On October 15, 2020, Eye reached out to Lori Boyer, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority. We were wondering how the Lot J deal with the Jags bypassed the DIA. We had other questions too and to Ms. Boyer’s credit, she answered all of them.
Here are our questions and her answers to each:
1. Why didn’t the negotiation with the Jaguars go through the DIA? That is a big development in downtown and seems it would be handled through the DIA.
ANSWER: Lot J is not in our inventory of property available for redevelopment- it is and has been for years part of the Jaguars lease for parking. Since it is not property of the Community Redevelopment Agency it does not follow our normal disposition and evaluation processes- City Hall and a fire station would be other examples of City owned property not in our inventory and the DIA would not be in a position to issue a notice of Disposition for those properties. So our review and negotiation of sales of City Owned property is limited to those parcels in our inventory for redevelopment.
2. If Lot J or other projects in downtown are not managed through the DIA — how then can the DIA develop a Master Plan for Downtown Development? (This question was posed because Eye had requested the Master Plan Development for Downtown and was told it was in the works months ago and we would see it soon. Nothing developed so we asked the question again.)
ANSWER: It is a challenge to implement a master plan when private property owners, non-profits, and public agency owners have the right to, and do, change their plans for the future use of their property. DIA follows our plan as to public infrastructure and capital projects Downtown. We do have zoning and design standards that apply to everyone including the City, unless waived by Council, and we can encourage implementation of our overall goals and objectives in the plan through the use of incentives. Again though, ultimately the City Council can provide incentives for the projects they support.
NOTE: We assume from this answer there will not be a Master Plan for downtown even though we were told it was in the works.
3. When the public is sold on a development design and that design changes significantly — how does the process work to go back to the public with the new design before it is actually built? (This question was asked because the final building for Dailey’s Place was vastly different than the one sold to the community. See our article here: https://eyeonjacksonville.com/its-difficult-to-trust-our-mayor-and-the-jags-owner-shad-khan-it-just-is/
ANSWER: The design issue is normally addressed through the Downtown Development Review Board. The ordinance code requires that all downtown projects be reviewed by and receive conceptual and final approval from DDRB. Unless that requirement is waived by City Council, that approval process insures that what is presented in conceptual and approved in final, is what actually is built. All DDRB meetings are public and the documents submitted are available for review. (Note: The DDRB did NOT approve the final building as noted in our article above.)
We do appreciate Ms. Boyer responding to our questions. She has been in this job for a year and a half and we wonder if she wonders “What the heck is going on?”
Eye wonders what is going on! The city seems to have a lot of Chiefs running their own little fifedoms and that causes a lot of confusion, lack of transparency, mistrust, and an opening for corruption.
And that is exactly what happened last week – confusion – when the City Council got into a heated discussion about Lot J and lo and behold, asked the DIA to look over the proposal. Before that happened, the city council members exchanged “fighting words” and seemed to go into that place of “mistrust” with the Mayor’s Administration — specifically Brian Hughes. See the exchange here: https://www.firstcoastnews.com/article/news/lot-j-council-meeting-turns-contentious-over-admins-responses-and-separate-efforts-to-send-deal-to-dia/77-4c70c7a0-4f4c-4f12-8659-e029cefafece
We appreciate the city council questioning fiefdom chiefs. That is their job. Good for them! Yet nothing will really change until the people in leadership change.
What we at Eye would like to suggest is this: Run the city like a business. Start with what businesses do when they need to turnaround a company. They do a deep dive into the PEOPLE, PROCESSES AND PERFORMANCE before they start making changes. But changes must occur that will benefit the taxpayers of Jacksonville.
Unfortunately there is no one in leadership willing to do that now. They are too entrenched in their fifedoms and angry that they are in their silos all alone without information to process decisions.
But a new day is coming and a new Mayor will be too. The next Mayor MUST be willing to clean up how business is done in Jacksonville. That mayor must run on the platform of fixing this freaking mess we watch daily from the sidelines. They need to evaluate each and every department. Get rid of overlaps in responsibilities. Eliminate waste. Talk to each employee and find out what they know. They know stuff that will curl our toes! Fire anyone who isn’t doing their job no matter who they are. Hire the best for the job or for boards – not best friends! Ask the community for their input — especially if they deal with the city on a regular basis. Set up well documented processes that are transparent and fair to all. Go into every neighborhood and listen to their needs and concerns — then do something about them!! Relationship building is the key to great leadership. Publish performance reports on every project that taxpayers are funding. Make our government TRANSPARENT!!
This community is hurting and we need to live in peace and prosperity. That’s what all of us want.
Fixing Jacksonville is not hard.
It will take someone who loves this city more than climbing a political ladder. Someone with a business sense, a vision for growth and who can walk with the wealthy as well as the poor and bring us all together.
We have to believe such a person exists in our hometown.