No, Lot J is not happening. After months of deliberation, the Jacksonville City Council voted 12-7 in favor of the bill to build Lot J, the Jaguars' plan for a vibrant multi-use project next to TIAA Bank Field. But for the bill to pass, it needed 13 votes. The deal needed just one more vote.
I'm equally and simultaneously disappointed and proud.
I'm disappointed that Lot J isn't happening. I so desperately desire for Jacksonville's downtown to transform into a bustling entertainment district. Lot J would have been a step in that direction. I'm disappointed that the Mayor's office, along with Jaguars' owner Shad Khan and his constituents, couldn't present a fair deal to the city. They asked for an unprecedented loan, which was essentially a grant, and couldn't — or wouldn't — provide the city with the proper financial analysis and other pertinent information. The councilors who voted no did so because the deal wasn't fair to the city and would've ultimately cost Jacksonville taxpayers nearly $400 million with interest. I'm proud of the people on the city council who have enough foresight to realize that this deal, as it was constructed, was a significant risk for the city.
Council President Tommy Hazouri encouraged Khan to negotiate a new deal for Lot J, but for now, Khan's eye on a different area of downtown, the Shipyards. A city-owned portion of downtown that will have significant hurdles of its own when it comes to building a multi-use entertainment district.
"I think it's time to turn the page on Lot J," Lamping told the media. "Our belief in downtown Jacksonville isn't changing. Our commitment to be part of that process isn't changing."
A disappointing result from an idea that could've been the start of something special for Jacksonville. But as Lamping said, hope is not lost. Khan's team is going to attempt to grow downtown with their Shipyards plan.
Still, the key to keeping the team in Jacksonville for the long haul will be stadium renovations. Many question why renovating the stadium wasn't and isn't first in line ahead of Lot J and the Shipyards, but Khan clearly has a plan for how he wants the timeline of projects to commence. Saving taxpayer money for bigger, more expensive projects than Lot J — like the stadium — could ultimately benefit the city in the long run.
Lot J is off the table (for now), but another major development for the Jaguars appears to be stuck in limbo. The Jaguars are reportedly waiting for Urban Meyer to decide whether he wants to be the team's next head coach or not. A decorated and revered college coach, Meyer hasn't coached since 2018 and has retired from coaching twice due to health reasons. The team has been in contact with Meyer for weeks and had a meeting with him last Friday about the vacant head coaching job. Since then, it's been crickets. Shad Khan is showing patience through this process. While fans are clamoring for an announcement, this has been the slowest hiring cycle that I can remember. Exactly ZERO teams with a head coaching vacancy after the season have hired a new one. And the Jaguars appear to be the only team (UPDATE: there are some rumblings about the Chargers being interested in Meyer) in the running for Meyer's services as head coach. There's certainly a limit to how long Khan should wait on Urban, but on January 13th, with a bevy of other quality candidates available, there's no real rush to get a deal done today or tomorrow. I'd want an answer from Urban by week's end. If other dominoes begin to fall, that timeline may need to be accelerated. At some point, he needs to make up his mind. He might be the best candidate on the market, but should Meyer decline the gig, the Jaguars should still be in a good spot to land a head coach that can adeptly lead the team into the Trevor Lawrence era. The Jaguars have also interviewed Eric Bieniemy, Robert Saleh, Arthur Smith, and Raheem Morris for the job.
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