An agreement has been approved that could lead to the redevelopment of an industrial site that has been vacant the past 18 years near downtown St. Marys.
If it comes to fruition, the former Durango-Georgia Paper Co. site, would be transformed into a planned, mixed-use project named Cumberland Inlet. Plans to develop the 700-acre site include a marina, four-story boutique hotel, multi-family residential units, RV park and conservation areas.
Jacoby Development Inc. reached an agreement with the Camden County Joint Development Authority to develop the property. The city council unanimously approved the agreement.
The site was abandoned in 2002 after Durango-Georgia Paper Co. unexpectedly declared bankruptcy, costing more than 900 employees their jobs. The Mexico-based company purchased the mill from the estate of Howard Gilman several years earlier.
Since then, there have been several other attempts to develop the property. The site was purchased in 2005 in bankruptcy court by LandMar, a Jacksonville, Fla., developer who planned to turn the mill site into a residential community with shops and a hotel.
Most of the buildings were demolished at the mill site and a cleanup had begun, but plans to develop the site fell apart when the housing market crashed in 2008. A bankruptcy court trustee has been trying since then to find a buyer.
A developer from New York announced plans to build an industrial barge port at the site in 2016, but those plans also fell through. And in 2017, another developer expressed interest in building a marina at the mill site, prompting development authority officials to apply for a marina permit from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The authority was granted the permit in 2019, but by that time the developer backed out of the project. James Coughlin, director of the JDA, said having a marina permit already approved was a main selling point for Atlanta-based Jacoby Development.
“I don’t think he’d be here without the marina permit,” he said.
Another selling point is the site is a designated tax allocation district, which allows increased tax revenue generated on the site to be reinvested into the project.
Coughlin said the developer is scheduled to close on the sale with bankruptcy court officials sometime in August.
If the deal closes as planned, Coughlin said there could be engineers at the site this fall to determine how to clear the site and begin construction, possibly as soon as summer 2021.
Unlike other developers who have expressed interest in the site, Coughlin said he is very encouraged and optimistic the site will finally have a new owner. Jacoby Development has a successful record of developing old industrial sites and transforming them into residential and mixed use communities, Coughlin said.
“He’s done this at other sites,” he said. “His plan is not all one thing. He’s flexible enough in his plans to respond in this post-COVID-19 market.”