Group makes pitch for Jacksonville Shipyards development

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's been tried several times in the last 20-plus years, but now there is another vision taking shape for the Jacksonville Shipyards.

Killashee Investments has made a pitch to build the SeaGlass at Jacksonville. The group envisions a 1,000-foot tower acting as a lightning rod to bring in visitors, investors and money to the River City.

It would be the tallest structure in Florida and would sit along the river on the shipyard property near EverBank Field. The tower would have dining and an observation deck.

"The thought is to change the image of the city, and I think the best way to change the image of the city is a visual," developer Mark Farrell said.

Along with the tower, the investment group is proposing a new aquarium, hotels and shops along the river.

"We want the Navy ship like the USS Adams and others like the tall ships that come here and have a Naval museum," Farrell said.

What the group needs is money.

On Friday, the group presented its plan to the Police and Fire Pension Board. The developer wants the board to buy the property from the city with investment money from the pension fund. The group, in turn, would develop the property.

While the board did not approve it Friday, it is now looking at options to see if it's viable.

Right now, city records value the land at $29 million. The group says it would cost more than $100 million to build the tower and eventually say this could be a billion-dollar project.

"Wow, that is pretty exciting," Jacksonville resident Chad Griffen said. "We've not seen a building go up downtown of that caliber ever."

The shipyards haven't really seen any significant activity since they closed in 1992. Since then, there have been three major attempts at trying to revitalize the area, and all three projects have failed.

The city lost millions of dollars, and a grand jury even investigated one of the deals.

The city isn't really commenting on the SeaGlass Tower project, saying it's just one idea.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan has said he is interested in some type of development at the shipyards. A spokesman for Khan said Friday they commend any group that's interested in the shipyard properties.

The city said any plan would need approval from the Downtown Investment Authority.

Farrell said his group's plan is different from those that have failed.

"No one has looked at the scale of this," he said. "Every time we present it, it's like, 'Wow.' And that is what we need to do is think big."

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