Q: From a city council perspective, it seems that the Lot J proposal is a hot topic. Can you share any insights?
A: The Lot J project is proposed to serve as an entertainment hub for millions of locals and visitors to Jacksonville and will enhance the city’s investment in the downtown sports complex. The project will bring economic benefits to downtown Jacksonville, including increased tax revenues and jobs (both during construction and on a permanent basis to support the new facilities). The project will also attract additional investment in downtown Jacksonville and will serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown; it is also designed to provide much‐needed support of local‐owned businesses, especially minority‐ and woman‐owned entities.
Q: What is the timeline going forward [as of interview date of Oct. 15]?
A: This was announced the week of Oct. 4 by the mayor and is a huge undertaking for the city — one that requires significant attention and deliberation. As I have said many times, our city council will be transparent in all decisions, big or small.
Assuming a complete bill is filed by the deadline date in mid-October, we plan to have a public hearing along with the regular city council agenda at our meeting on Oct. 27. The following week, we will have a full council meeting just on this bill, instead of it going to committee. It will be considered by the entire council, just like we did the HRO (Human Rights Ordinance) and the Kids Hope Alliance; it’s that important.This will allow for all members of the council to ask any and all questions that may have already been asked and highlighted and touched on from the public from development, amount of jobs, time and cost, and to also voice any concerns. I think one of the most important questions will be that the City of Jacksonville needs to be held harmless if the football team ever moves.
Q: Why should this project be of interest to citizens of Mandarin?
A: The Lot J project proposes to create a transformational new neighborhood in Jacksonville that will position the City of Jacksonville to attract events of national and international significance, serve as a catalyst for further downtown development and reignite development in downtown Jacksonville following the impact of COVID‐19. Having said that, if we decide to spend this much money on the Lot J project, we should also be fulfilling our obligations for infrastructure in all 14 city council districts — such as drainage projects in Mandarin that are much needed. No one can be left behind. The council will carry on our fiduciary responsibilities to all citizens of Jacksonville.
Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you?
A: They can email me at THazouri@coj.net or call (904) 255-5217.