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Updated February 2023


Deal is set to sell shipyard
St. Petersburg Times
Published: Feb 16, 2007

TAMPA - A deal is in the works to build high-end condos on the gritty waterfront of the port's second-largest shipyard.

The owner of International Ship Repair and Marine Services confirmed Thursday he has a contract to sell 22.5 acres at the north end of Ybor Channel to Gibraltar Development of Clearwater. No purchase price was released, but it is believed to be in the neighborhood of $100-million.

Gibraltar wants to build a residential and commercial project that fits in with the north Channel District's transition away from industrial port business, said International owner George Lorton in a prepared statement. Gibraltar president Michael Scarfia said details would be released soon.

The future of the 42-year-old shipyard, where between 350 and 500 employees and contractors work on a typical day, also is unclear. If the land sale goes through, International can keep sand-blasting ship hulls and cutting steel there at least three years, said Lorton.

Tampa Port Authority executives and the company are working to find a new home at the port for the shipyard "to preserve this valuable dry dock facility and workforce," he said.

But port officials say they don't know any locations that would work. Port director Richard Wainio sent Lorton an eight-year-old report that listed 16 potential shipyard sites in the area, privately and publicly owned. Most have been snapped up since then - including some Lorton bought and resold - or would cost the public agency $50-million or more to develop.

The rent would cost more than Lorton is willing pay, Wainio wrote in a letter last fall.

"We're not implying that we don't want International Ship here," he said Thursday. "We're telling him we'll try, but we're not able to identify any suitable parcel of land that we control."

Late last year, Lorton bought a small shipyard in Galveston, Texas, and renamed it Malin International Ship Repair & Dry Dock Co.

The yard is limited to performing "topside" repairs because it lacks dry docks. International has five floating dry docks that lift vessels out of the water for more extensive work on hulls.

Port officials came under attack in recent years from maritime businesses for leasing industrial land for nonshipping uses.

The biggest battle focused on a proposed luxury hotel, high-tech conference center and condo project led by Longboat Key resort owner Murray Klauber.

He holds a lease option on Metroport, a slip used by International Ship. Among the loudest critics: Lorton and executives at International Ship who charged the agency was endangering its core industrial business.

Last summer, Lorton asked Wainio for possible sites to relocate International because of the pending sale. Scarfia showed the port director project plans last month that included high-end condos, stores and shops. The developer on Thursday told Wainio the plans were being revised.

The timing seems off, considering the overbuilt condo market. But Gibraltar plans to build the project over 10 years, said Wainio.

Klauber met with Scarfia three weeks ago and came away impressed with the project, which would sit just north of his development, dubbed the Tampa International Technology Center.

"It's big, big," said Klauber, founder of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort. "He's got imagination. It raises the whole area's value."

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Fast Facts:

Gibraltar Development

President: Michael J. Scarfia Sr.

Offices: Clearwater; San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Local project: Venu, a 50-story condo tower planned for downtown Tampa at Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Drive.

Retail in Puerto Rico: Western Center in Mayaguez, Ponce Town Center, Rexville Town Center in Bayamon, Airport Plaza in Carolina.

Source: Gibraltar Web site


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