Photo: Bob Self/Florida Times-Union
Northeast Florida Roundup
Hands on: Jacksonville's Mayor Lenny Curry gets to work
Mayor Lenny Curry faces some tough financial challenges.
Early in his administration, rookie Republican Mayor Lenny Curry has dived aggressively into a nest of major issues facing Jacksonville, from dredging the St. Johns River to developing the city's riverfront Shipyards property. Finding the money needed for the projects, however, will pose a challenge.
Barely a month in office, Curry dissolved a task force named by former Mayor Alvin Brown to review a plan to dredge the St. Johns River to accommodate a new generation of container ships. The committee had focused on environmental concerns and also on how to pay the $300-million tab for the project.
Curry says his administration "will work directly with the JaxPort board" to move the plan along. He hasn't said how he plans to fund the dredging, however.
Another big issue: A $1.65-billion unfunded liability in the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension plan. The pension issue plagued Brown during his administration as plan after plan failed to win council approval. In late June, the city and the trustees for the plan agreed that the city would pay $350 million a year toward the pension debt over the next 14 years.
But that agreement lacks a funding plan as well. Two days after taking office, Curry said he was looking into a plan that would need approval by the governor and the Legislature to create $100 million a year in savings. He has not yet released details.
Downtown redevelopment also poses a challenge. In February, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan outlined a plan to develop the 48-acre city-owned Shipyards parcel, which fronts the St. Johns River from downtown to the Jaguars' stadium.
Curry says he will be personally involved in the negotiations, which team President Mark Lamping expects to begin this fall. Neither side has said how much money the project will cost, nor how much they expect the other to pay.
"We're going to figure it out. Look, it's got to be good for the taxpayers ... good for the organization ... good for Jacksonville. And that's what we're working toward," Curry told the Florida Times-Union.
To fill key positions in his administration, Mayor Lenny Curry has turned mostly to officials who served in the administrations of Republican Mayors John Peyton and John Delaney. Sam Mousa, Curry's chief administrative officer, who's responsible for the management and operations of all city departments, held the same position under Delaney. Former state Rep. Mike Weinstein, who made an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2003, is returning to the finance director post he held under Mayors Ed Austin and Delaney.
Profile Elite Parking Services of America
As a senior at Jacksonville University, Dane Grey developed plans for a valet parking service, Elite Valet. That service became a company, Elite Parking Services. Today, the Jacksonville company handles parking operations for dozens of airports, arenas, stadiums, companies and governments throughout the U.S. The firm employs 60 at its downtown headquarters and 320 around the country. "Outsourcing parking allows places like airports to focus on all the other things they need to do," he says.
The company plans to expand operations in St. Augustine, Tallahassee and Orlando. "I never imagined it would it would grow to this magnitude," Grey says.
Terrence Brennan has been hired by Sandpiper Asset Management of Atlantic Beach as its COO.
Jeffrey Everett has been named vice president and assistant general counsel of Advanced Disposal in St. Augustine.
Ed Bielarski Jr. Has been named general manager at GRU in Gainesville. He was the chief operating and financial officer of the Lehigh County Authority in Allentown, Pa. He replaces interim GRU general manager Kathy Viehe.
Lauren Cooks Levitan, a managing partner at Moxie Capital, has been named CFO at Jacksonville-based Fanatics, a sports merchandising company.
ALACHUA - AGTC and Massachusetts-based Bogen will develop gene-based therapies for eye diseases based on AGTC's research to treat diseases of the retina. Bogen will pay $124 million to AGTC and will receive other payments based on sales.
CLAY COUNTY - Baptist Health is seeking state approval to build a 100-bed hospital at its current medical facility between Orange Park and Keystone Heights. Work on the facility, which is estimated to cost up to $80 million, could begin in the spring.
GAINESVILLE - The Innovation Hub is currently home to some 30 startup companies, and another 30 have graduated since the university of Florida started the incubator in October 2011. The companies have created 760 jobs and attracted more than $50 million in private equity investment, according to a report for the U. S. Economic Development Administration. University of Florida employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements can receive a 2.5% raise beginning Jan. 1. President Kent Fuchs also said hourly workers will see their wages increase from $10 to $12 an hour. The university is still negotiating pay raises with United Faculty of Florida, which represents some 1,700 faculty, and Graduate Assistants United, which represents some 4,000 graduate assistants. The 2.5% increase will cost the university about $18.2 million.
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Although Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $400,000 for the renovation of historic Spring Park, city officials say the $2.1-million project will proceed, even though they only have $1.4 million committed to the project. The city council voted to negotiate a professional services agreement with the Mathews Design Group.
JACKSONVILLE - Australia-based Macquarie Group, an investment bank and diversified financial services group, will open an office downtown early next year. The city council has approved incentives of $393,600 if the company creates the 123 jobs it has promised by the end of 2017. The state is also providing $1.37 million in incentives. > Phoenix-based Alliance Residential plans to start work early next year on 300 luxury apartments on three acres along the south bank river walk in downtown Jacksonville. > Orange Park Medical Center has opened a full-size emergency center on Jacksonville's Westside, just north of the Duval-Clay county line. > The Blood Alliance and OneBlood are merging and will operate under the OneBlood brand. OneBlood CEO Don Doddridge will lead the newly formed organization. > A Boston investment firm, Intercontinental Real Estate, is purchasing the Coach warehouse and distribution center at Jacksonville International Tradeport for $90.5 million. Coach, a New York-based maker of bags, outerwear and accessories will continue to operate there. > Duval County high schools are moving to add certified full-time athletic trainers at all 17 of the county's high schools in a move to cut the number of sports injuries. Five schools will get trainers this fall, and the district expects to have trainers in place at all schools by 2020. The five-year, $1.5-million program is being funded in part by grants from the city, Jacksonville University, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the NFL. > Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville is receiving $1 million from the ALS Association to try to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. > TierPoint of St. Louis has purchased Jacksonville-based CxP Data Centers for $11 million. TierPoint provides cloud, co-location and managed services in 13 markets.
ST. JOHNS COUNTY - AV Homes h as broken ground on Stone Creek, a 39-acre single-family development of 44 homes in St. Johns County.