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Laura Street Trio faces obstacle after downtown group defunded

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Updated: 8/20/2013 7:42 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A northeastern Florida developer is planning to give the Laura Street Trio a multimillion-dollar makeover.

Jennifer Morrissey is a local vendor just steps away from one of downtown's most notable eyesores.

The Laura Street Trio, three historic buildings in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, are slated for redevelopment. The project is expected to cost an estimated $40 million.

The Trio will transform into a complex featuring a hotel, two restaurants, a rooftop bar and a bank.

"I'm really excited for the construction to start," said Morrissey. "It's going to increase, if not double or more my business with all that construction."

But Morrissey isn't holding her breath. She's heard a lot of talk about revitalizing downtown but has seen little action.

Taxpayers shelled out about $40 million on the shipyards property. After more than a decade since an initial plan surfaced, it's still an empty 40-acre lot.

A private company is in the process of renovating the Ambassador Hotel for $12 million, but it still sits boarded up.

"If we can pull this off as a community, I feel like we can pull anything off," said Oliver Barakat.

Barakat is chairman of the Downtown Investment Authority, the group created to help spur business to downtown Jacksonville.

But Action News has learned there is a new obstacle for the Trio. The developer, Southeast Development Group, requested city incentives to build. According to the DIA, a request for an incentive package is still being developed.

City Council recently pulled millions from the Downtown Investment Authority. It's money Barakat says could have been used to sweeten the deal and speed up the process.

"A budget is always a reflection of the city's priorities, and what confused me, as chair of this board, is that the community has articulated over the last couple of years that downtown is and should be a priority," said Barakat.

Meantime, Morrissey is tired of waiting for something to happen at the historic corner.

"They keep telling me hold on, hold on," said Morrissey. "September, October ,it's going to start. So I'm hoping that."

Southeast Development Group borrowed $3 million to buy the three buildings from Jaguars owner Shad Khan's own Stache Investments Corp.
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