JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- Breathing life into blighted downtown
Jacksonville Beach may soon depend on a redevelopment plan that
some are selling as a last, best opportunity, while others
complain much more could be done.
The City Council is expected to take its first official action
to close a deal that has been two years in the making and
follows decades of false starts. The council was scheduled to
meet last night in a workshop session to discuss the proposal.
The downtown redevelopment project involves a $5.75 million
investment in a new city hall, police station and festival are
-- and carry the promise of oceanfront restaurants and lodging
-- aimed at spurring development in the neglected business
Mayor Bill Latham recalls past redevelopment plans that did
everything from threaten condemnation on downtown property
owners to sending city officials in pursuit of a gold mine.
"That made us look so foolish," Latham said of a proposed 1993
deal that offered the city $38 million in collateral backed by
unrefined gold concentrate. "We don't want to fool around with
anyone like that anymore."
Two firms -- The Haskell Co. and Sleiman Enterprises --
represent a development team that can be trusted, Latham said.
The two companies submitted the plan being considered by the
"We wanted some firms that were capable," Latham said.
Others, however, say the city could do the development without
committing to a deal that gives the Haskell/Sleiman group
options to purchase city-owned property at Beach Boulevard and
"Basically, there's no redevelopment going on except the city
building some buildings and trading some land to have a festival
or whatever," Councilman Wilmer Clark said. "We need to get out
of the redevelopment business."
As part of the deal, the city is getting a $1.8 million police
station at Shetter Avenue and Penman Road, and a $2.2 million
city hall and $329,000 plaza in the downtown while paying other
costs in a deal that offers roughly seven acres of land to
Haskell/Sleiman at current appraised values.
"It's some of the most valuable land in North Florida," said
Clark, who has announced plans to run for mayor in the fall.
And Clark said, Jacksonville Beach had to finance the deal.
Money to pay for the construction by The Haskell Co. …