JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The uncertainty of what will someday replace the Jacksonville Landing is reviving an effort to bring an aquarium to Downtown Jacksonville.
Since 2014, AquaJax has been trying to gain support for an aquarium on Jacksonville’s waterfront. The nonprofit organization initially had its sights set on the Shipyards, until the mayor and the owners of the Jacksonville Landing cleared the way to demolish and eventually redevelop the property.
“It is a perfect location,” Erika Sepega, who is AquaJax’s treasurer and on the board of directors, said. “Having the Jacksonville Landing kind of open up as an opportunity is really amazing.”
While AquaJax has been raising awareness of their effort for years, members are ramping it up.
“People travel all around the world just to go see aquariums,” Sepega said. “So to have something that’s iconic, something that can bring people to our downtown, would really be amazing.”
A feasibility study for the aquarium estimated it would draw more than 800,000 visitors each year, though Sepega called that a conservative estimate. That means tourists spending money in Jacksonville in addition to jobs created.
Sepega said ideally, the city would donate land or provide tax incentives while the aquarium itself would be funded privately through donations. She said they plan to reach out to the city to express interest in the Landing property soon.
The aquarium would operate in partnership with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, running boats in between the two properties, which makes the riverfront location ideal.