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Jacksonville Docking dilemma

Guest donaltopablo

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Guest donaltopablo

I didn't even realize Jacksonville had become home to cruise ships. Very cool, should help attract people to Jacksonville.

Docking dilemma

Ford assembly building becomes focus of cruise ship berthing plans

Ryan Geddes

Staff Writer

JACKSONVILLE -- With cruise ships now calling, port and city officials are looking ahead to solve a potentially lucrative problem: the possible arrival of more ships than the temporary Jacksonville Port Authority Cruise Terminal at Dames Point was designed to handle.

Officials from the Jacksonville Port Authority and the city's Planning and Development Department are moving ahead on negotiations with engineering firm CH2M Hill to study the feasibility of turning the old Ford assembly building, near Talleyrand Avenue just north of the Matthews Bridge, into a permanent cruise terminal.

The successful first voyage of Celebrity Cruise Lines' Zenith luxury liner from Dames Point will be followed in just months by the arrival of Carnival Cruise Lines' new 17-story Miracle, which will call Jacksonville home port for its first 12 cruises. Another ship from each line will begin arriving in 2004, and because the temporary facility can only handle one massive ship at a time, the liners' arrivals and departures must be carefully staggered. If other major cruise companies such as Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean International or Norwegian Cruise Line decide to join the fray, the port authority will simply need more space.

Rick Mitchell has plenty of it. As co-owner of holding company Hill Street LLC, Mitchell is part-owner of 23 waterfront acres, home to the 80-year-old former Ford assembly building. The 165,000-square-foot open-air structure stands vacant after plans fell through last year to turn the building into lofts complete with parking, retail space and boat slips.

Stepping over broken tiles and turned-up wood flooring, Mitchell points out the old factory's details.

"Look at the basket-weave brickwork," he says, pointing at the long, low structure's west fa

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