The group behind the effort to bring an aquarium to downtown Jacksonville cleared its first hurdle. AquaJax raised enough money to hire a firm to do a feasibility study on the project.
George Harrell, who’s been working on the project for several years, said the $53,000 needed for the study came from Jaguars owner Shad Khan; former Jaguars owners Wayne and Delores Weaver; Gary Chartrand, executive chairman of Acosta, and his wife, Nancy; Wolfson Children’s Hospital; and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
AquaJax itself put in $5,000 from the $14,000 it received as the top vote-getter in last year’s One Spark festival.
The rest of the prize money, Harrell said, will be used for promotion, marketing and fundraising once the study is completed.
“We can’t ask someone for $1 million without them wondering if this will be money tossed away or will this even happen,” he said.
The announcement of donors came at a gathering Saturday night at The Jacksonville Landing.
Harrell said the group will hire ConsultEcon, which has done analyses and forecasts for such facilities as the Monterrey Bay Aquarium in California, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and Chang Feng Ocean World in China.
That group will study the location, potential for visitors, the cost and the feasibility of the entire project.
AquaJax’s preliminary plans call for a 150,000-square-foot building along the river downtown. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ board of directors endorsed the project and wants the zoo to manage it.
One of the ideas that ConsultEcon will look at is the feasibility of a river cruise between the zoo and aquarium, Harrell said.
AquaJax had highlighted a parcel in the Shipyards property on the Northbank. Khan’s Iguana Investments Florida last week made a proposal to develop the 48-acre property. Those plans didn’t include an aquarium, but Harrell said that city officials have told him that there are spots in Metropolitan Park where the aquarium could go.
Group raises enough money to hire firm to determine whether aquarium can thrive in Jacksonville