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Detroit paper: Millions lost on repairs on Jacksonville Downtown Investment head's watch

Posted: July 8, 2014 - 8:26pm  |  Updated: July 8, 2014 - 8:40pm
Bob.Self@jacksonville.com--12/31/13--Aundra Wallace, the CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority.  (The Florida Times-Union/Bob Self)  The Florida Times-Union
The Florida Times-Union
Bob.Self@jacksonville.com--12/31/13--Aundra Wallace, the CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority. (The Florida Times-Union/Bob Self)

Before moving to Florida last year, the head of Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority oversaw a redevelopment program in Detroit that lost millions of dollars flipping 30 houses, a Detroit newspaper reported.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority spent $8.7 million repairing and modernizing houses it later sold for $2 million, the Detroit News said.

The Land Bank, which assembles and resells blocks of vacant land, was headed until 2013 by Aundra Wallace, who left to become the DIA’s first CEO.

The News quoted a woman who bought one of the homes saying the money spent on renovations “makes me sick.” It noted the Land Bank spent $537,000 renovating one home that sold later for $108,000.

But Wallace said comparisons like that miss the point of the renovations, which he said “were sound decisions” carefully designed to build homebuyers’ confidence.

“Detroit neighborhoods were facing and are still facing daunting challenges,” Wallace said in emailed answers to Times-Union questions.

“Cities that are recovering have housing investment strategies that are carefully targeted to aggressively rebuild demand for housing in specific recoverable neighborhoods. … Given the conditions of the properties there had to be appropriate investment in those properties to increase property values and make them attractive to families.”

Wallace said decisions about how much to spend were vetted publicly by the Land Bank’s governing board, and were also approved by city and state offices. He said the Land Bank got clean audit results from the city, state and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Wallace, who joined the Land Bank in 2010, noted the agency had received statewide honors for its work in historic neighborhoods.

Jacksonville City Council members said Tuesday that Wallace has made a good impression since he came to town.

“This is actually kind of surprising to me,” said Councilman John Crescimbeni, who has criticized some earlier development efforts but had positive things to say about Wallace.

“He seems to portray an image of being very conscious of being a good steward of public dollars. … Through our conversations, I can tell he is extremely frustrated with what was done in the past [in Jacksonville].”

Jacksonville has its own record of expensive mistakes, said Councilman Richard Clark, who chairs the council’s Finance Committee, pointing to failed efforts to redevelop the Shipyards on downtown’s riverfront. The important thing is to learn from the mistakes, he said.

“I have a lot of trust in what Aundra is doing today,” Clark said. “…. I think that he’s the right man for the job.”

Steve Patterson: (904) 359-4263

Comments (13)

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Lie Detector
2855
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Lie Detector 07/08/14 - 08:30 pm
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Clark and Crescimbeni are

Clark and Crescimbeni are jokes.

Noillusions
3128
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Noillusions 07/08/14 - 09:20 pm
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"Jacksonville has its own

"Jacksonville has its own record of expensive mistakes, said Councilman Richard Clark, who chairs the council’s Finance Committee, pointing to failed efforts to redevelop the Shipyards on downtown’s riverfront. The important thing is to learn from the mistakes, he said"

If that is the ONLY thing (Taxpayer WASTED $'s) this IDIOT can recall...he qualifies as a TOWN CLOWN!!!

By the way, this new guru's reputation is widely known & was presented years ago.
Of course, no one ever said jax had a genius population!

Someone call Corrine.

Lemuel Pitkin
64
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Lemuel Pitkin 07/09/14 - 02:05 am
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Premium Member

What's next? Recruit for

What's next? Recruit for City jobs in Haiti and Liberia? Does anyone smell cronyism and bigotry here, and I'm not citing Crescimbeni or Clark here.

Bubba
643
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Bubba 07/09/14 - 05:27 am
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Premium Member

DIA Board meetings were

DIA Board meetings were supposed to have been televised. As one who has tried to be part of the process of this new Authority I have yet to have an email returned from Mr. Wallace. He is the new guy but the actions that are happening now with so called city council oversite can only have you shaking your head. Ted Carter is another new guy.

