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bobliocatt

Shipyards could end up in good hands

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You might be wondering who developer Ed Burr is and why he would want to take over the troubled Shipyards development downtown.

Well, he's not sure yet he wants to take on the project, but we'll get to that.

First, a little about Burr. Edward Burr, 47, is a 1974 graduate of Fletcher High School, a graduate of Florida State University, a certified public accountant and the president of LandMar Group LLC. He created LandMar in 1987 and sold the majority of it in 1999 to Duke Energy subsidiary Crescent Resources LLC.

Mayor John Peyton said recently that Burr "has tremendous smarts."

Burr is described as a quiet, deliberate, personable and respected businessman who is devoted to his 13- and 10-year-old sons and to The Monique Burr Foundation for Children he created in memory of his wife, who died in a car accident in 1996 while they were on a trip to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

Peyton and city leaders hope that Burr wants to be the savior of The Shipyards, the 45-acre downtown riverfront project that doesn't have much to show except sales and construction trailers, weeds, some rail cars and piping for the proposed 99-unit One Shipyard Place condo.

Burr's deepening involvement with the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce drew him into The Shipyards situation. (Burr will chair the chamber in 2006.)

As I said, Burr isn't sure he wants to take over the project, initially envisioned as an $860 million residential, office, hotel, marina and park development. That doesn't mean he won't. It just means he wants to make sure it's the smart thing to do. He has until mid-December to make up his mind.

Burr says factors in the decision will include "broad economic conditions, project feasibility and economics, timing, market acceptance, human resources, political environment, permitting issues" and so on.

"We think it's a great project and we think it has great potential," he says. He expects preliminary research any day now about what he calls the "ups and downs" and "pros and cons."

Burr also calls The Shipyards "very complicated" and says LandMar is re-evaluating the master plan, while respecting that "a lot of people are committed to One Shipyard Place."

Those overall complications made headlines. The city and Shipyards developer TriLegacy Group have been arguing whether TriLegacy used $36.5 million of city money for the right reasons and why little has been developed.

Burr wants to keep The Shipyards, as a development, above the fray. "The project does not deserve a black eye," he says.

A look at LandMar's portfolio at landmargroup.com indicates that there doesn't seem to be much question about his ability to complete The Shipyards. Money doesn't appear to be an issue considering LandMar's ties to Duke Energy.

LandMar completed four housing developments and an oceanfront condominium in Northeast Florida and is working on at least 10 housing, commercial and condo projects in Florida and in St. Marys, Ga.

He says he has faith in the redevelopment of downtown and that "The Shipyards will be successful with or without LandMar" and that "downtown will be successful with or without The Shipyards."

And he won't say much more. That's probably a smart move, too.

karen.mathisjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4305

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._16828926.shtml.

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Hope Mr. Burr makes it out to the art walk tonight. 5-8pm downtown. more info at www.downtownjacksonville.org

Art Walk is a great way to sample the ever-changing downtown. All free.

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Me and a couple of co-workers will be there tonight. This will be my first time, so I'm looking forward to it.

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Me and a couple of co-workers will be there tonight.  This will be my first time, so I'm looking forward to it.

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Sounds neat. I have never gone on one before but it sounds really cool. I will have to check it out!

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Dag nabbit, I wish I was up there! Art Walk is still near the top of my "To-Do List" Anyways, I'm crossing my fingers on this Burr fellow. It may very well be the first bit of good Bay Street news in a long time!

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Grand jury next step for Shipyards

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State Attorney Harry Shorstein has subpoenaed records from the offices of top Jacksonville officials involved in the city's largest private development along the Northbank Riverwalk.

Shorstein said he plans to discuss The Shipyards development with the grand jury to be seated Nov. 1.

On Wednesday, Shorstein issued subpoenas for records from the offices of Mayor John Peyton, General Counsel Rick Mullaney, City Council President Elaine Brown, Council Auditor Richard Wallace, Jacksonville Economic Development Commission Executive Director Kirk Wendland and Downtown Development Authority Managing Director Al Battle. The deadline for them to provide copies of the documents is Friday, Oct. 22.

Shorstein previously discussed The Shipyards case with a grand jury that declined to review it until negotiations between the city and TriLegacy were complete. Those negotiations were finalized in August.

The subpoenas require copies of documents including correspondence, notes, letters, minutes of meetings, drawings and proposals -- from Jan. 1, 1998, to June 30, 2001.

On June 12, 2001, the City Council approved giving TriLegacy Group LLC $40 million for public improvements to go along with the private development, which would include condos, shops, offices and a hotel. Documents requested by Shorstein wouldn't include any records that show how TriLegacy used city money. But he previously received copies of more recent documents from Mullaney's office.

TriLegacy officials declined to comment about the subpoenas, but they did release a written statement by TriLegacy attorney Hank Coxe.

"It is my understanding that this is not a criminal investigation of TriLegacy," Coxe said in the statement.

Shorstein said if, during the course of an investigation, the grand jury finds anyone has committed a crime, it would investigate. But he said that hasn't happened yet.

"I think it would be fair to say I have no evidence of criminal wrongdoing of TriLegacy and it would be a mistake to assume that the grand jury will be focused on criminal wrongdoing on the part of TriLegacy," Shorstein said.

