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5 INCENTIVES TO WATCH: Housing projects grabbing the majority


The Times-Union

New residences, stores and offices are cropping up all about Jacksonville. And your tax dollars are helping to build some of them through city incentives.

The Times-Union decided to check-in on the five projects that received the most city assistance last year.

The Carlington


The vacant 78-year-old former Roosevelt Hotel is being transformed into The Carlington, which is expected to help the rebirth of downtown by adding 100 loft-style apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space. The $26.5 million project received $21.5 million of city assistance, according to the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, mainly in the form of a $16.5 million loan.

Construction is under way, with plumbing and mechanical systems being installed in the 13-story building at 31 W. Adams St. Mark Farrell, chief executive officer of the project's developer, The Vestcor Cos., hopes it will all be done before February, when Super Bowl XXXIX arrives.

"We're hoping that we are on target to be open for the Super Bowl, but the stars are going to have to line up," Farrell said. "It's a real push to get that but we're going to try our best."

Vestcor will charge monthly rents of about $700 for a one-bedroom unit and about $900 for two bedrooms. Farrell said pre-leasing won't start until the fall, but he expects demand will be strong, based on the success of Vestcor's 11 East Forsyth apartment project, which recently opened a few blocks away.

Metropolitan Parking Solutions


A plan to build three parking garages downtown has gotten mired in controversy since City Council approved it in February, after the JEDC gave it the OK last December.

Metropolitan Parking Solutions was chosen by the city to build a 1,375-space garage across from the new county courthouse and two garages at the sports complex, one holding 480 cars and the other 1,000 vehicles. As part of the deal, the city will issue $50 million in tax-exempt bonds on behalf of Metropolitan Parking Solutions, which would be responsible for paying off the debt. The city would also make semi-annual loans to the developer so it can cover its debt payments, operating expenses, and guarantee the company an 8 percent return on its $3 million investment.

But the economics now have some council members worried, including Glorious Johnson and Warren Alvarez. They say that only after the vote did they become aware that the new garages could hurt SMG, the company that runs Jacksonville's sport facilities, by driving down revenue from the surface parking lots it manages. SMG estimates it could lose $800,000 annually in parking revenue, resulting in a higher city subsidy. SMG is paid through concession sales, parking revenue and city subsidies.

Mayor John Peyton says the contracts have already been signed, and the deal is done. But City Council hopes to pass a resolution asking Peyton to take another look at it. Council may take up the issue again at its May 25 meeting.

Laura Place

Plans are changing for Laura Place, the project that would redevelop the historic Bisbee, Florida Life, and Marble Bank buildings at Laura and Forsyth streets into a mix of office space, loft apartments and retail space. Signet Development Ltd., which is working on the project, is reviewing to see how more housing can be incorporated at the request of the city, said Signet spokesman Michael Munz. He said the timeline was undetermined.

Laura Place was awarded about $18 million in city assistance, including an $11 million loan, on the $35 million project.

Fidelity National Financial


Fidelity National Financial Inc. continues to grow in Jacksonville since moving its headquarters to the First Coast last summer from Santa Barbara, Calif. Fidelity, the city's third Fortune 500 company (after Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. and CSX Corp.), announced in April a plan to increase its office space along Riverside Avenue and fill it with over 1,200 jobs.

Fidelity received city grants worth about $4.2 million for moving its headquarters, along with $8.3 million in state assistance, for making the move. Fidelity says it is the nation's largest title insurance company.

San Marco Place

Construction on the 21-story San Marco Place, a Southbank condominium development, should begin in July or August, according to Chase Properties, the project's Jacksonville-based developer. The 141 units range in price from $190,000 to $550,000. The project, located along Riverplace Boulevard, sold out in the spring, but Chase Properties is still taking reservations in case deals fall through.

San Marco Place will receive up to $3.6 million in city grants, depending on how much they make on the condos and how much they invest in the project. The project is valued at $46 million.

Times-Union writers Christopher Calnan and Matt Galnor contributed to this report.

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