COMMENTARY | Even if all the things had been on the up and up with the Mississippi builders who needed to show the troubled Berkman II riverfront property into a Dave & Busters on steroids, the challenge raised — and still raises — so many questions it is exhausting to know where to start out.
The Magnolia State moguls pulled their plans final week for a household-leisure middle, lodge and Ferris wheel for reasons they insisted had nothing to do with stories by my colleague Christopher Hong detailing unpaid taxes and $11 million in financial judgments related to the primary financier of the Berkman undertaking. It seems the justifications they gave as an alternative truly help underscore why their plans — and the plans of prime metropolis officials to subsidize them — never made much sense in the first place.
One purpose for pulling out, the developers claimed, was that plans have been deserted to deliver a decommissioned warship to downtown and convert it into a museum, and therefore a vacation spot-fashion improvement on the size that they had envisioned would not be viable on the riverfront. Let’s ignore for a second the truth that we now have recognized since December the decommissioned USS Adams wouldn’t be coming to Jacksonville. Let’s also do our greatest to look past the fact that with this data absolutely in public view, the town was until just lately on monitor to approve vital public incentives for the complete-blown Berkman II challenge on the behest of the developers and a prime mayoral staffer who helped negotiate the deal.
With this in any other case-laughable rationalization, the builders truly obtained this type of proper. One of the major problems with their cartoonish improvement plan on the outskirts of downtown was that it had no constituency. Who was going to patronize a family-fun middle, lodge and Ferris wheel in downtown Jacksonville? Individuals out within the suburbs and the Seashores cities? They already have Journey Landing, Dave & Busters, Prime Golf, sports activities bars and on and on.
Vacationers? Downtown does not have a tourism financial system strong sufficient to prop up a $one hundred fifty improvement of this type on its own. Or wait, was it a $122 million undertaking? Or $90 million? It was arduous to maintain monitor of the altering numbers.
Have been we just hoping Disney-sure drivers on I-ninety five would see billboards for a water park and Ferris wheel and abruptly determine to stay the night time at a far inferior attraction? It’s in all probability true that without extra stuff to do, like discover a warship museum, a lodge/fun middle on a comparatively isolated piece of downtown land was going to have a troublesome go of issues for the foreseeable future.
Keep in mind, a high-finish rental tower sits next to this proposed improvement on the west aspect, an empty grass lot is on the east, the county jail is across the street and on the catty nook is the Maxwell House plant. My, my, what a view you might get from the top of that Ferris wheel.
And that’s why the undertaking was going to wish a whopping $36 million in taxpayer incentives over the subsequent 20 years to remain afloat. These…