JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A joint investigation by Action News and WOKV
uncovered the city of Jacksonville owns about 2,800 properties with a market value of around $1.5 billion.
The taxpayers of Jacksonville have a lot to be proud of because they own some top-notch property.
The stadium hosted a Super Bowl. A first-rate arena draws big time shows. And the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville also gets rave reviews.
But taxpayers may not know they own some other properties that only can be described as "old and run down." It's a mixed bag of city-owned buildings. Some are vacant. The other property consists of unoccupied land. And then some of it is prime real estate sitting along the river.
“It's hardworking taxpayer dollars that my job as mayor is to protect and do it right,” said Mayor Alvin Brown.
The mayor knows there is a potential boat load of revenue for the cash-strapped city tied up in all that real estate.
“We're working like a laser and focused on our assets,” the mayor said.
And the city probably should be.
But the truth is Jacksonville really is in the dark when it comes to its real estate holdings.
“They don't have an accurate grasp of just how many buildings they own and let alone how many of those are vacant,” said reporter Stephanie Brown with our radio news partner WOKV.
Brown has been investigating city owned properties since last summer. She got inside the historic city-owned Snyder Memorial Building and documented its condition. The building has seen better days.
“In terms of flipping it around, it's something that a private owner might want to invest in, but it would take quite a bit of work because it is in disrepair,” said Brown.
It's not the only one. So how is that no one really knows exactly how many properties the city owns, what condition those properties are in and maybe more importantly how much they're all worth?
“Well, that's a great question. You know, when I came in as mayor one of the things I said I want to do is get an assessment of all our properties. Imagine walking into City Hall and you can't give an account for every asset that you own,” said Mayor Brown.
Action News went through the Duval County Property Appraisers most recent data and found at least a starting point for what the city owns. We found roughly 2,800 pieces of property listing the city of Jacksonville as the owner.
The appraised market value of it all hovers somewhere around the $1.5 billion mark. The city may be able to cash in one day, but not until it does some serious accounting.
"If there's any way we can put a value on any of our truly owned properties than the next step would be could we sell any of those," said Jacksonville city councilman John Crescimbeni.
But others believe the city should fix up and use many of the properties it owns instead of building new buildings.
“It just makes sense to utilize the property if we have it available and not just let it sit there vacant and going on,” said Jacksonville city councilman Clay Yarborough.
But the foundation for Jacksonville's super future may well lie in how successful leaders are in getting a handle on what belongs to the city, and what doesn't. And then, if necessary hang a for sale sign on the properties that taxpayers can live without.