JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- From parks to fire stations to the old courthouse and more, the city has hundreds of properties on its tax rolls that aren't being used. Those properties are taxpayer-owned, but you aren't seeing any benefit from them.
The properties are so-called "lazy assets" -- properties that are good for economic development, commercial investment or government facilities. The solution could also help with the city's budget woes. There are about 2,800 city-controlled buildings or land that are wasting away and bringing in no property taxes for Jacksonville.
In a year-long joint investigation between Action News and WOKV, we found out that could be changing. Reporter Stephanie Brown got her hands on the full inventory of the 2,800 unused properties.
"What we found is that there are nearly 400 parcels of land, some have buildings, some just vacant pieces of land, that the city owns that are vacant and they think could be put toward a better use," Brown said. "The price tag on that at a current market value is about $125 million, that makes up 8 percent of the city's entire real estate portfolio, which according to this inventory, is about $1.5 billion."
Just one year ago, city officials told us they weren't sure what all it owned. They tried to hire an outside company, but Public Works Director Jim Robinson found it was too expensive. Now it's up to the city.
"We were able to assign an all-hands-on-deck assignment to this project internally," said Robinson.
The city will assess the properties to see if actual development is a realistic option.
"They haven't been maintaining them, so you also have to consider how easy it's going to be to restore some of them if they want to put them back into the market, and that's really what we're looking at now," Brown said. "Do they want to rent, do they want to sell, do they want to keep the property as it is?"
"Regardless of this effort or not, it's the market that dictates really getting the properties back on the tax rolls." Robinson said. "We may be in a better position with this information and this process to promote, but if the market's not ready for a property to be used in a higher and better use, nothing we can do could cause it to be done."
The city will also begin to develop a database of properties it owns to give potential buyers a better idea of what's out there for the taking. The city didn't give a timeline for when the property assessments will be completed -- only that it would take awhile.