By David Bauerlein
Jacksonville City Council shot down a proposed self-storage building in downtown Jacksonville that faced waves of opposition from neighborhood residents for the second year in a row. The denial is familiar to RV and boat storage developers, who should take heed and ensure their proposed facilities achieve Class A standards for design.
The 9-9 vote was a tie, but based on City Council rules, it amounted to denial because the legislation failed to win majority support. It marked the second time an attempt to build the self-storage facility at the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Prudential Drive failed to win over council members in the face of strong opposition from people who live in area neighborhoods.
The first version of legislation got turned aside in June 2022 because council balked at legislation that would have opened large parts of downtown to construction of self-storage buildings.
That legislation died and the Simpson Organization, the developer proposing the self-storage building, returned with a proposal for a planned unit development limiting the zoning change to property at the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Prudential Drive.
In another change, an amendment to the current legislation said the top floor of the storage building would have at least 20 apartments and there would be a rooftop bar. The ground floor would have retail space.
Supporters of the legislation said the addition of the apartments and rooftop uses for dining or a bar showed compromises by the developer based on talks with neighborhood residents. But a parade of residents told council members that the building remained primarily a self-storage building that didn’t fit the best way to develop downtown.
City Council member LeAnna Cumber, whose district contains the Southbank, called it “putting lipstick on a pig” because it doesn’t change that the building would be for storage.
“You can put as many amendments on this bill and it doesn’t change that fact that this is a project to put a self-storage facility blocks away from our river, which will then open it up to (other) self-storage facilities so now you’re going to have Prudential Avenue be filled with self-storage facilities and other warehousing,” she said.
She said downtown already has government buildings like the county jail and the Duval County School District headquarters along the riverfront that should not have been built there.
“We have the ability to say you know what, we’re not going to keep making the same mistake like it’s Groundhog Day,” she said. “We’re going to say we’re going to stick to our plan.”
The owner needed the zoning change because the city’s downtown overlay regulation development prevents self-storage facilities on the Southbank of downtown.
Steve Diebenow, an attorney for the developer, said the retail and apartments would add to foot traffic in that part of downtown. He said it was baffling that because the developer also would have storage units in the middle set of floors that it would face opposition by City Council members.
Diebenow lodged an objection, saying that based on state law that trumps City Council rules, a tie vote doesn’t meet the threshold for declaring a rejection.
David Bauerlein is a writer with the Florida Times-Union.