Second bid for Shipyards redevelopment comes forward

There is a competing proposal to redevelop the Jacksonville Shipyards, and it’s billed as no City cost.

Shitaki Enterprises President Patrick Mullen came before the Downtown Investment Authority Friday to say he intends to submit a bid to redevelop the land as the “Jacksonville Mega Yacht Center”, a super luxury yacht boatyard, marina, and hospitality center. About two thirds of the property would be used for maintenance work on luxury mega yachts. The long stretch closest to Downtown would be a public access international market and some residential space.

“We’re prepared to make sure that the City has no cost whatsoever in this project,” Mullen says.

He says he has $1.4 billion lined up over five years for the development. He says he would intend to buy the land from the City and cover the cost of the environmental cleanup as well as any improvements that need to be made to roads leading in to the property. Essentially, Mullen says he would ask for no City money, other than standard tax break incentives from the City and State.

Currently, Mullen employs about 85 people and they work mostly out of South Florida, although Mullen himself owns a home in Jacksonville. Within the first 18 months of development, Mullen says he would grow his workforce to 250 employees. By the completion of the entire project in five years he estimates 5,000 full time employees. He says Jacksonville would become the headquarters for his operations and he would also invest in a corporate space in Downtown to house that. He acknowledges that the plan seems “aggressive”, but says he has all of the funding lined up to make it happen.

Because the DIA has made it clear that the fit of the project in to their vision for Downtown will be heavily weighted, I asked Mullen whether he's concerned the more industrial feel that is likely to come with this type of project.

“We’re not a shipyard- we do no commercial work whatsoever,” he says.

He says there is a high demand for luxury yacht maintenance in this area, and already has contracts which could be lined up, but now they’re looking for a “home” for the business. He further says they would use many “green” initiatives, like solar power, and that all of their building designs would fit in to the overall Downtown image.

As for why he’s chosen the Shipyards property, Mullen says there aren’t many places left that offer the size and accessibility they need.

“This is one of the few left that fits our needs,” he says.

Shitaki Enterprises’ presentation submitted to the Downtown Investment Authority says Jacksonville is uniquely positioned for a yacht marina because insurers will still cover yachts in dock during hurricane season, unlike site further to the south. Mullen says access to the airport is also a big draw.

While the boatyards would be restricted access, Shitaki Enterprises is also proposing a public international market. It’s designed as a space where- by the road- the theme changes between countries. Retail and restaurants would be featured and the vendors would be authentic- Mullen says they plan to bring interested parties from the different countries to operate the stands.

Shitaki Enterprises is a name Mullen has used in the past, but he created this entity specifically to manage this project, saying they’ve been putting the proposal together for about 19 months. It serves as an umbrella over about ten companies- engineers, construction workers, etc- which will be disclosed in the bid documents.

His proposal would not include a continuous riverwalk on the Northbank, because the area where the yacht work is done would be restricted access.

The DIA will formally begin soliciting bids on Tuesday, March 10. Those must be submitted by April 15, and the intent is to have a decision on which development- if any- to pursue by April 29. So far, Jaguars owner Shad Khan has also unveiled a proposal for a residential, retail, officer, recreational space which would be mostly privately funded but seek some City investment.

When asked about competing against Khan for the property, Mullen said he has a great respect for Khan and would be open to working with him to incorporate a practice field for the Jaguars in a nearby site as a joint project.

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