JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Update: Mayor Lenny Curry announces the historic partnership between the University of Florida and Jacksonville, after a deal for more than $200 million for a University of Florida campus in downtown Jacksonville over the next three years passes 16-1.
This is a big night for the @CityofJax! We are proud to grow our historic partnership with @UF and bring a new graduate center into our city. Together, we will cement Jacksonville's legacy as a hub for technology and innovation. pic.twitter.com/SHRvi0HFeh— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) March 14, 2023
Original: Jacksonville City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the proposed $200 million University of Florida campus in downtown Jacksonville amid transparency questions of what Mayor Lenny Curry knew about the project and when did he know about it.
The legislation introduced by Curry would commit $50 million in City money towards the campus over the next three years.
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Action News Jax’s Ben Becker obtained a letter Curry sent on November 16, 2022, to UF Chairman of the Board Mori Hosseini, as well as outgoing school president Kent Fuchs making the case for Jacksonville, which was about two weeks after Ben Sasse was announced as the next President of the school.
“Now I stand ready to propose a new phase of our partnership with a proposal for Jacksonville to be home to a new UF graduate education facility focused on the financial technology (fintech) sector,” Curry said in the letter. “I stand ready to take a 3-year, $50 million proposal to our City Council. This money would be joined to state and philanthropic efforts for a $200 million total. In addition, the city stands ready to offer land in the northern area of the City’s urban core as a location.”
However, on the day of the announcement on Feb. 7, Curry told Action News Jax, “You guys would know where the site is I expect, before summer.” In addition, he did not reveal the campus would need $100 million in state funding to go along with $50 million in local donor dollars.
INVESTIGATES: Is Jacksonville a pawn in UF campus game?
Becker first obtained a PowerPoint presentation that showed the proposed campus could go on five parcels. Parcels 1, 2 and 3 are parking lots at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s downtown campus on West State Street, resulting in the school losing up to 750 spaces.
The Duval County Property Appraiser’s Office estimates the school would also part with about $3.2 million worth of land. Next door is Parcel 4, which is the site of JEA’S Main Street Water Plant and Laboratory which is part of the utility kicking in $10 million in “in-kind goods and services.”
Then there’s Parcel 5 owned by the City. It’s currently the site of the Mary L. Singleton Senior Center, where vulnerable seniors could be displaced. The property appraiser says that land is worth $4.4 million.
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The total cost of the campus is more like $217 million.
“I was not going to hand anybody $20 million,” said City Council Vice-President Ron Salem who is referring to Curry’s initial legislation and ask of $20 million that didn’t appear to have any protections for taxpayers if the campus was never built.
Salem’s amendment that passed in committee says UF will send the City a list of costs every three months and then the city will provide reimbursement for 50% of the state or donor dollars the school spends.
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“I think we have spent the last two weeks to make the project much more accountable to the citizens with the changes we have made,” Salem said.
Another change in the Curry bill is an amendment put forth by Leanna Cumber that prevents the use of any city funding on “due diligence” studies by UF.
The powerful and influential Jacksonville Civic Council has thrown its support behind the campus.
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