JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Downtown Jacksonville could soon be home to Florida's tallest building -- a 1,000-foot tower -- if one local developer's vision comes to life.
Mark Farrell, owner of Killashee Investments, wants to transform the old shipyard on East Bay Street into Jacksonville's premier tourist destination.
"We've talked about downtown long enough. We're a big city, we need to act like a big city," said Farrell.
The sky-high tower would include two levels of dining and an observation deck. It would be the focal point of a complex that includes hotels, retail shops and even an aquarium.
But first, Farrell has to convince the Police and Fire Pension Fund to buy the 30-acre property from the city and partner up with his company.
"Once they buy the land, they really have provided seed money for the overall development of the land," said Farrell.
Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, said it's a great idea, but instead of buying the land Wyse suggests the city should transfer the property over to the pension fund.
"If they transfer the property and say it's worth $1 million, then the pension fund gives the city a credit of $1 million toward the unfunded [liability]. It's almost like cash," said Wyse.
According to Wyse, the pension fund has proposed this idea to the city for years.
Farrell pitched the idea to the pension fund's board Friday. So far members have not committed, but he said the feedback has been positive.
According to Farrell, if the project succeeds it would bring in something Jacksonville lacks: consistent tourism dollars.
"The state of Florida gets about $72 billion of economic impact from tourism. Jacksonville represents more than 7 percent of the state population, 7 percent of $70 billion is $5 billion -- $5 billion of economic impact that we're not getting," said Farrell.
Farrell said he'll go back before the pension board next year to present more details on the project.
Mayor Brown's statement on Shipyards development
"To follow up my discussion with your staff, here is our position:
While we appreciate ideas to improve the city, this proposal needs to be carefully and thoroughly reviewed by the Downtown Investment Authority before any decision is made. The Shipyards property is part of the administration’s ongoing work to assess and develop a strategy for certain city properties to optimize their value and use for our taxpayers and citizens. Mayor Brown’s first priority now is enhancing The Jacksonville Landing."