Jacksonville City Council Considers Land Bank to Redevelop Thousands of Idle Properties
On May 2, The Florida Times-Union released an article titled Land bank being eyed to move derelict Jacksonville properties to new uses.
Land bank being eyed to move derelict Jacksonville properties to new uses
A Jacksonville City Council member looking for ways to salvage thousands of idle properties wants the city to create a land bank that could assemble blocks of property for redevelopment.
“We need some kind of a clearinghouse, which is what a land bank allows you to do,” said Councilman Bill Gulliford, who met recently with city development and regulatory officials about how to get started.
The answer apparently isn’t quick or simple.
“It sounds like they have a lot of steps ahead of them,” said Christina Parrish, executive director of Springfield Preservation and Revitalization, who said a land bank could be important to places like her historic neighborhood just north of downtown.
Some century-old houses have been restored carefully there and the housing market has improved, but other houses sit decaying and have been effectively abandoned by owners who are unaccounted for.
“They sort of disappear and they’re hard to find,” said Parrish, an attorney involved in real estate investing.
She said some properties were bought through tax sales by people who later discovered the buildings need repairs, then simply walked away and left the property neglected.
For city governments, though, land banks aren’t an easy answer or cure-all. Many abandoned properties have liens for unpaid code violation fines the city could foreclose on, but taking ownership of those would add to the city’s liabilities.
Gulliford said he’s interested in launching the land bank with private funding that could operate with only limited city involvement and make decisions independent of the city. He said he’ll be reaching out to a possible funder, but has no one signed up now.
Whether anything will come from this effort isn’t clear. No legislation has been proposed, and Gulliford, whose district covers the Beaches and part of the Southside, hasn’t spelled out how the organization would be structured.
Gulliford tried last year to spark an effort between nonprofits and a national group, Hope Now, to get big bunches of foreclosed buildings lined up for redevelopment. That effort hasn’t produced clear results, he said, but a need to put properties to new uses is still there.
The land bank effort is drawing on experience of Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace, who used to run a land bank in Detroit and outlined lessons from that on funding sources, amassing property and choosing areas that should be improved and others that should be razed. Gulliford arranged for Wallace to brief him and other city officials last month, however Wallace is not expected to be involved in operating any local land bank.
Gulliford said neighborhood-level research that the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has commissioned on real estate conditions will be important in deciding where to focus Jacksonville’s efforts.
The research, known as a market value analysis, is designed to combine large amounts of data into a consistent, overall measure of neighborhood strengths and weaknesses in very different parts of town.
The analysis is scheduled to be released publicly around October, but pieces could be previewed to business leaders this summer, said Mary Kress Littlepage, a fund spokeswoman.
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