Amphibious ships to bring new boom for Mayport?

MAYPORT, Fla. – Naval Station Mayport on Sunday welcomed the USS Iwo Jima and USS Fort McHenry, two giant amphibious assault ships that joined the USS New York that's been homeported at the Navy base since December.

As more than 2,000 sailors and Marines settle into the area -- and many bringing families -- it's certainly starting make a difference in the housing market.

One area businesses owner said he has heard stories of the main stretch of State Road A1A in Historic Mayport filled with restaurants and other businesses when the naval station was home to two aircraft carriers. He said the arrival of these ships, with plans for more Navy ships coming next year, will be a breath of fresh air for the local economy.

Business owners in Mayport say they can feel the momentum building in this historic area.

"This village is the secret," said Chris Wooten, owner of Safe Harbor Retail and Market. "It's the diamond in the rough, for sure."

SLIDESHOW: New amphibious ships sail into Mayport

Wooten said the arrival of the USS Iwo Jima, and USS Fort McHenry is just the beginning of what could be a promising economic future. He hopes other businesses can see the potential.

"We leave every night, and the sun sets out this back door. It's absolutely incredible. We all pinch ourselves," Wooten said. "Why is there so much blight? We just don't get it."

His dream of busy streets and a booming local economy could be in the near future.

Carol Zingone, a local Realtor, told News4Jax that whenever someone moves, inevitably the person has to buy things, which feeds the economy right away.

"If you're renting you have to buy furniture; you have to put the kids in school; you have to buy groceries; you may have to get a car," Zingone said. "If you buy a house, triple it. Every dollar spent in a home purchase translates to $7 in the economy as an economic boost. So for Mayport, it's fantastic news."

Zingone said the housing market is doing really well now, with the amount of foreclosed and distressed homes down from 50 percent a few years ago to 30 percent now. She also said this is a great time for someone in the area to sell.

"Maybe they were upside down a few years ago, and now they're not and now they've got hope and they can sell," Zingone said.

Zingone said the new sailors, Marines and their families will not only affect Mayport, but the entire city of Jacksonville and the beaches.