Jacksonville Bold for 10.5.22: Boomtown

jax riverwalk
A Downtown renaissance?


Early in his tenure as Jacksonville Mayor, Lenny Curry said people wouldn’t recognize downtown by the time his eight years were up.

A new report from Downtown Vision speaks to those transformations since 2015.

The latest State of Downtown report outlines a continued pattern of growth from the beginning of 2021 to this June, in what Downtown Vision calls an “unprecedented wealth of private and public development projects underway, attracting residents, transforming the riverfront, activating historic properties and creating equitable public amenities.”

“Downtown Jacksonville continues to thrive — these days it’s hard to cover all of the projects in one report!” said Downtown Vision CEO Jake Gordon. “Most projects are public-private partnerships — private investment catalyzed with public support led by our Mayor, elected officials, the City of Jacksonville and the Downtown Investment Authority. Together, our city is reshaping the face of Downtown, including upgrading our riverfront, improving public space, restoring historic buildings and creating world-class amenities for our community. A better Downtown helps all of Jacksonville and It’s exciting to be in the midst of this continued transformation.”

Southbank Riverwalk is one of many improvements to Downtown.

One major accomplishment is getting people to live Downtown again.

Downtown Vision sees “a clear path” to 10,000 residential units, noting that current housing stock is 98% occupied, with 7,500 residents — double what was five years ago — and expected to double again in the next few years.

Building is booming, meanwhile, with $1.5 billion in projects under construction and another $2.5 billion in the queue.

“Long abandoned properties such as the Ambassador Hotel, Federal Reserve Bank, Florida Baptist Convention and Independent Life Insurance Building are all currently under construction,” Downtown Vision notes. “Three additional and significant properties: the Central National Bank, The Den and Jones Bros. Furniture Building are in review with the City.”

Visitation is up too, almost back to pre-pandemic levels. And more hotel space, also, with 200 rooms under construction and another 463 under review.

Those of us who recall elections of the last decade remember that some politicians opposed much investment downtown, saying the money was better spent on neighborhoods outside the urban core. Downtown Jacksonville is still a work in progress, but the work and the progress are unmistakable and show no signs of slowing down.

Cumber cash

Though October fundraising totals from the Duval County Supervisor of Elections aren’t due until Monday, Oct. 10, political committee fundraising continues to show staunch support for Republican LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber in the 2023 Jacksonville mayoral race.

Cumber’s JAX First political committee raised more than $200,000 in the two weeks between Sept. 10 and 23, the last dates for which we have current fundraising.

LeAnna Gutierrez Cumber is seeing strong support in the mayoral money race.

The big donor is an unusual player in the Jacksonville mayoral race. Jupiter’s Family First Adolescent Services donated $100,000 in that period, with a $25,000 check on Sept. 14 followed by a $75,000 contribution eight days later.

Miami’s Lasarte Law Firm donated $32,500, Jacksonville Frank Sanchez gave $25,000, while Peoples Gas, Miami Marina, and Land Experts of Sarasota each donated $10,000. The Central Florida Solutions political committee also gave $10,000.

The biggest donation to the Central Florida Solutions committee was $300,000 in August from the Conservatives for Principled Leadership political committee, which is primarily associated with House Speaker-designate Paul Renner.

Cumber has approximately $2.45 million on hand in her political committee and nearly $290,000 on hand in her campaign account. The only candidate with better fundraising is Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis, whose Building a Better Economy political committee has more than $4 million on hand. His first campaign finance report is still pending, as he entered the race in September.

Stack ‘em up

This week, City Council member Cumber’s bid for Mayor picked up a stack of endorsements from area faith leaders.

The set includes Heritage Christian Center pastors Dr. James White and Dr. Terresa White, Divine Power Missionary Baptist Church pastor Steve Wilson, Thankful Missionary Baptist Church pastor Phillip Mercer and New Beginnings Ministries of Jacksonville pastor Dr. Michael J. Hawk.

“In a day when true courage and leadership are needed, we believe LeAnna has the experience, vision, and compassion necessary to move our city forward,” James and Terresa White said.

Jacksonville faith leaders are lining up behind LeAnna Cumber.

