USS Orleck’s agreement to dock near Hyatt Regency Jacksonville set to expire, but permanent home far from ready

Those behind the Orleck sent a letter to the city asking that the ship be allowed to stay at its current site until October of next year

The USS Orleck is starting to become a downtown destination, but it might have worn out its welcome at its current spot.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The USS Orleck is starting to become a downtown destination, but it might have worn out its welcome at its current spot.

At the end of the month, the agreement with the city to dock near the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville expires — and the site for the permanent home for the warship museum is far from ready.

It was about five months ago when the Orleck docked in downtown Jacksonville. It was only supposed to be by the hotel for a very short time, but that’s not the case. It’s still there, and now those involved with the Orleck want an extension before it has to move to its permanent home.

Pam Jones was visiting from Wisconsin and wanted to get a good look at the Orleck, although it isn’t open to the public just yet. She said museums like this are important.

“It’s history come to life, and it’s just showing us a part of our insight of what defends this country,” Jones said.

That is why those behind the Orleck like the current location. The foot traffic is important because the ship can be easily accessed. On Tuesday, they sent a letter to the city asking that they be allowed to stay at the current site until October of next year.

Eventually, the Orleck is supposed to be docked near the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. But there are some problems. The dock is supposed to be refurbished, but nothing has happened. And plans are still up in the air for a park in front of the Sheriff’s Office even though the Jacksonville Fire Museum has already moved there.

“We want to delay the move because we want our visitors to be able to access the ship. So if there’s construction, there’s still designs happening, they may not be able to do that,” said Justin Weakland, with the USS Orleck Museum.

And there is no time frame yet as to when construction of that park area will be done or even when it will begin. News4JAX reached out to the city to find out its options and what could happen with the Orleck — can it stay or move to yet another site until the park is ready?

The letter to the city also refers to yet another museum that could be built on the site where the Orleck is supposed to go. It would be a new veterans museum where a private donor has pledged $2 million as long as it is placed near the Orleck.

But for now, the Orleck wants to remain where it is.

“This is a great temporary location,” Weakland said. “So eventually, we love the idea that development down there, the great park area and museums down there with the MOSH (Museum of Science and History) moving. It’s just been an awesome attraction for tourists and locals, as well.”

So a lot of this about the Orleck is being taken under advisement by the city and the Downtown Investment Authority. They’re trying to figure out where this museum is going to eventually end up.

By the way, if you do want to visit the Orleck, technically it isn’t open to visitors because of its location, even though they’ve been having some private tours. But in a few weeks, an announcement is expected because it won’t be close to visitors. What the ship will do is allow the public to come on board. It can’t sell tickets or charge admission, but it can take donations.

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Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.