JHNSA wants to ship in sustainable tourist revenue

JHNSA wants to ship in  sustainable tourist revenue

USS Charles Adams could float millions in economic impact

To the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association, the decision is a no-brainer. On the one hand, put together $2.5 million in funding to eventually generate over $4 million annually in revenue for are hotels, restaurants, shops and services. On the other hand, take too long to make the decision and let the positive economic impact slip through city fingers.

Time really is of the essence in this case. The guided missile destroyer USS Charles F. Adams, commissioned in 1960 and in service until 1990, is sitting in a naval shipyard in Philadelphia waiting for a new home as an interactive museum. And the Navy isn’t inclined to wait forever. In late 2011, the Navy determined that Adams is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, as an historic vessel.
According to Daniel Bean, president of the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association (JHNSA) and a retired Navy captain, after five long years of working to bring the destroyer to the North Bank, the final hurdle is the financing. “We are trying to put together $2.5 million through various methods, such as private donations, a line of credit and a gift (in labor) from BAE Systems Southeast Shipyard,” said Bean. “A lot of the employees at BAE served and worked on the Adams and are eager to see it here.”

Jacksonville City Council unanimously approved the venture in the Fall of 2010, but there was some worry that the project would fail. That hurdle was successfully negotiated late last year when the JHNSA created a $300,000 “exit strategy” that would guarantee removal of the ship from Jacksonville if it did not live up to expectations after three years.

The revenue-generating expectations, after covering an anticipated $1 million annual budget, could be met through tours, private meetings and events, such as parties, weddings and overnight stays. Although there will be no restroom facilities on the ship (they will be available on the pier), the ship’s Ward Room and Mess Deck will be renovated for events and the officers’ quarters and crew berths for overnight guests.
Bean feels that the Adams could create 28 jobs and bring 150,000 visitors to the city each year and with an average expenditure of $26 per person, the economic impact would amount to close to $4 million. “There are over 200,000 military in alumni groups who served on the 23 Adams class ships during those three decades; only the USS Charles Adams is still floating,” he said. “This would be the youngest ship in display in the U.S. It was the lead ship during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and has a lot of historic value.”

The JHNSA’s vision also includes an all-day water taxi pass to take visitors from the Museum of Science and History to the Jacksonville Zoo to the destroyer and back. “That would create a nice attraction for Jacksonville,” Bean noted. “IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge experts were here in August to do a study…they indicated that the river is most attractive thing about the city but is not utilized, except for the proposals from the Adams.” In fact, their Jacksonville Report for downtown revitalization and economic growth specifically mentioned the ship museum project in “Recommendation 2-2: Another example is the USS Adams Naval Ship Museum initiative. Interviewees suggest it is of low cost to the City, sustainable with funded exit strategies if it did not succeed, may reuse City property that is currently under-utilized and is likely to create significant draw.”

The current goal is to have the destroyer ready for public visits on Veterans’ Day 2013. In order to make that happen, funding needs to be in place within the next 30 days and EPA approval would need to be gained by the end of May. In addition, dry dock time at BAE (for refurbishments such as removal of both screws and both SONAR domes, repair hull plating as needed before sandblasting, preserving and painting the hull and the above decks to the top of the masts, along with various other fixes) would require up to six weeks before interior renovations can be started.

Why the North Bank? Although the original proposal planned to moor the ship alongside the South Bank, under the afternoon shadow of the Acosta Bridge, it would cost nearly $6.5 million to construct a pier there. The North Bank has mooring at the former Jacksonville Shipyards property providing a solution that is much less costly. Most of the work needed would be removal of built-up dirt under the pier so that the 437-foot ship with a 20-foot draft can float rather than get mired in the muck and mud. The JHNSA is again back in front of City Council with a request to move the proposed location from the South Bank to the North Bank. The proposed modification to city Ordinance 2010-675-E  will allow the use of approximately three of the 23 total acres at the former shipyard site as a temporary location that could lead to a long-term/mooring location.

Much has been done. The Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association and the Adams Class Veterans Association (ACVA) have been working together, have raised almost $500,000 to date, and have funded many of the necessary studies and advance work to demonstrate to the Navy their resolve in meeting the many requirements to safely obtain and tow the ship to its final berth.

Many people have been involved. The JHNSA Executive Steering Committee consists of Admiral Kevin Delaney, Admiral Gene Kendall, William Gay, Sr., Jim Bailey, Toney Sleiman, Bob Rhodes, Karen Bowling, Bob Buehn, Dan Welch, Paul Anderson, Mike Hightower, Sheriff John Rutherford and Tony Boselli. Public support continues to grow and includes Governor Rick Scott, Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, Congressman Ander Crenshaw, City Council President Bill Bishop, as well as the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Much is at stake. Bringing the Adams to Jacksonville will help the Downtown Vision Inc.’s mission to build and maintain a healthy and vibrant Downtown community and to promote Downtown as an exciting place to live, work, play and visit. JHNSA leaders have been working closely with urban designer Chris Flagg of Flagg Design Studio LLC, who produced poster renderings that brings the vision to life.

The JHNSA looks forward to working with anyone who can help “Bring Home the USS Adams.” For more information on this exciting project, visit www.adams2jax.org.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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