Hawk added, “As an attorney who works on transportation infrastructure projects and a former public-school teacher, LeAnna Cumber is clearly the best person for Mayor of Jacksonville. She’s intelligent and resourceful. And I’m proud to endorse her.”

And Mercer said, “Beyond a doubt, LeAnna Cumber is the most qualified person to be the next Mayor of Jacksonville. As a teacher, a lawyer, a businesswoman, and a mother of two children, LeAnna has what it takes. In all she does, LeAnna exemplifies honesty, fairness, and thoughtfulness. I believe she will use those qualities to create a better Jacksonville for all.”

The new endorsements add to a list of backers that includes fellow Jacksonville City Council member Randy DeFoor, Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland and the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, among others.

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement and support from these respected Faith Leaders. I’m looking forward to working with them as we work to move our city in the right direction,” Cumber said.

Cumber, a Republican in her first term on council, is one of several candidates vying to replace term-limited Mayor Curry next year. Her GOP competition includes Jax Chamber CEO Daniel Davis and second-term Jacksonville City Council member Al Ferraro.

Waters’ world?

The money battle continues to go the way of Republican T.K. Waters ahead of next month’s Special Election for Jacksonville Sheriff.

Waters has more than $700,000 left to spend in his A Safer Jacksonville for All political committee as of Sept. 23, with $170,000 of donations coming in during the three September weeks accounted for in state records. The U.S. Assure Insurance Company and the Petway family combined to donate $100,000 of that in $25,000 checks.

The money race seems to favor T.K. Waters. Image via Jax Today.

Democrat Lakesha Burton’s Make Every Voice Count political committee has only reported fundraising through Sept. 16 as of this writing and reported raising just $17,000 during the first two full weeks of September fundraising. John Baker II, one of the many Republican donors backing Burton, gave $15,000 of that sum. Burton’s political committee has nearly $250,000 on hand.

Waters also holds the edge in hard money, raising nearly $19,000 in the two weeks ending Sept. 23. He has more than $275,000 on hand, while Burton had a little less than $80,000 to spend through Sept. 9’s filing.

Insurance uh-oh?

City Council member Matt Carlucci is currently the only insurance agent on the City Council, representing State Farm on Jacksonville’s Southside. He expects some ramifications locally even though Duval County was spared most of Hurricane Ian’s worst impacts.

“Our homeowners’ rates will be affected,” Carlucci said, even as they’re “already up” in recent years. The next year or two will be the worst, he noted, and the ultimate impact will be predicated on the reinsurance market and the state’s Catastrophe Fund.

As an insurance agent, Matt Carlucci has a particular insight into Hurricane Ian.

Carlucci noted that $2 billion was put in that fund during the Special Session, which will probably suffice for this storm. He’s less confident that money would stretch if Florida got a second storm this year of comparable impact to Ian, however.

Flood insurance has become a recurrent talking point of Gov. Ron DeSantis during the storm’s aftermath, and Carlucci suggests it for people outside traditional flood plains and low-lying areas.

“A lot of people get flooded in Flood Zone X,” he noted.


The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Florida’s biggest cannabis vendor is parting ways with its Jacksonville security company.

Trulieve is cutting ties with First Coast Security, with the marijuana magnate “going in a different direction” for security services. This affects 289 jobs in Trulieve’s 106 Florida dispensaries, the Times notes.

Trulieve is ‘going a different way’ with its security.

First Coast Security claims it “has placed as many employees as possible at other locations.” This is the second major contract it lost this year, with Jacksonville utility JEA (misnamed the Jacksonville Electric Authority in the Times piece) also revamping its security plans.

The company bills itself as a “mid-market” operator in the security realm, with operations in 20 cities according to its website, so they are at least better positioned than a smaller firm might be to handle this client attrition.

What about Bob?

A former Tampa Mayor is headed to Jacksonville for a speech this month.

Bob Buckhorn will speak Oct. 12 to the Garden Club of Jacksonville, as part of its “Great Cities Symposium.” This event will be at the club’s 1005 Riverside Avenue location.

Tickets are $100 a person for the event and includes admission to “a social hour with cocktails and heavy hors d’oeuvres, our speaker program with Q&A, followed by cocktails, dessert and conversation.”

