Grey had raised this matter with Mr. Furlong, i.e., public grant monies available for downtown marinas). Presently, however, LandMar has been limited to the public improvements scope that was in the original development agreement, and in the original agreement, private marina slips were contemplated as a part of the private development side.

Susan Gandin commented on public spaces in the project (citing her current work for an organization that provides parks for people). Felt that there was not enough activity to draw and to lure people. Referenced the Navy Pier in Chicago where there are numerous activities that draw people. The Chair, C/M Self, felt that there were too few public spaces, that there was the need to allot some space for passive activity. C/M Copeland underscored the need for sensitivity to the accessibility issues for the disabled. Waterways Coordinator Nichols stressed the need for a water taxi station in the Hogan's Creek area.

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This was the right thing to do. While I'm sure I'll become upset if Landmar builds ugly buildings, this deal makes the most sense given the unpleasant situation. By approving this deal, Landmar will be obligated to finish phase I in no more than 5 years and the entire property in 8. This is actually faster than Trilegacy was ever required to finish, and will be decades faster than trying to develope the property piece by piece.

I caught some of the "public imput" portion of the meeting and was stunned at some of the comments. Some of those people sounded more like escaped mental patients than concerned citizens ... spiting out half-baked conspiracy theories, invoking rights they don't posess, and demonstrating a gross misunderstanding of the most basic facts.

There are plenty of good reasons to be upset with the city over the Shipyards deal, but some of these people are really going overboard. My personal favorite was the minister who demanded that any development of the property be suspended until Trilegacy's officers were put in Jail - apparently he wasn't too concerned with the grand jury that found Trilegacy innocent of any criminal wrongdoing. Seemingly justice and logic aren't as important as indignation.

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Here's the article, by the way. Very little new info.

TU article

Warren Alvarez was the lone person to vote against the deal. He said that it's a bad deal because the property could be worth hundreds of millions in property taxes over the next few decades, but with this deal the city will only get tens of millions. Of course, he neglected to mention that the property will only generate property taxes if a company like Landmar develops the site in the first place - and that the property has almost no taxable value as a vacant dirt field. In fact, if the shipyards remained a city-owned dirt field (the inevitable result of rejecting this deal) its taxable value would be exactly ZERO.

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Landmar will receive the land and 231.7mm in tax refunds. The city will receive 24.5mm in taxes over 30 years.

Landmar screwed the city and the city begged them to do it. Why was Landmar the only company consulted with on this? Why was was this very telling stat conveniently left out of previous articles on this subject?

Over 80 parties have inquired about the JEA property. What is the difference between these sites? Very little.

The city should have taken title to the property and charged Trilegacy for the 14mm it owed. Even if they only got half of it, that would have paid for 2-3 years of the bond payments while the city properly marketed the site.

Plain and simple, the city felt it was desperate because those councilmen have bought into the commonly held belief that "Jacksonville can't do anything".

This a huge mistake financially for the city. If this is running the city like a business, it will be bankrupt pretty damn soon.

We can only hope that this thing looks decent, so that we taxpayers don't have to wince our eyes, along with trying to sooth the sharp pain emmienating from our backside.

P.S. Does anyone here really think that TriLegacy spent $22mm legitimately on this site(that excluding paying for the land itself BTW)? Somebody tell me what that money was spent on, before telling me TriLegacy is innocent of wrongdoing.

It's no wonder that no one trusts the government to do anything right.

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The Trilegacy spent somewhere between 12 and 16 million on the portion of the bulkhead that they constructed. I've seen the plans and in my opinion it was probably closer to 12.

The reason that LandMar was given the opportunity was that they have connections (Burr is high up at the JCC) and they have a gigantic financial backer - Duke Energy is their parent company. I don't think anyone else around here has the horses to pull this one off. The original Tri Legacy plan was for almost a billion dollars in development. I think a number that big would scare off even the fool hardy developers.

I think more importantly, the City needs to move on. Put this thing to bed and get building. The City does not need a billion dollar headlining development snafu to draw attention to how things are run down here. We don't need bad publicity. We also don't need more bond use IRS penalties. Will the city lose money that they could have made from holding the property and speculating? Sure. Are they guranteed a buyer in three years? Nope. They need to get it off their hands now and do something. How much money will they make if this development attracts even more development in the area? Who knows, but it might be significant. They are making an investment in the future with this property. I think it was the only decision that they could make. The council took Trilegacy's Lemon and made it to something that sort of resembles lemonade with the LandMar Deal.

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I still don't understand the argument (see TU columnist Mark Woods) that this is a bad financial deal. With eventual tax revenues combined with economic impact, the city will easily make back its $35 million dollar investment.

Also, I think the argument that the city should have waited for a "better" deal is pure fantasy. Look what happened to LaVilla. The city demolished an entire neighborhood thinking that developers would swoop in and make the city rich. The result, 15 years later over half of LaVilla sits vacant and tax-free. The other half has been turned into a suburban office park, complete with 1 story buildings and surface parking lots. The city is still stubornly sitting on overpriced lots, losing millions in lost property taxes and economic impact.

Also, I find it annoying that people keep throwing around this $35 million dollar figure like it's some gross injustic ... like somehow the city is stealing $35 million from our pockets. First off all, most of that money is going to public improvements, so normally we would never expect a return on the investment. However this deal will provide a return on that money. Secondly, if someone wants to complain about taxpayer money being wasted, look at the BJP road cost overruns. $600 million overbudget (not even the total expense, just the extra expense). We are nearly $100 million overbudget on the cost of overpass right-of-way purchase alone - nevermind the budget for actual overpass construction. This is money the city will never ever make back, for projects that will do more harm than good. I mean, I consider myself a fiscal libertarian. But if the government is going to spend taxpayer money, I would prefer they spend it on public-private partnerships rather than in some useless road project hole.

