Aerial view of Gibbs Corporation shipyard during 1950s. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

During World War II, the shipyard built Minesweepers, Covered Lighters, Sub Chasers and tugs for the US Navy and barges and Sea Skiffs for the US Army. In 1942, sultry Paramount actress Veronica Lake visited the shipyard to christen the USS Lone Wolf, calling it the thrill of her lifetime. After being sold to Jacksonville industrialist Bill Lovett, also known as the “South’s least known multimillionaire, what had become the largest shipbuilder in the South was merged with the Northbank’s Merrill-Stevens and re-branded as the Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc.

Aerial view of Gibbs Corporation shipyard during the 1950s, looking towards the north. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

By the end of the 1960s, it was called the South Yard with a 20,000-ton capacity floating dry dock, machine shops, main office building, new construction yards with two ship ways, eight mobile gantry cranes and more than 1,000 employees. With the company focusing on expanding their Bay Street shipyard, the South Yard was closed in the mid-1970s leading to the development of the hotel Marriott will be taking over.

A 2006 rendering of The Related Group’s San Marco Riverwalk Village project. Courtesy of archives

While this will become downtown’s first Marriott branded hotel, it isn’t the first time a Marriott brand has been proposed for the property. In 2006, South Florida-based The Related Group announced its intention to redevelop the hotel property into a mixed-use urban development that would have included four, 48-story towers. Then operated as the Radisson, the hotel would have been razed and replaced with a 200-room Courtyard by Marriott. Related anticipated breaking ground on San Marco Riverfront Village in 2007 until the real estate market crashed.

Downtown Jacksonville will be the home of two Marriott brands by the end of the year. In Brooklyn, a 136-room, seven-story Residence Inn by Marriott is currently under construction. That project is being developed by Greenbelt, Maryland-based Baywood Hotels, Inc. In addition, a 155-room AC Hotel by Marriott is planned as a part of The District project proposed on the site of the former JEA Southside Generating Station. That project was originally anticipated to open in 2020. However, construction on The District remains delayed as developers work to attempt to obtain financing.

A rendering of the proposed AC Hotel by Marriott Jacksonville. Courtesy of Impact Properties

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at