Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LaVilla Merchant Fights Back City Work Weakened `Showcase'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LaVilla Merchant Fights Back City Work Weakened `Showcase'

Article excerpt

Once, Herman Miller was a LaVilla success story, a

small-businessman creating jobs in a neighborhood that needed

them.

Now, his business might collapse, literally, because of City

Hall's efforts to help the neighborhood.

"They're going to put me out of business is what they're going

to do," said Miller, the owner of a uniform shop whose

89-year-old storefront has been cracking apart.

That started, Miller says, after work crews tore up the street

outside and installed new underground utilities about a foot

from his store at Monroe and Davis streets. The work was part of

a city project to beautify and redevelop Monroe Street.

The walls and floor have cracked enough that this month,

Miller's insurance company plans to cancel coverage for his

business, Gateway Orange State Uniform Rental.

That could effectively shut down the business, because it

automatically puts him in default on about $300,000 worth of

loans from bankers and a city development agency.

No one wants that to happen, said Jim Taylor, vice president of

the city-operated Jacksonville Economic Development Company.

"It has been one of our showcase pieces . . . one of our

success stories," said Taylor, whose agency -- a loan pool for

urban businesses -- helped Miller upgrade shop equipment in the

late 1980s.

"From our standpoint, because of where it is in LaVilla and the

people he employs . . . it has been a good project."

The company has at times employed as many as 20 people but has

only a few employees now.

Miller said a consultant has estimated repairs could cost

$150,000.

One doorway has been permanently closed and part of the shop

isn't used anymore, because the wall around it is pulling away

from supports.

Miller said three women used to work in the closed section.

He said he'd like to move and sell the property to city

officials, who have bought much of the surrounding neighborhood

for redevelopment. …

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