The city of Jacksonville plans to buy land in Brentwood that was set to become a liquor store next to a school — plans that neighbors have protested for months.
City Council approved the purchase almost unanimously Tuesday. The lone no vote came from council member Tyrona Clark-Murray, who objected to the price of over $1.8 million for the property on Golfair Boulevard.
“Back in 2020, I had no idea that it would escalate to the point where the city is having to sacrifice $1.8 million,” Clark-Murray said. “It absolutely makes no sense. … And I want you all to know that I’m going to consistently vote against this, because there’s no way that they should be enriched for trying to harm the community.”
Gurpeet Singh, who lives in St. Johns County, planned to open the store in the Northside Jacksonville neighborhood. But neighbors protested that the neighborhood did not need another liquor store, particularly across from the KIPP VOICE Academy K-7 school.
The school was in negotiations with JTA in early 2020 to lease a parcel it owns across the street from the liquor store property, but the Planning Commission approved the store before the school’s paperwork was completed. “Our construction and our planning started before the school was in the picture,” Singh told Jacksonville Today.
The Northside Coalition of Jacksonville welcomed the change of plans.
“The fact that the Planning Commission approved a liquor store so close to an elementary school in a predominantly Black neighborhood was a slap in the face to all Black residents of Jacksonville,” the group’s president, Kelly Frazier, said in a news release. “We applaud Mayor (Donna) Deegan and the City Council for correcting this abominable situation by purchasing the property and trust that the city will never again make another similar costly mistake that insults the Black community.”
After the sale is completed, the city will hold community meetings to determine the best use for the vacant building and land, which is also adjacent to the site of a new county morgue.
Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman, whose territory includes the Brentwood neighborhood, said the community meetings will help determine what will be planned for the site. One option is a community center, but that is not set in stone.
Daryl Joseph, director of Jacksonville Parks, Recreation and Social Service, said last week that no definite plans are set for the site, but the goal is for the building to be used to benefit the community, no matter the use.
“There’s hundreds of things that we could do with this facility, other than just a traditional community center use,” Joseph said, adding that the existing building would be used, rather than building new.
Pittman said it is really up to residents to decide what the ultimate use of the land will be.
“Whatever the community decides, that’s what we’ll do,” Pittman said.
Lead image: Residents protest plans for a liquor store in Brentwood. | News4Jax