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Jaguars president believes Shipyards project will help Jacksonville realize city’s potential

Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s Shipyards project comes with a more than $400 million price tag

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget includes plans for the city to invest in redeveloping the Shipyards.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget includes plans for the city to invest in redeveloping the Shipyards.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget includes plans for the city to invest in redeveloping the Shipyards.

In a statement on Twitter, the mayor wrote Monday: “The area will be a focus for developers.”

He goes on to say he believes “this momentum will be a catalyst for economic growth and the realization of the boldness promised for our city that dates back many decades.”

Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s Shipyards project comes with a more than $400 million price tag. This public-private partnership would have Khan’s company, Iguana Investments, investing $300 million and the city investing $115 million — if the city buys in.

I recently walked the Shipyards property with Jaguars President Mark Lamping, who offered personal insight and a unique glimpse of the plan that includes building a Four Seasons Hotel and Residences, an office complex and marina facilities. Lamping said he believes this project will be a catalyst for other developments.

“There’s no question about that. We’ve already seen it in terms of a lot of speculators that have come in and buying property in and around here — in anticipation of this development. That’s the objective,” Lamping said.

“If we can begin to have the right balance of public access, public parks and well thought out development, and do it in a way that it can spur other development, we can connect this part of downtown with the commercial business district, and I think that will probably put us in a position as a community to realize what our full potential is, but (we can) also begin to enhance what we call the destination economy, which is really tourists coming to Jacksonville.”

Lamping said that type of balance with people living and working downtown and the area attracting visitors is critical to the region because it brings in dollars and expands the tax base.

The Jaguars president candidly talked about Jacksonville’s challenge in realizing its potential over the years.

“I have been here for nine years, and I absolutely love Jacksonville,” said Lamping. “Coming here, I was just shocked with what Jacksonville has to offer pretty much across the board. Whether it is the natural resources, the health care infrastructure, (it) is as good as anywhere in the country.”

He added: “We are really good at making plans. I think we could improve those plans.”

The City Council will debate the budget and its investment in the Shipyards project over the next month. A vote is expected by the end of November. If it passes muster with the city, Lamping is positive Jacksonville will look back on the Shipyards project with pride.

“I think we’ll look back and say, you know, doing that development with the right mix and balance of development with public parks — which is what the plan delivers,” said Lamping. “I think we can feel really proud that, yeah, we can get some pretty special things done here.”

If the Jacksonville City Council does vote to approve the project and invest, construction is expected to begin next year, with the completion of phase one as early as 2025.

I asked Lamping if this will be Jacksonville’s “Field of Dreams.”

Lamping’s response: “You know this isn’t a cornfield in Iowa, but I think it can certainly have a similar impact.”


About the Author:

This Emmy Award-winning television, radio and newspaper journalist has anchored The Morning Show for 18 years.