Southbank Storage Unit PUD


4/10/23 UPDATE:

Late last month, the mayor’s office introduced legislation at City Council to close a portion of the alleyway on the property within the storage unit PUD.
The SMPS opposes the closure based on the following:
  • The foundation of urban form is the grid block structure. The alleyways serve to support that form and contribute to the historic fabric of our neighborhood. Allowing closure of alleyways will set a precedent to destroy the historic fabric of our urban core.
  • This alley closure is not supported by the DIA nor the district councilmember. The mayor’s office is overstepping in introducing this legislation against the will of the people who live in the district.
Upcoming public hearings for the alley closure are scheduled as follows:
4/11 at 5:00 PM – City Council
4/18 at 2:00 PM – Transportation, Electric, and Utility Committee (TEU)
Location: City Hall, City Council Chambers
The next public hearing for the PUD itself is scheduled for the LUZ committee on 4/18 at 5:00 PM in City Council Chambers.
We encourage all citizens to come, fill out a speaker card at each of the public hearings, and voice objection to this alley closure.
The SMPS conducted an historic alleyway survey in 2021, in conjunction with other urban core historic neighborhoods. The SMPS met with District 5 Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber and COJ Public Works Director John Pappas to discuss the findings of this survey, and asked them not to allow abutting property owners to assume ownership of the alleyways. They agreed it was preferable to keep the historic alleyways and fabric of the neighborhood intact. Although not codified, all parties were in agreement. Now, a private developer is trying to take ownership of a portion of the historic South Jacksonville alleyway in order to get his project completed. Our district councilmember is standing firm and committed to the agreement made in 2021. The SMPS is asking City Council to support her, as the district’s elected representative, in opposing this alleyway closure.
Also, anyone can write emails to all city councilmembers requesting denial of the alley closure legislation (2023-0213) and the PUD rezoning (2023-007). Use the QR codes to be directed to a councilmember emails. Email content will automatically populate; simply add your name and email address. Please be sure to scan both QR codes in order to email all 19 City Council members.

2/26/23 UPDATE:

At the last full City Council public hearing, Steve Diebenow, representative for applicant The Simpson Co., discussed an alleyway closure. In order for the PUD to proceed as it’s written, two things need to happen: 1) the alley that runs east to west on the property needs to be at least partially closed, and 2) the PUD needs full Council approval. Because the PUD requires the alley closure per the site plan, the city has asked the applicant to wait to bring the PUD to City Council until after the alley closure has first been approved.

This closure may prove tricky since there has been a fairly recent push by historic districts to keep alleys intact, to preserve the fabric of these neighborhoods. Last year, the SMPS conducted a survey of the alleys in San Marco and met with Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber to ask for her support in keeping the alleys open. She agreed that this alley preservation strategy was desirable. Alleyway closures are legislated through local bills and therefore require a councilmember or government agency as a sponsor.

At the 2/22 LUZ meeting, many citizens spoke in opposition to the storage facility proposal. The LUZ public hearings have been continued to 3/22 to allow any alleyway closure legislation time to catch up. At time of writing, the SMPS is not aware of any legislation that has been filed to close the alleyway. Because the public hearing for the PUD has been “continued,” there is additional time to contact City Council as well as speak on the item at LUZ committee hearings. City Council will wait to vote on the PUD until after the alley has been closed.

The SMPS’s opposition to this development is that the project is not the right use or combination of uses for the site. Storage units are not needed or desired on the Southbank, because they are allowed by zoned right a short distance from this site. We are asking the LUZ and City Council to uphold the very recent laws they adopted and reinforced last year.

Thank you all for your continued involvement!

Please email all city councilmembers sharing your opposition before 3/22.

Posted 2/10/23:

There are two remaining opportunities for public comment on this PUD request. Whether or not you are able to attend these hearings in person, please email City Council and let them know your position before Feb. 28.

WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 5:00p.m.
WHERE: City Hall, City Council Chambers

WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 5:00p.m.
WHERE: City Hall, City Council Chambers

Feb. 14 will be the only Public Hearing before the full City Council. No vote will be taken on the 14th. The LUZ committee will have a public hearing on the PUD on Feb. 22. The final City Council vote is currently scheduled for the 28th, but there will not be public hearing that night on this item. NOTE: If speaking on a specific project, you must fill out a speaker card when you arrive at the table in the rotunda. The bill number is 2023-007. Fill out the card and turn it in before the meeting begins.


The SMPS is opposed to the PUD because it is incompatible with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, downtown’s BID Plan, and does not accomplish the goals of downtown redevelopment. A public town hall meeting was held about this PUD on Jan. 30. The Downtown Development Review Board reviewed the rezoning request on Feb. 9 and voted 6Y-2N to approve it. The DDRB’s staff report recommended DENIAL of the PUD.


The Planned Unit Development is not well planned or thought out. The mix of uses (20% retail and 80% self-storage) are not complimentary and are ill-defined. The only real thought that has gone into this “mixed-use” project is that of storage units. The PUD is being utilized as a way to create this use and subvert the zoning code and downtown overlay.


There are no shade trees provided along sidewalks, and the storage facility itself does not promote walkability, in that it does not provide a destination or origin for pedestrians. Barely two blocks from the Riverwalk and waterfront, this use does not promote pedestrian interest or activation. The storage facility does not add the density and intensity that is needed to bring vibrancy to the Southbank. The storage space equates to roughly 160,000 square feet of dead space in an important area for activation of the Southbank.


This site directly abuts the oldest remaining residential building from the city of South Jacksonville—1451 Home Street, built in 1909. The SMPS has serious concerns about the scale of this project in relation to the existing buildings and the preservation of this historic building during the construction of this massive five-story building.


The downtown overlay is not an ancient, antiquated text. It was passed in 2019 after several years of visioning, community input, and research. It contemplates future development as a driving factor in its crafting. Furthermore, the project proposed in this PUD was reviewed just last year in a legislative process by City Council and was overwhelmingly opposed by the public, the DIA, the DDRB, the General Counsel’s Office, and the planning and development department. The bill was ultimately withdrawn as the sponsor of the bill “lost faith” in it. The substance of what the applicant is actually seeking (self-storage space as a use) has not changed. They are simply asking for a site-specific change to the zoning instead of the whole of the overlay.

BOTTOM LINE: No one wants this project except for the out-of-town developer, who told the DDRB that this project would be the most successful one out of the 24 self-storage projects he has developed. The project does not benefit the Southbank neighborhood, downtown’s vibrancy, or the people of Jacksonville. See a summary of the project here.

Please speak out against this PUD and stand up for smart development and authentic, vibrant uses in the Southbank.

Read more about self-storage uses in urban areas from The Jaxson.

If these hearing dates or locations change, the SMPS will notify you via email and social media.