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Plan for takeover of old National Guard Armory on hold

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Updated: 11/26/2013 11:52 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A plan to turn over the city's old National Guard Armory to the local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter is facing more opposition. A vote has been delayed on the plan, which has outraged the legislation's sponsor. 

"We agree to disagree," said Kimberly Daniels, council member-at-large. "And I just want to go on with the vote." 

The Sons of Confederate Veterans first received an administrative award for use of the property in April 2011, but the plan was pulled off the table later that year, according to city documents obtained by Action News. 

"We're at the point now where we spent three years working on this," said Calvin Hart, with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "The whole idea behind this is to commemorate veterans and all history military history, U.S. history. A lot of men deserved to be recognized." 

But City Council President Bill Gulliford said there are still unanswered questions about the plan. 

"Part of that is financial, part of that is we recognize that there's a $9 million price tag to bring that building up to the standard it has to be brought to," Gulliford said. 

Gulliford and other city leaders have received a barrage of emails from community groups and Springfield residents supporting an alternative plan for the armory. 

They propose something called the Artery, which would feature studios, galleries and community educational opportunities. 

"Both from an arts perspective and a community perspective, we feel we have a best use of building," said Craig Erskine, with the Jacksonville Arts League. "We think it could be a win-win for the city." 

Others think turning over a city-owned building to the Confederate group would be sending the wrong message. 

"When you talk about the arts that's something that everyone can support," said Opio Sokoni, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Jacksonville chapter. "You put the Confederacy museum in there, you going to have a large segment of the population that offended and will never patronize it." 

The proposal has been stalled in the finance committee. Its next meeting is in early December.
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