Jaguars ‘pull plug’ on Lot J vision after Council vote

The Jacksonville Jaguars have said their Lot J project is “dead” after Jacksonville City Council rejected the NFL American football team’s deal for a mixed-use development on land adjacent to TIAA Bank Field.

In what is being seen as a surprise decision on the project, Lot J was effectively ended yesterday (Tuesday) at a Council meeting, with the deal unable to overcome criticism that it required too much taxpayers’ money.

The deal had looked well set to pass following a non-binding committee vote last week. However, while the Florida Times-Union reported that supporters yesterday defeated an attempt made by Council President Tommy Hazouri to strip a controversial $65.5m (£47.9m/€53.8m) interest free “breadbox” loan from the deal, which the Jaguars’ development team said was a necessary condition, the failure to remove the loan ultimately resulted in a loss of support. This led to a 12-7 vote, one shy of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

The Lot J project has also recently been tied up in ongoing talk surrounding the future of the Jaguars’ stadium. In November, Jaguars president, Mark Lamping, said the potential extension of the team’s lease deal with the City of Jacksonville would be dependent on a major redevelopment of TIAA Bank Field, among other factors.

The Jaguars’ current lease deal for the City-owned stadium still has another decade to run, through to 2030, but came under the spotlight amid the talks over financing for Lot J. The Jaguars in October saw their Lot J plans move forward after agreeing financial terms for the project with the City. The plans moved ahead following a meeting between the City, the Jaguars and The Cordish Companies, the team’s partner in the project.

The $450m development at Lot J was expected to spur economic growth in Jacksonville, especially in neighbourhoods north and east of the sports complex. The mixed-use development, dubbed the ‘Live! District,’ was due to include two residential buildings with a total of 400 for-rent residences, a 150-250 room hotel, 75,000 square feet of street-level retail, and 40,000 square feet of Class A office space.

A 100,000 square-foot entertainment centre was also set to be developed with bars and restaurants, as well as indoor and outdoor facilities. As part of the agreement, the total direct public investment of $152.7m was to include no more than $50m for the City-owned Live! District, $12.5m over 20 years in a REV grant to support the residential component, $12.5m over 20 years to support the hotel, and $77.7m in City-owned infrastructure.

In addition, the City was to provide a $65.5m loan to the developer, which was to be secured by the developer with a $13.1m deposit into a City-owned trust account. The City was set to own the Live! district, the infrastructure and all parking within the project.

The proposed financial agreement would have resulted in the most lucrative incentives package ever granted to a single project in Jacksonville. Following the apparent collapse of Lot J, Lamping said that Jaguars owner Shad Khan is prepared to move on and focus on developing the Shipyards, the working name for another proposed project on city-owned land that would involve the development of a Four Seasons hotel, as well as medical, residential and retail development.

“We’ve pulled the plug on Lot J,” Lamping said, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record. “It’s dead, but it doesn’t change the way we started this.

“We believe there’s three things we have to do to keep (NFL) football here in Northeast Florida for generations to come. That’s put a better football team on the field — there’s a lot of working going on in that front —to come up with a long-term stadium solution and help Downtown realise its full potential. Our belief in Downtown Jacksonville isn’t changing.”

After the vote, Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted: “This sends a clear and negative message to economic development in our downtown and city. Again, it’s unfortunate but Lot J will not happen. I look forward to continue working on all the needs of our city for all of our citizens.”

Image: Jacksonville Jaguars