The Different Faces of the Jacksonville Shipyards

For over 140 years, East Bay Street was home to one of the largest shipbuilding operations on the east coast. Since 1992, this site has become known as a field where revitalization dreams come to die a bitter death. Here's a brief look at the site's past, present and possible future.

Published March 6, 2015 in Development -

Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc. (JSI) - 1850s - 1992

Renamed the Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc. (JSI) in 1963 by W.R. Lovett, shipbuilding operates on this site dated as far back as the 1850s. For decades, JSI was one of Jacksonville's largest employers and a dominate feature of the downtown scene and riverfront.

JSI's decline began in the 1980s, shutting down briefly in 1990, laying off 800 workers. It would reopen briefly, only to close permanently  in 1992 after selling its drydocks to a shipyard in Bahrain. 23 years later, Jacksonville is still struggling to find a new use for the industrial brownfield site.

The Shipyards - TriLegacy Group, LLC. - 2001 - 2004

Image courtesy of the Times Union.

It's hard to believe that if the original redevelopment plan for the Shipyards was successful, it would have been built-out five years ago. In 2001, after acquiring the former shipyards, TriLegacy Group, LLC. announced plans for a ten-year development that would include two office towers totaling 1 million square feet of first-class space, 662 residential units, 150 boat slips and a 350-room hotel, along with a 16.8-acre city park. These plans came as a result of Mayor John Delaney convincing the Spence family to redevelop the site as a mixed-use property. Prior to this, the family had acquired the site to expand their cold storage logistics business.

A public private partnership, the City of Jacksonville provided $40 million in tax-exempt bonds for the $865 million Shipyard's proposed public improvements. Things got off to a great start and in 2004, Fidelity National Financial considered building an 18-story, 500,000 square foot office tower as a part of TriLegacy's development.

Fidelity eventually decided to expand on Riverside Avenue and the relationship between TriLegacy and the City fell apart, despite the first phase of the development, One Shipyard Place, already being under construction.

The Shipyards - LandMar Group - 2004-2009

In 2005, Jacksonville-based LandMar Group became the next sugar daddy to potentially transform this property into something grand.
LandMar's plans for the 44-acre site consisted of four towers, single-family houses and townhouses adding up to 1,000 units. LandMar intended to break ground on the first 38-story, 328-unit tower in 2007. A second phase, based on market demand, would have added a 350-room hotel, more residential space and up to 800,000-square-feet of office space. The economy had other plans and by 2009, LandMar had filed for bankruptcy, flushing the shipyard's future down the drain with the rest of its business.

Seaglass - Killashee Investments, LLC - 2013

In 2013, Jacksonville-based Killashee Investments proposed building an observation deck that would rise 1,000 feet above downtown. According to Killashee, SEAGLASS tower would serve as the city's arrival on the international stage. However, this proposal never gained traction with Jaguars owner Shad Khan rumored as being interested in the property. A few months after their announcement, Killashee moved on to other endeavors.

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The Shipyards - Iguana Investments Florida - 2015

No need to really explain this one. It's the current talk of the town. Announced in late February 2015, Shad Khan's Iguana Investments Florida's proposal would allow for 1 million square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail, 662 residential units, 350 hotel rooms and 525 marina slips. In addition, the development would include mooring space for the USS Adams, a football-themed park and practice fields for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at

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