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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

The Ghost of Shipyards Past, Part 2

The Ghost of Shipyards Past is a 3-part series.  Part 1 was published on Sunday, June 14th.

According to Carlton Spence, the Spence family never intended to be developers.  Their original intent when they purchased the Shipyards property was to use it to expand their cold storage business.  After pressure from John Delaney; however, Spence says that the family developed the idea for the $865 million development that would be known as The Shipyards.

One of the plan’s biggest proponents, according to Spence, was Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney.  His support was instrumental in obtaining the $75 million committed by the city to assist in developing the project.  “Of that amount,” Spence told Susan Brandenburg in her book Guts, “$40 million was to be in the form of bonds with the money apolied to the cost of developing a 16-acre public park and completing the North Bank River Walk.”  That development was to take place while TriLegacy moved forward with other aspects of the project.  The remaining $35 million was set to come in the form of tax abatements.

Shortly after announcing the Shipyards development and securing financial support from the JEDC, TriLegacy Group LLC was selected by the city to develop the former Cecil Field Naval Air Station.

The Shipyards, One Shipyard Place, rolled out their condo models at Epping Forest Yacht Club on the morning of Sept 11, 2001.  It should have been a harbinger of things to come.

The US economy tanked after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and development on the project moved along slowly.  Nevertheless, the development moved forward and in late 2003, construction of One Shipyard Place was beginning to look like a reality with the development only a few reservations short of the 60 pre-sales needed to begin construction.

At that same time, Brandenburg recalls in her book, Jacksonville landed a major coup when it convinced Fidelity National to move its national headquarters to Jacksonville.  The Spence family began negotiating with Fidelity to possibly develop on part of the Shipyards project.  Those discussions were held directly with Fidelity and the Spence’s wondered in retrospect if that’s what became their downfall.

Two days before Christmas, Jeff Spence was contacted by Kirk Wendland, then the Executive Director of JEDC, to inform him that the city was missing a document that would confirm that the city and TriLegacy had agreed upon an appraisal that had been done for Cecil Field.  Spence recalls that Wendland and he agreed that the issue was a “technicality” and was something that could be addressed after the holiday season.

Trouble was on the horizon.

Check back next week for The Ghost of Shipyards Past, Part 3.


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The Ghost of Shipyards Past, Part 1

The Ghost of Shipyards Past is a 3-part series that will run on consecutive Sundays.

News that LandMar Group LLC, the developer of the infamous Jacksonville Shipyards site, had filed bankruptcy this past Wednesday thrust the haunted development back into the center of all things controversial.

In 1992, the storied Jacksonville Shipyards closed its doors forever as a ship-making operation.  Three years later, Jay Hanan, a local developer, announced grand plans for the site and purchased the property.  He went bankrupt two years later.  The property was purchased as part of a bankruptcy settlement by the Spence family.  The family intended to build warehouse facilities on the site for use in their cold storage business.

In the book, “Guts”—written by Susan Brandenburg—Carlton Spence recalled the time when he first approached Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney to share his plans for the long-abandoned site.  The city had recently passed The Better Jacksonville Plan, recalled Mr. Spence, and the Mayor was riding high.

“When we met,” said Spence, “he told me he didn’t care what we did with the shipyard property and there was no money in Jacksonville to assist us in the development.”  Money, Spence had replied, was not what what he was looking for.  He was simply there as a courtesy to let the Mayor know of his plans for the site.  Those plans involved the construction of warehousing that would house the family’s burgeoning cold-storage business.

According to Spence, it was the Mayor who made the next move.  By this time, the city was in the running for the 2005 Super Bowl and plans called for docking cruise ships on the St. Johns River to serve as floating hotels.  The Mayor wanted to use the Shipyards as part of those plans, something that Spence readily agreed to.  Spence also assured the Mayor that the site would be cleaned up in time for the Super Bowl.

It was at that second meeting, Spence says, that John Delaney first suggested that the Spence family scuttle their plans to build warehouses on the site and instead develop the property into a mixed-use site.  Spence says that the Mayor said that the city could possibly help with funding the development or the Spence family could “Just give us the shipyards and we’ll take them off your hands.”

The vision of TriLegacy LLC had been born.  An $865 million development that would forever alter the face of Jacksonville’s riverfront was conceived.  The property would include housing, office, commercial space, boat slips and a public park.  According to Spence, it would be the largest private development in Jacksonville’s history.

Check back next week for the second installment of The Ghost of Shipyards Past.

Filed under: Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , ,

Shipyards Developer Files Bankruptcy

From The Jacksonville Business Journal:

LandMar Group LLC, the company that had plans to build a grandiose $450 million mixed use project called the Shipyards on the Northbank that the city of Jacksonville now intends to foreclose on, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Jacksonville-based residential development company was among 125 affiliates that filed along with its parent company, Charlotte-based Crescent Resources, in the Western District of Texas.

Filed under: Jacksonville, , , ,

$40 Million Later…

After two failed developments that have cost the City of Jacksonville upwards of $40 million, the Shipyards development is now delinquent on nearly $500,000 in property taxes, according to News4Jax.  The Jacksonville Business Journal is now reporting that the City is initiating foreclosure proceedings against the developer.    

We may be facing a budget crisis in Jacksonville, but we have to wonder how much of that we brought on ourselves…

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville,

Mayor says money matters

Mayor Peyton has issued a call for the community to jump in to save themselves from being taxed.  That’s an interesting perspective. 

Since  Mayor Peyton took office in 2003, the City has enacted approximately 56 pieces of legislation that waived the City’s purchasing code.  These waivers included the following projects:  the Shipyards, the Jaguars lease, the Equestrian Center, and IKON.  And there is still one waiver of the purchasing code left for City Council consideration and approval:  the Waste Management no-bid contract to operate the Trail Ridge Landfill.  

If  the projects listed are any indication of the wisdom of waiving the City’s purchasing code, then the City would do well to not waive the purchasing code so often.  Perhaps then, the City could save itself and not have to raise taxes.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , , , , ,

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