DIA Still “Willing and Able” to Discuss Negotiations for Laura Street Trio

DIA Still “Willing and Able” to Discuss Negotiations for Laura Street Trio
SouthEast Development Group Principal and Managing Director Steve Atkins spoke at the DIA Strategic Implementation Committee meeting on April 12 regarding a resolution pertaining to negotiations surrounding the Laura Street Trio.

The door remains open for negotiations between the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) and the developer for the Laura Street Trio following a pair of DIA board and committee meetings last month.

Conversations regarding funding for the massive historic renovation and adaptive reuse of the three buildings have continued between the City of Jacksonville and SouthEast Development Group LLC Principal and Managing Director Steve Atkins following a January Committee of the Whole meeting which discussed emergency bill 2023-0876 for funding for the project based on a proposal presented to the city by the development team.

The Resident News reported previously on the meeting, during which city officials – including City of Jacksonville General Counsel Michael Fackler, Chief Financial Officer Anna Brosche, Council Auditor Kim Taylor and DIA CEO Lori Boyer – all expressed concerns regarding the legality and constitutionality of the proposed deal.

The emergency was eventually withdrawn, and the city council tasked the DIA Board with finding a viable redevelopment agreement to which all parties could agree.

DIA Resolution 2024-04-10 was introduced at the April 12 Strategic Implementation Committee meeting. In it, DIA stated, in part, that it found “the proposal submitted by the developer on March 30, 2024, is untenable and recommend[ed] that no further action be taken on said proposal.”

According to the resolution, at a March 29 meeting between the DIA and the development team, Atkins “presented a proposal and delivered multiple term sheets” which included the above-referenced proposal: an “only slightly modified” Capital One proposal requiring an unconditional city guaranty, which did not alleviate the previously mentioned constitutionality concerns.

In its conclusions, the DIA resolution read, in part, “The DIA therefore forwards to the Mayor and City Council its recommendation that the current Developer proposal be rejected and recommends that 2023-876 be withdrawn as no acceptable substitute has been agreed upon that can be considered by the Board.”

Atkins addressed committee members at the April 12 meeting.

“Our interpretation of the resolution is, ‘We’re done. We’re not having any more discussions, period, regarding the project. Only in the last 24 hours have we heard, ‘Well we’re open and willing to listen to listen to other options that you might present.’ I think that is what we need to do,” said Atkins.

DIA Board Chair Jim Citrano countered Atkins’ interpretation of the resolution by stating he believed the resolution meant negotiations were over “only if Mr. Atkins doesn’t have any other options because we know the Capital One term sheet is not constitutional.”

After a lengthy conversation, the committee ultimately decided to amend the resolution and defer it to the DIA Board meeting the following week.

“I’m very encouraged by what I heard from the board today,” Atkins said following the meeting. “I really appreciate the board weighing in.”

At the April 17 board meeting, an amended resolution was approved in a 5-to-0 vote with Board Member Micah Heavener abstaining. The amended resolution remained steadfast in the DIA’s opposition to the Capital One proposal presented to the DIA Board at the March 29 meeting, yet kept the door open for future discussions and negotiations. Sections five and six of the amended resolution read, respectively, as follows:

•    Section 5: “The DIA therefore forwards to the Mayor and City Council its recommendation that the Developer proposal presented March 29, 2024, is unacceptable and be rejected.”

•   Section 6: “The DIA remains willing and able to evaluate future alternative financing structures that exclude the unconditional Guaranty of the City and are otherwise legally permissible as determined by the City’s Office of General Counsel.”

At the request of City Councilmember Matt Carlucci, the DIA also removed its recommendation to the city council that it withdraw 2023-0876. Carlucci stated that, as a bill sponsor, he should be the one to withdraw it. 

“The sponsor of the bill is the one who traditionally withdraws. So, if you recommended that Matt Carlucci withdraw the bill, that might be a different thing. But when you’re talking to the council as a whole, I kinda lose a little bit of control over my baby,” he said.

Following the April 12 committee meeting, The Resident News asked Atkins if he has any plans should the City reach the point where it does cease discussions.

“At this point, I probably wouldn’t even entertain the idea,” he said. “We know what needs to happen and we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them.”

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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