Laura Street Trio owner plans to move forward despite DIA resolution finding project ‘untenable’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Laura Street Trio could now sit empty longer after the Downtown Investment Authority called on city council to take a step back from negotiations with the developer over fears there’s too much risk involved.


“I think it’s really taken a little too long to develop something — you look at other areas in the world and see they build in 30 days. Meanwhile 20 years later they’re still talking about this building,” Laura Houser, who lives across the street from the Laura Street Trio, said.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

A DIA resolution to be discussed at its Friday committee meeting calls the proposal “untenable” and asks city council to stop negotiations. The concern is over a term sheet that requires the city to back a Capital One loan for new construction at the site, including a hotel and apartments.

“It may be a bit premature,” Council Member Matt Carlucci said about the resolution. He was one of the members who helped save the Laura Street Trio from demolition 23 years ago. “It’s the dead center of the core and we want to make it the live center of the downtown core.”

Carlucci hopes the city can move forward with a plan that removes any risk for the city. He spoke with the developer, Stephen Atkins at SouthEast Group, who said there might be another plan in place that would not involve the city.

Carlucci explained the Capital One loan comes with 6% interest, which is far better than some which can go as high as 14%.

The DIA originally said it would not guarantee private development debt. However, according to a statement from SouthEast, they “have not been given the opportunity to engage with the Board to further discuss and negotiate available options.”

The statement goes on to say this move by the DIA is, “seemingly reflective of most of development projects proposed by private interests for Downtown Jacksonville.”

Action News Jax reported on rising construction costs impacting several other major downtown projects.

The DIA proposed three different alternatives which mainly focused on restoring the existing three historic buildings and excluded the new construction portion of the deal.

RELATED: Laura Street Trio development faces setback; Jacksonville mayor says restoration is ‘priority one’

“What we thought were very good options through the DIA. [Atkins] came back with something that once again, general counsel said this is more of the same and it’s not constitutional,” Mayor Donna Deegan said. She added that her administration is committed to restoring the Laura Street Trio and is looking at all options. “Time is crucial when it comes to those buildings.”

Action News Jax Ben Ryan spoke with Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer, who said they offered three proposals on how to get the historic buildings restored, saying they were blessed by OGC and that it would’ve funded the renovations.

“He (Atkins) wasn’t willing to go along with those proposals and wanted to do the entire project hotel and multifamily new construction as well,” she said. “He has every right to ask for that but in terms of financing proposal for those, they were not something we could pursue.”

Part of Atkins’ statement with Southeast group said the move by DIA is, “seemingly reflective of most of development projects proposed by private interests for Downtown Jacksonville.”

Boyer disagreed.

“I would say that is factually incorrect. I’m not aware of any other one that has a legally impermissible proposal. Nobody else is asking us to do something that is not constitutional.”

Action News Jax asked Boyer about what the DIA considers successes downtown.

“You have One Riverside, TriBridge residential under construction, you have Artia under construction on the Southbank, you have first for sale product under construction in Lavilla townhomes, you have affordable housing at Loft at Cathedral under construction and you have all these public infrastructure projects, I wouldn’t say those aren’t successes,” she said.

Boyers contract is up soon, when asked if she thinks she’s deserving of it being renewed:

“I think that is up to my board and I have not heard anything from them that would indicate they are not still asking me to stay,” Boyer said.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.