Great Ideas; No Action: 10 Projects That Never Happened

April 6, 2016 12 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Over the past 100 years, Jacksonville has been an epicenter of economic opportunity. It's also been a place where dreams have come to die. Here's 10 proposals with some merit that, for a variety of reasons, ultimately failed to materialize into reality.

9. Amtrak: Flagler Line Will Happen

On July 31, 1968, the last passenger rail train on the Florida East Coast Railway completed its run. Ever since passenger rail advocates have been lusting for the day that riding a train between Jacksonville and Miami would a realistic activity again. In 2013, it appeared these dreams were well on their way to reality. With $118 million committed in FDOT's 2013 work program budget, plans for an Amtrak passenger rail service to begin operating between Jacksonville and Miami were alive and well. In 2012, Amtrak went as far as to tell the corridor's potential 8 million annual passengers that they were coming.

"This is a new year, and it's going to happen.  We are committed to making this happen," Michael Latiff, Amtrak's senior officer for station programming and planning.  

Their 326-mile "Flagler Line" was to include new train stations between Jacksonville and Miami, in St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Titusville, Cocoa/Rockledge, Melbourne, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, and Stuart.  Initial plans call for two trains per day in each direction with the potential to expand to corridor service (a hybrid of intercity and commuter rail) in future phases. Service was anticipated to be up and running as early as February 2013.

So what happened to a project expected to create 2,100 construction jobs and 6,300 jobs through 2025 that even the Treasure Coast wanted? We're still trying to figure that out. Let's just say Amtrak couldn't come up with their side of the cash, All Aboard Florida materialized and FEC's priorities changed. Unfortunately, right now the loser in this situation is Jacksonville.

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10. The St. John

In January 2004, a group led by Krook Douglass Development of Boyton Beach and Renaissance Realty Associates of Palm City acquired the Aetna Building for $39 million. Within a month, they (the South Shore Group) announced plans to bring add a bit of Dubai to the city's skyline with the addition of twin 48-story condominiums in the Aetna's parking lots. In addition to adding 550 residential units downtown, the 750-foot towers were destined to become the city's tallest.

In 2005, Houston-based Hines Interests LP, swooped into town, taking over and modifying the proposal into a 43-story, all glass tower with 261 condo units and 15 penthouses. Claiming no public incentives would be needed, Hines jump-started pre-construction sales with condominium prices ranging from $380,000 to $1.3 million. Ground-breaking was scheduled for the second quarter of 2006 and construction was anticipated to finish in 2008.

As the theme of this article goes, what was anticipated did not materialize. With Jacksonville's economy quickly going down the tube, Hines put the breaks on the project in October 2007, saying it would delay the all-glass tower's construction until real estate conditions in Northeast Florida were more favorable. Nine years have passed and we're still waiting.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at

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