Comments by Jaguars owner Shad Khan the other day were worthy of note.
First was the notion that nothing has been done downtown for 50 years.
“This has been like a 50-year objective in Jacksonville to do something downtown,” Khan allegedly told local reporters. “I’ve talked to enough people. We are probably as anxious as anybody to break this curse and get something going.”
A little history for Khan:
In the 1950s, Mayor Haydon Burns made the “Jacksonville Story” known nationwide, and also ensured his own re-election and eventual election as governor. It told how the city’s decrepit waterfront had been cleaned up and new companies brought to town, such as Atlantic Coast Line and Prudential. Later, Burns built a new City Hall and courthouse.
Still, in 1974, civic leaders met at Amelia Island and concluded that the city’s No. 1 priority should be downtown development.
All mayors since then have focused on that goal.
Standing at the top of the old Independent Life Building today and looking at the city below, anyone would be hard pressed to recognize anything 50 years old.
In short, Khan doesn’t know what he was talking about.
However, his segue into a complaint that the Jaguars were not making enough money was much more instructive.
It suggests to me that the constant rumors about him moving the team to London, or elsewhere, might be more than talk.
The Jags don’t earn much money, compared to other teams. That is unlikely to have much to do with the state of downtown development, however.
Mayor Lenny Curry seems content with the idea of taxpayers picking up more than half the tab of the $450 million Khan claims he is going to spend near the football stadium.
Taxpayers already are paying to tear down and rebuild the Hart Bridge ramps running by the stadium. That doesn’t seem to have much to do with improving the flow of traffic.
In fairness, Khan is investing money in the city. But more than likely, he is putting a lot more in his own pocket.
If the billionaire moves elsewhere with his football team, in order to put even more money in his pocket, a lot of people are going to be left with empty dreams but it isn’t clear that the city’s taxpayers in general will suffer.
His suggestion that his promised development would be the first, best and biggest in 50 years is off base, and talk is cheap. Let’s see if it materializes before applauding.