Buckhorn was Tampa’s two-term Democratic Mayor, serving from 2011 to 2019, and overseeing a period of growth not just for the city but for the entire metropolitan area. Locals may be interested in his InVision Plan, which was predicated on developing an underused waterfront (sound familiar?)

Under Buckhorn’s tenure, the city’s downtown came alive.

He immediately began taking steps to increase Tampa’s housing stock, emphasizing economic development projects that included urban housing. Bars and restaurants began popping up throughout the downtown district.

Bob Buckhorn heads to Duval County to impart a little municipal wisdom.

Buckhorn completed one of his biggest pet projects, completing the downtown Riverwalk along the Hillsborough River, and extended it north into an area that had once been home to a rundown rail facility and largely unused land. Today that same space is home to multifamily housing, the popular Ulele Restaurant, Armature Works and Water Works Park.

Buckhorn also aggressively pursued events that put Tampa on the national stage including the 2012 Republican National Convention, a Super Bowl, college football and basketball playoffs, and the Bollywood International Indian Film Academy Awards, among others.

Buckhorn’s popularity was on full display in 2014 when he ran for reelection. No one dared challenge him, a sign of how much buy-in he had from locals for his transformational agenda.


Hurricane Ian moving east spared Nassau County a prescription for a disaster like 20 inches of rain, but people who prepared for the storm now have unused sandbags on hand with no immediate purpose.

County officials suggest they hold on to those bags for the time being.

Public Works Director Doug Podiak gives the lowdown on sandbags. Image via Nassau County.

“When we first started (sandbagging operations), we had about 4,000 sandbags on-site and ready to go at that point,” Nassau County Public Works Director Doug Podiak told County Commissioners.

“We gave out over 30,000 sandbags through this event. These guys were tirelessly working, nonstop, 12-14 hours a day.”

Sandbags that came in contact with floodwaters can be used to fill holes or low spots on a person’s own property or used in their flower beds.

Dumping sand on the beach is prohibited since the sand can cause negative environmental impacts to imperiled shorebirds and sea turtles, as it’s not the same sand that’s normally at the beach.

Officials also asked residents not to throw sand or their sandbags into the regular trash, as it doesn’t burn and can cause equipment breakdowns. Bags totally emptied of sand can be placed in normal garbage.

Getting connected

Before Hurricane Ian showed up last week, Nassau County officials looked ahead to the 2023 Legislative Session and what aid the county would ask of its new legislators. In a growing county and region, infrastructure leads the list.

The Commissioners’ recommendations are going to the Northeast Florida Regional Council, where Nassau County and other local governments in the region can pool their collective needs and influence.

County Manager Taco Pope speaks on Northeast Florida regional priorities.

“After speaking with our staff, communicating with each of you, the three areas that we believe the regional council should really focus in on is flood mitigation and resiliency, small county infrastructure funding, and then support for home rule,” County Manager Taco Pope said at the Board of County Commissioners’ last regular meeting.

The state government is taking a proactive stance on rural broadband, he explained.

“We think that as a region, and part of that region, that’s something the Legislators should consider for funding just like any other infrastructure,” Pope said.

“The same way we look at water and sewer and roads, high-speed internet is now an essential utility that everyone needs to have access to, and we’d like to continue to support the state in those efforts to bring broadband to parts of Nassau County where we don’t have high-speed internet.”

The Northeast Florida Regional Council meets next Thursday at 10 a.m. at its offices at 100 Festival Park Ave. in Jacksonville.


The Florida Disaster Fund, within hours of activation, received $10 million to support communities devastated by Hurricane Ian.

The Ponte Vedra Beach-based PGA Tour answered the call with a $25,000 donation.

“We are very appreciative and thankful for the outpouring of support. Raising more than $10 million in one day to The Florida Disaster Fund demonstrates the kindness and compassion from people across this state and nation,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “These private sector contributions will be deployed quickly and effectively to meet the immediate needs of those most impacted by the storm. We cannot thank people enough for their generosity.”

Casey DeSantis and the Florida Disaster Fund hit the ground running.

The Florida Disaster Fund and Volunteer Florida are working with the Department of Children and Families and Sunshine Health through the First Lady’s Hope Florida Initiative to open Family Resource Support Centers with one-on-one support for impacted families, including Hope Navigators and counseling resources on-site for those who are struggling and need help.