Where was the DIA with the shortened Southbank Riverwalk project?
What was the position of the DIA during the negotiated renewal of the river taxi contract?
The first actions by the DIA was to shore up financing projects for certain groups that by going through a DIA would provide some political cover so as not having to go directly back to city council for the approval. It still has to go through city council but it makes the taxpayer request seem softer.
You always have to give the new guy some slack. He will be on the job a year next month. Is he slated for a raise? Mayor Brown ran on this Authority and it's here and the administration is calling the shots. Make up the Rules as you go and just pick and choose the winners and losers. Get in line and ask early.

To see an example go to COJ.net. There is the Mayor Brown Hemming Plaza Agreement. The legislation is 2014-434 and there is a Public Hearing at the full Jacksonville city council meeting 7/25/14 and this still has to be approved by the Jacksonville city council. From everything that is being reported the city council is geared up for a lot of YES votes. So let's all stay positive.

finder
3808
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finder 07/09/14 - 05:44 am
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Premium Member

The important thing is to

The important thing is to learn from the mistakes, he said

No, the important thing is not to make them. Poor planning and stupidity are inexcusable.

Snakepilot
1592
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Snakepilot 07/09/14 - 05:56 am
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Premium Member

With talent like this one,

With talent like this one, we're on our way.
Poor , pathetic Downtown, the politicians can't leave it alone. All are destined to end up like Detroit unless government gets out of the picture.

Noillusions
3128
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Noillusions 07/09/14 - 07:41 am
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If this town & the town

If this town & the town clowns ruling it EVER make a wise decision...I personally will take the day off.
I suggest everyone do the same...it would certainly be of historical significance!!

SparkyL56
835
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SparkyL56 07/09/14 - 09:04 am
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Premium Member

Money is never "lost" it just

Money is never "lost" it just changes hands. Someone profited from this.

johnctaughtme
13009
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johnctaughtme 07/09/14 - 09:12 am
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Premium Member

It would have seemed that a

It would have seemed that a little investigative journalism, or even some City Council, civic, or business inquiries made in Detroit would have made this information known before now, even during the selection process.

Too many of the above mentioned groups were too narrowly focused on the singular issue of attacking the police and fire pension in particular. At least part of that seems driven by politics, posturing, and personal agendas, to the apparent exclusion of other significant issues and concerns.

We have to increasingly wonder how many other important issues and concerns have been similarly omitted, ignored, or unreported, either intentionally or unintentionally.

whoanelly
102
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whoanelly 07/09/14 - 10:11 am
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ha ha.. the jokes always on

ha ha.. the jokes always on us. From Miami to Detroit this guy has left a wake of defaults, mismanagement and waste, but here he is making 178k off of the taxpayers of doooval, what a joke. Let me rub my crystal ball and see what the headline in the Times-Mulletwrapper will be in a couple of years.... "DIA broke, millions wasted, where was the oversight?" as the sound of a flushing toilet is heard in the background.

http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/blog/2013/06/dia-ceo-pick-respon...

Buck Bonham
4860
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Buck Bonham 07/09/14 - 11:46 am
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Premium Member

Why in the world would the

Why in the world would the City of Jacksonville hire anyone from Detroit?

Gordon
1476
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Gordon 07/09/14 - 01:32 pm
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Premium Member

"the Downtown Investment

"the Downtown Investment Authority arguing for $13.4 million to carry out its redevelopment activities" from "Jacksonville agencies line up for a bigger piece of the city pie".

Too bad nobody in city government including the DIA have ever heard of an ROI. I am sure in the case of the DIA the ROI is zero or negative.

Noillusions
3128
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Noillusions 07/09/14 - 07:37 pm
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DIA = -(ROI). There IS a

DIA = -(ROI).
There IS a reason jacksonville remains jokesonville!!
Has been for 25 years & will be for ANOTHER 25 years.
Think about it.

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