Oh wait, I forgot ... when government wastes $600 million on questionable road projects in the suburbs it's actually free market capitalism that will benefit everybody. But when government reasonably invests $35 million downtown, that will evetually pay itself back, it's socialist corporate welfare. Silly me, I forgot how that worked.

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Littlepage editorial on Landmar deal

I honestly don't understand why the city is even considering this deal, much less approving it. I pray that taxpayer's are calling their councilman to defeat this deal on second reading. Jacksonville is not that desperate. When is someone going to wake up? THis is a huge mistake IMO.

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littlepage's editorial still fails to make this sound like a bad deal.

- the city will get about $1 million a year in property tax. it gets a big fat zero now - and it will continue to get zero until they resell the property to someone else, a process that would clearly take years and years. does anyone foolishly think that they city could resell the property quickly or without the exact same level of controversy? The public money has been spent. Public space is a required component of the deal. ANY future deal would have to address these same issues. Angry anti-downtown suburbanites will be crying bloody murder no matter who owns the property.

- tens of millions of these tax breaks will be put directly towards public works improvements.

- as littlepage was forced to admit, the city will gain nearly $200 million in school district revenues.

- littlepage's claims of overstressed infrastructure are bogus and he knows it. downtown can handle 700 units without extra roadwork - hell, it could handle tens of thousands more on its current street grid.

there's a reason this deal was approved 18-1. it's a very reasonable option that keeps the process moving. opposing this deal in the hope that something better was waiting around the corner is grossly naive. how many financially sound developers are going to take on the burden of all that public space construction, all the leftover sitework/enviromental work, the extreme financial burden of such a large project, and then still up and pay tens of millions for the site? No one, that's who. We'd be looking at a dirt field for the next 15-20 years, just like LaVilla.

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but also, just as clarification ... i don't want to be seen as some single minded defender of Landmar's shipyards deal. in the end, i might HATE their plans for the shipyards. but if the shipyards are a failure, it will be because of poor urban design.

the financial deal simply makes sense, that's all i'm saying. and it seems unfair and naive for people like littlepage to start spewing the "corporate welfare" line every time the city draws up a tax-break deal.

there's no guarantee that Landmar won't screw everything up with suburban-style stucco and gates. but that's a totally seperate issue that will be addressed by the DRC (hopefully).

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My only issue with the LandMar situation is not the financial deal. I completely agree with Captain on this. I just dont like the LandMar design, as exemplified by the awful pier.

If people like Littlepage were in charge, nothing would ever happen in the city, which is I suspect what he actually wants. The reality is Jacksonville will continue to grow in population so we might as well try to have some of the people live downtown to alleviate suburban sprawl and the destruction of natural spaces around the city.

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*still waiting impatiently for renderings...*

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Through the rumor mill, there's a possiblity that LandMar hasn't begun to layout or design the Shipyards project yet, thus no renderings. They may have just been negotiating development rights.

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littlepage's editorial still fails to make this sound like a bad deal.

- the city will get about $1 million a year in property tax. it gets a big fat zero now - and it will continue to get zero until they resell the property to someone else, a process that would clearly take years and years. does anyone foolishly think that they city could resell the property quickly or without the exact same level of controversy? The public money has been spent. Public space is a required component of the deal. ANY future deal would have to address these same issues. Angry anti-downtown suburbanites will be crying bloody murder no matter who owns the property.

- tens of millions of these tax breaks will be put directly towards public works improvements.

- as littlepage was forced to admit, the city will gain nearly $200 million in school district revenues.

- littlepage's claims of overstressed infrastructure are bogus and he knows it. downtown can handle 700 units without extra roadwork - hell, it could handle tens of thousands more on its current street grid.

there's a reason this deal was approved 18-1. it's a very reasonable option that keeps the process moving. opposing this deal in the hope that something better was waiting around the corner is grossly naive. how many financially sound developers are going to take on the burden of all that public space construction, all the leftover sitework/enviromental work, the extreme financial burden of such a large project, and then still up and pay tens of millions for the site? No one, that's who. We'd be looking at a dirt field for the next 15-20 years, just like LaVilla.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The city (with TriLegacy as the conduit) has already spent millions on bulkhead improvements, and the land itself. This is not a wasteland site. It is prime riverfront land, with significant (if not complete) improvements. The Riverwalk improvements, while expensive, will also make the site more valuable. It cost $8million to extend the Riverwalk from CSX to the New Fuller Warren, and that includes the expensive lift over the RR. How much is Landmar going to put into it's Riverwalk? Probably around 10-12million.

According to coj.net , this property already pays about $450,000 in taxes annually to the schools and municipal government.

This site includes over million sq. ft of office space, in addition to the housing units, plus a hotel. It is already known that new streets and improvements to Bay St. will be required. The city will be on the hook for all costs involved with providing additional police, fire, sanitation, etc. that will be demanded from the development. In it

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If Landmar bought a 400-600 acre vacant tract in St. Johns County for a new gated subdivision, they would buy the land, pay architects and planners to design it, build at least a few streets, and build most or all of the amenities (clubhouse, tennis courts, golf course, nature trails, whatever) BEFORE they would receive ANY money back on the deal. Any deposit for homes would be in escrow and thereby not available to them except as collateral.

If under this scenario, Landmar approached St. Johns County and said

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