The first resource centers will open in Tampa and New Port Richey, but anyone who needs help can call the Hope Line at 850-300-HOPE.

Volunteer Florida, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal’s Braintree have waived their fees so that every dollar donated to the Florida Disaster Fund goes directly to helping victims.

For the latest on recovery, visit FloridaDisaster.Biz/CurrentDisasterUpdates.

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CSX Relief

Jacksonville-based CSX Corp. is committing $200,000 to support relief and recovery efforts in the Florida and South Carolina communities affected by Hurricane Ian.

American Red Cross will receive $150,000 of the contribution to support relief efforts throughout Florida and South Carolina; Florida’s Disaster Fund will receive $50,000.

CSX comes to the rescue of employees caught up in Hurricane Ian.

Donations to the Red Cross will go to wide-ranging relief efforts, including assessments of the damage and supporting emergency needs. The Red Cross is supplying safe shelter, food and health services to families who lost homes and belongings.

Florida’s Disaster Fund distributes funds to service organizations in impacted communities.

CSX is also encouraging employees to show support by contributing to the CSX Employees Disaster Relief Fund, which provides financial assistance to employees suffering severe damage to their homes and property. The company will match employee contributions, dollar-for-dollar.

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Another Cuppa Jax

The Jacksonville neighborhood and community leader discussion group Cuppa Jax returns Oct. 12 following the rescheduling of its last event because of Hurricane Ian.

Presenting in the Skyline Room of Riverplace Tower will be Reggie Fullwood, President and CEO of Operation New Hope.

Next up for Cuppa Jax: Operation New Hope’s Reggie Fullwood.

Fullwood became the youngest-ever member of the Jacksonville City Council when he won election to represent District 9 in 1999, a position he held for two terms.

Fullwood later represented Florida House District 13 in the Legislature, and the legal issues that led him to resign his post helped shape Operation New Hope.

Operation New Hope “provides support, life and job skills training for people with a history of involvement with the criminal justice system, and places them in employment that offers a sustainable quality of life.”

Tickets for the event, which starts at 8 a.m. on Oct. 12, are $15. The Village Bread Cafe provides breakfast.

Khan climbs

While Jacksonville Jaguars are (technically) in first place in the AFC South, their owner isn’t first in the Forbes 400. Nonetheless, he’s moving up the list.

Shad Khan is up to #55 in the ranking of the ultra-rich, above some notable names, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Charles Schwab.

Shad Khan is worth a modest $11.8B.

The 72 years old Khan made his fortune in auto parts, via his Flex N Gate company. And that fortune increased this year, going from a modest $8.5 billion to $11.2 billion, a boost that kept pace even with American currency devaluation. (And to think just five years ago Khan was only worth $7.1 billion.)

Not all the details in the Forbes write-up are accurate. They claimed he “is a major financial backer of Black News Channel, a 24-hour cable news channel, which launched in February 2020.” Khan famously pulled the plug on that operation, leaving talent in the lurch. (Odds are good he won’t do that with the Jaguars or with his son’s All Elite Wrestling, though, so that’s good news for sports and sports-entertainment fans.)

Jaguars all wet

Cats don’t like water and quarterback Trevor Lawrence isn’t a fan of gloves. However, sometimes you have to tolerate things you don’t like to get to where you need to go.

Where the Jacksonville Jaguars ended up Sunday was on the losing end of a sloppy performance in Philadelphia punctuated by four fumbles lost by the man behind center, a new NFL record. An interception rounded out Lawrence’s day with five turnovers.

Fumble. Image via AP.

Obviously, I’ve got to play better,” Lawrence said. “Our defense gave us a chance to win it at the end of the game. I’m just pissed because I let those guys down. Too many turnovers. All of them were me today, so no one else to blame there. That’s really frustrating.”

It’s a frustrating place to be in for the Jaguars and their fans, with glimpses of quality play this year side-by-side with absolute debacles. Yet amazingly the 2-2 Jags are still atop the AFC South, ahead of the similarly 2-2 Tennessee Titans, the 1-2-1 Indianapolis Colts and the winless Houston Texans, who are 0-3-1.

The good news is the Jaguars get those Texans in another 1 p.m. game Sunday. The Jags opened as a 7-point favorite, which moved to 7.5 points by Tuesday.

Staff Reports


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