December 13, 2013
by Patrick Donges, WJCT News
A local investment firm is proposing the construction of a 1,000 foot observation tower in Jacksonville, which would make the city home to the tallest structure in Florida.
The project, called Seaglass Tower, was pitched today by Ponte Vedra-based Killashee Investments, LLC, to the board of Jacksonville’s Police & Fire Pension Fund.
The tower is just one part of a complex of buildings proposed for the city’s downtown Shipyards property. The former industrial site on the St. Johns River has about 30 acres of land and 10 additional acres underwater.
In addition to the tower, the proposed complex would also include a world class aquarium, restaurants, museums, hotels, a convention center, and residential property.
“Everybody wants to be proud of this city,” said Mark Farrell, owner and founder of Killashee Investments.
“The best way to change perception is a visual,” he said. “Let’s get some international and national recognition and have a presence on the world stage.”
In the presentation, Farrell said Jacksonville is missing out on Florida’s tourism boom, calling Interstate 95 an untapped “gold mine” with approximately 45 million visitors traveling through the city via the route last year.
He compared the Seaglass concept to other “international iconic” structures, citing the successful tourism draw of Seattle’s Space Needle, the St. Louis Arch, and the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.
“This is the hub, this is the centerpiece, this is the cornerstone that anchors downtown development,” Farrell said, describing a “halo effect” of development he envisions for nearby neighborhoods.
“Seaglass Tower will represent the city’s arrival on the international stage,” said architect Chris Kaye of KBJ Architects in a narrative of the proposed design.
Kaye writes that the tower would become the center of a new “tower district” with integrated retail and residential areas modeled on the trend of pedestrian friendly “town center” neighborhoods.
“Capitalizing on the St. Johns River’s importance, strong view corridors are created throughout the site providing pedestrian level permeability to the expanse of lush gardens, fountains and sculptures that weave the environment together,” he writes.
The purpose of today’s pitch to the Police & Fire Pension Fund was regarding finances.
Killashee proposed that the fund purchase the property from the city at market value and enter into an agreement with the investment group as master developer of the project.
John Keane, executive director and administrator of the Jacksonville Police & Fire Pension Fund, said that following the presentation the board authorized it’s staff to continue to work with Killashee on the proposal.
“We could be interested in buying the property further down the line,” Keane said. “The board was very much interested in their concept and presentation.”
Keane said that the fund has a long history of supporting downtown redevelopment, citing their 2001 relocation back downtown from their former Emerson Street offices.
Farrell said he will now seek the input of potential partners, hotel operators, retailers, institutions, developers and investors to build interest in the project.
When asked if he was concerned about the rate of success for previous projects proposed at the Shipyards property, Farrell said the city officials he has spoken with have yet to register a negative reaction to the Seaglass proposal.
You can follow Patrick Donges on Twitter at@patrickhdonges.