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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 Wallace, the CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority.  (The Florida Times-Union/Bob Self)  The Florida Times-Union
The Florida Times-Union 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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Noillusions 07/09/14 - 07:37 pm

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.

Gordon 07/09/14 - 01:32 pm
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.

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

Why in the world would the

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

whoanelly 07/09/14 - 10:11 am

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.

johnctaughtme 07/09/14 - 09:12 am
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.

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