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Neighbors, council member argue there’s no space for storage facilities downtown

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — What started as a way to bring a storage facility to the Southbank, later raised questions about the future of downtown development.

Council members considered legislation that would allow personal storage facilities in the downtown overlay, which was created in 2019.

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The bill requires such buildings to have a mix of retail, restaurants and office space on the first floor.

“It opens up the entire downtown for self-storage — the entire downtown,” council member LeAnna Cumber, who’s running for mayor and represents the Southbank, said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “We approved $121 million for the Emerald Trail. If the Emerald Trail is lined with self-storage units, it’s a very expensive sidewalk that we’re going to build.”

Action News Jax’s Robert Grant talked to the council member over the phone.

“Storage facilities have zero place in downtown. They are dead space. No one wants to live next door to one. We have plenty of places within a five-minute drive where they are legal,” she said.

There’s a U-Haul storage facility on West Ashley Street, another on Myrtle Avenue, Extra Space Storage on Myrtle Avenue, and CubeSmart Self Storage on Park Street.

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The developer’s originally proposed site sits at the corner of Prudential Drive and Hendricks Avenue.

“When I heard about this — and I can look outside my condo window and see where this can be built, it just defies all logic,” Bryan T. said. He lives in a condo just across the street.

The Land Use & Zoning Committee approved the change to ordinance 6-1. The council as a whole kicked it back to the committee after hearing from several constituents.

Council member Reggie Gaffney, who sponsored the legislation, said he was on the fence after hearing concerns.

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A representative for the developer spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting and said since 2019, when the downtown overlay was created, there’s been more than 4,000 units either under construction or approved, and this legislation would answer a need.

“We’re offering a solution to a problem. The market is saying there’s a need for mixed-use, self-storage buildings. As a result, we proposed an idea to change the code to allow that to happen.”

Council member Rory Diamond, who chairs Land Use & Zoning, said he expects the developer to instead apply for new zoning on the Southbank, which would not impact downtown.

That meeting is set for July 19.

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