He said one subject that could come up is whether the city negotiated and signed a contract that adequately protected taxpayers.

Earlier this year, after $36.5 million of city money was transferred to TriLegacy, city attorneys started questioning company officials after learning city money wasn't being used entirely on public portions of the project, such as a park and riverwalk expansion.

While the city was working on a settlement, city attorneys also were drafting a lawsuit against TriLegacy, accusing the company of racketeering and scheming to defraud the city. The draft never was filed in federal court, and Mullaney has said the draft was a work in progress and some allegations could have been changed or withdrawn if it were filed.

Shorstein said his office has received a number of inquiries from the public asking the 21-member grand jury to review the case.

Shorstein previously said many allegations in the city's draft lawsuit would be appropriate for review by the U.S. Attorney's Office, though he said he wasn't suggesting there had been any violation of federal laws.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined even to acknowledge if there was a federal investigation.

TriLegacy officials have maintained they did nothing wrong, because they said their contract with the city didn't restrict use of the public money, so long as an equal amount ultimately was used for public improvements.

Mullaney said the contract was clear that public money should only go toward public projects, and he said the company was in default with its agreement with the city.

The city and TriLegacy have come up with an agreement that calls for another local company, LandMar Group LLC, to take over the project and finish the public portions. LandMar officials have several months to decide if they want to take over the massive project, at one point estimated to cost $860 million. If the company opts out of the deal, the agreement says TriLegacy executives Jeff and Carlton Spence would owe the city up to $14 million.

Peyton's office doesn't have any original documents, but any city documents in the possession of other officials under his administration, including the JEDC, will be turned over, Peyton spokeswoman Susie Wiles said.

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From City Notes in the Daily Record:

LandMar CEO Ed Burr said he and the City are still negotiating on a possible deal that would have the development firm take over the stalled Shipyards project from TriLegacy. Barr said he expects to be hammering out details right up until his mid-December deadline. Whether it

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Good, because visiters don't want to see that when they come here. We need to promote a good image of the city.

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Developer seeks Shipyards extension

By CHRISTOPHER CALNAN

The Times-Union

The Jacksonville developer asked in August to take over the city's controversial Shipyards project near Alltel Stadium is now requesting a four-month extension to the deadline for him to decide if he wants the project.

The LandMar Group LLC initially had until this week to buy the downtown riverfront property and take over the project from TriLegacy Group LLC. The deal would settle a legal dispute between TriLegacy and the city over the spending of money the city gave the project for public improvements.

Mayor John Peyton's office was expected to introduce an ordinance to City Council Tuesday requesting an extension to April 30, Peyton spokeswoman Susie Wiles said.

The city hadn't receive the required signatures from TriLegacy officials late Tuesday, she said, which could delay it's introduction until the next council meeting in two weeks.

"There is inadequate time to attempt to negotiate a new redevelopment agreement," the ordinance reads. "The city has determined that it is in the city's best interest to continue with negotiations at this time."

Wiles referred questions about the negotiations and number meetings that have taken place to LandMar spokesman Michael Munz. But Munz said he was unaware of the ordinance when initially asked about it Tuesday. Later in the day he declined to comment on the issue.

TriLegacy spokesman Paul McCormick said it's up to the city and LandMar to reach an agreement on the extension. "It really is not an issue for TriLegacy," he said.

In April, the city questioned how TriLegacy spent $36.5 million intended for public improvements. TriLegacy then stopped work on the project and began negotiating with city attorneys.

The resulting August settlement calls for LandMar to take over the project and make the public improvements, including an extension to the Northbank Riverwalk, providing a park and widening Bay Street. It would also be required to repay the city more than $40 million the city borrowed in tax-exempt bonds to lend TriLegacy the public improvement money.

LandMar and its chief executive officer, Jacksonville native Ed Burr, participated in the negotiations between the city and TriLegacy. If LandMar didn't accept the city's proposal, the settlement agreement calls for the city to take ownership of the property 45 days after the deadline.

The city's initial redevelopment plan for The Shipyards calls for taxes generated from the project to be used to repay the bonds. If the taxes aren't enough to cover the debt, the developer is expected to pay the difference. The first $3.15 million payment on the bonds is due next year.

TriLegacy was founded in 1999 by the father-and-son team of Carlton and Jeff Spence, owners of a successful Jacksonville cold-storage company called ICS Logistics Inc. The Spences have said they initially bought The Shipyards property for stevedoring, or loading and unloading ships.

But subsequent meetings with the city convinced the Spences to develop the site for a more public use, they've said.

Burr founded LandMar in 1987. The company has been involved in residential, commercial and mixed-used developments throughout the Southeast.

christopher.calnanjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4404

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._17449959.shtml.

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The oddest thing about this deal was that the city was paying Trilegacy to build the park. If the city had just kept the 36mm and built the park itself, it would be finished now. It would not only be ready for the Super Bowl, it would serve as a huge incentive for Land Mar to complete the deal.

The fact that the deal was not structured that way lends credence to the idea that the city knew TriLegacy would use the money for its own purposes, and pay for the park construction out of profits on One Shipyard Place at the end of the project.

I guess a four-month extention is better than a "NO", but it seems to me that the facts will be the same May 1 as they are today. Maybe they want to see how things go with the Super Bowl.

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