Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Project's Finances in Closer Scrutiny; Developer's Use of Grant for Mortgage Payment Is Questioned by Mayor's Office

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Project's Finances in Closer Scrutiny; Developer's Use of Grant for Mortgage Payment Is Questioned by Mayor's Office

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTOPHER CALNAN, The Times-Union

Developers of the largest private-investment real estate project in downtown history combined private money with a public grant to make mortgage payments, and the city Tuesday continued to look into whether that violated its agreement with the company.

Documents TriLegacy Group LLC submitted at the request of city attorneys show that the Jacksonville developer has spent some of the $36.5 million project grant it received from the city on mortgage payments totaling $14.7 million.

City authorities said the released documents don't show how much public money was used for the mortgage payments. They're asking for more information because they contend grant money could be used only for public improvements and infrastructure improvements to the East Bay Street site.

TriLegacy spokeswoman Maria Coppola said the developer is willing to remedy the situation.

"If any expenditures were determined to be not in compliance with the redevelopment agreement," she said, "then those expenditures would be reallocated to other private funds or reimbursed."

Susan Wiles, spokeswoman for Mayor John Peyton, said the city is asking for more TriLegacy records to document the source of the spent money, whether it was from TriLegacy or city grant money. She also expects the city to make sure that a part of the agreement that calls for a park and a Riverwalk extension at the site are completed in time for Super Bowl XXXIX in February.

"We will do whatever is appropriate and necessary to see that that obligation is honored," Wiles said.

Much of the site's Riverwalk foundation work has been done, and additional work will be financed through new development or construction loans combined with future investments, Coppola said.

Kirk Wendland, executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the structuring of such grants administered by the commission. …

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