Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 to Pitch Proposal for Cecil Developer; Fair Market Value and Competition Are Issues, Argues the Opposition

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 to Pitch Proposal for Cecil Developer; Fair Market Value and Competition Are Issues, Argues the Opposition

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BAUERLEIN

City Council members Daniel Davis and Ray Holt said Monday they will co-sponsor a bill making Hillwood the master developer of Cecil Commerce Center when the legislation is introduced at tonight's council meeting.

Davis' Westside district contains the commerce center, and Holt's district covers large chunks of the Westside and Northside.

As co-sponsors, their support would give the bill momentum as it comes before council members, who face vigorous lobbying by supporters and opponents. The Northside Business Leaders, for example, has criticized the proposal, saying the city would sell the land too cheaply.

"From what I know, I'm not real happy about it," said Gerri Jones, past president of the business club.

Mayor John Peyton supports the proposed agreement that was negotiated by the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission and Hillwood, a Dallas company. Hillwood would get a contract for up to 25 years and the ability to purchase parcels of land at prices set in the contract.

Davis said he supports the overall concept and framework, but he said the council might make changes to protect existing industrial parks.

"I think there are some opportunities to make this better through the legislative process," Davis said.

He said he wants the agreement to address concerns that Hillwood's development of Cecil Commerce Center would cannibalize other industrial parks in Jacksonville by peeling away their tenants. He said the council also should consider adding a provision that would reset the sales price of the land in the future, based on changes in the market and Hillwood's actual cost of development.

"I'm open to that discussion," Davis said. "I'm sure that will be part of the debate at the council level."

Holt said it's a complex deal "with a lot of moving parts" but he disagrees with critics who say it will harm other industrial parks.

"I think there will probably be some minor changes to it, but Hillwood is the right company to take us to the next level," Holt said. …

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