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Downtown development delays?

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Updated: 11/19/2013 11:48 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- City leaders debated the future of the historic Bostwick building Tuesday night.

Action on the downtown structure has been delayed more than a dozen times and caused at least one promising investor to walk away.

Action News has learned that some downtown businesses question the process when it comes to closing deals and offering incentives to boost business in the urban core.

ForgeJax is a 3-D printing and design studio located on Bay Street.

Ultimately, the minds behind ForgeJax settled on opening up shop in downtown as opposed to the beach.

"We chose downtown because we thought this was an area on the cusp of revitalization," said co-founder Alan Dukes.

"I hang out at night downtown, I live in Springfield, I ride my bike here," added co-founder Bryce Pfanenstel.

Aside from everyday convenience, these two hoped city incentives would sweeten the deal.

But Pfanenstel says he couldn't wait around for government bureaucracy.

"Turns out there's been a lot more red tape and a lot more obstacles that I wouldn't have anticipated," said Pfanenstel. "But of course, Forge is an attitude and we just kept going."

ForgeJax isn't the only entity experiencing the grinding pace of government.

City committees have delayed action on what to do with the historic Bostwick building more than a dozen times.

It's been enough time for a promising investor to step away from plans to convert the leaking eyesore into an upscale restaurant.

The group in charge of coordinating downtown's business growth is the Downtown Investment Authority.

Board member Michael Saylor states, "We are presently working on methods and processes to expedite action Downtown... I don't think we are 'blocking growth of Downtown,' but it probably has been frustrating for some entrepreneurs to discover the institutional barriers that do exist."

Barriers that couldn't stop this business from forging ahead.

"If we were still waiting on incentives, I'd still be on my couch," said Pfanenstel.

The DIA reviews proposals for incentives from companies and makes recommendations to City Council members who ultimately have the final say. Saylor says the DIA will take over the authority of approving city incentives in about six months.

"Experienced urban redevelopers are well aware of the extended timelines required for getting approvals where old infrastructure, historic sites, land-use capability and adaptive use of existing buildings come into play," said Saylor. "You rarely hear the experienced players complaining about government being too slow."
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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

Truthseeker - 11/20/2013 4:31 AM
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If the name was changed from the Bostwick Building to the Jaguars Building the city would borrow money to waste on it.
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