It takes a spark to start a fire. $9 million was dedicated to the Downtown Investment Authority to ignite Downtown investment earlier this year. One Spark, an inaugural five-day crowdfunding festival, lit up our imaginations and drew more than 100,000 people Downtown in April. The Spark District, a public art endeavor by The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville is adding some sizzle to our streets in the coming months.
Now more than ever, we need to invest in this momentum, light a flame under potential investors and fuel Downtown’s development.
But in what may be a case of taking one step forward, two steps back, the City Council’s Finance Committee voted last week to move the $9 million earmarked for Downtown investment to a discretionary account for City Council to allocate to other projects.
DIA Chairman and DVI board member, Oliver Barakat, spoke to the Jacksonville Business Journal on how this move will dampen the DIA’s ability to secure investors:
“I think we need to reinforce to council the bad timing of reallocating these funds at this time, with the CEO coming on board next week “We are doing everything that the enabling legislation asked the board to do, and at the same time, we’re in the process of negotiating deals with potential developers who are concerned about the message. We can’t have a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ approach to Downtown revitalization. We need to be committed.”
DIA board member and former head of the city’s planning department Mike Saylor agrees in a letter to the Florida Times-Union.
“What has changed is the perception that Jacksonville recognizes a strong regional economy needs a strong nucleus. A central urban core that exudes success and business activity, with the full force and commitment of a government that has skin in the game.
What has changed is that the dozens of inquiries and cold calls the staff and DIA members have received from idea-makers, and entrepreneurs, and the arts community and venture capital houses, will not be coming at the same rate they were a few weeks ago.
What has changed is that we have tilted the playing field against ourselves when it comes to selling downtown in a very competitive national marketplace.”
The Finance Committee’s recommendation must still go before City Council for a vote in the coming weeks. Please contact City Council to voice your support for full funding for Downtown investment and attend the next Finance Committee Budget Hearing on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. and the Council Member Public Meeting – City Budget beginning at 11 a.m. on August 27, 2013. Both meetings will be held at City Hall.