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Jacoby, Aquarium In Talks For Downtown Marine Research Tower

The developer of one of the largest mixed-use projects in Atlanta's history could next be building a tower to study aquatic life in Downtown Atlanta.

The Georgia Aquarium in Downtown Atlanta

Jacoby Development Inc. is proposing a multistory entertainment and marine research complex next door to the Georgia Aquarium.

Called One Ocean Place, the project is described as a “one-of-a-kind event, entertainment and exhibition attraction” connected by elevated walkways to the Georgia Aquarium's parking deck, according to Jacoby Development's website.

It will feature “marine life research and conservation activities aimed at benefiting human health,” as well as restaurants, performance space, a theater and “environment-themed entertainment attractions."

Jacoby Development Chief Operating Officer David Versel

Jacoby Development Chief Operating Officer David Versel said the firm was in talks with the Georgia Aquarium about the project on a site owned by the organization sandwiched between Luckie and Marietta streets off Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, but that nothing has been agreed to at this point.

“We've been putting this concept together for a kind of vertical research and theme park,” Versel said. “It's just something we're talking about at this point. Our hope is we can get something together with the aquarium in the next six months.”

Officials with the Georgia Aquarium confirmed the proposal but did not elaborate much beyond that detail.

"Jacoby presented to Georgia Aquarium’s board of directors but more information is still needed," an aquarium spokesperson wrote in an email. "No decisions have been made and further information will still need to be presented."

Site of Jacoby's proposed research and entertainment tower for the Georgia Aquarium

Jacoby is no stranger to large and unique developments.

Jacoby and its CEO, Jim Jacoby, are perhaps best known for developing Atlantic Station, one of the city's first major mixed-use developments that transformed a former steel factory into 138 acres of office towers, retail stores, apartments and residences. The initial phases of Atlantic Station were first delivered in 2005. Among the owners of Atlantic Station today are Hines Interests and CBRE Global Investors

Jacoby also assembled the site of a former Ford Motor Co. plant in Hapeville and eventually developed Porsche North America's headquarters, a $100M project that features a customer experience center and a test track. Jacoby was active as the master planner for a mixed-use project surrounding the Daytona International Speedway. In 2015, the racetrack's owner, International Speedway Corp., bought Jacoby's 50% interest in the 1.1M SF mixed-use project.

The firm previously announced plans to redevelop the OFS campus in Norcross — a northern suburb of Atlanta — into a massive movie studio campus. Jacoby said those talks are still ongoing.

Marineland Dolphin Adventure, owned by the Georgia Aquarium

Jacoby already has a relationship with the Georgia Aquarium. In 1998, the firm purchased the historic oceanarium Marineland in Marineland, Florida, a major tourist attraction in Florida for much of the 1950s and 1960s and a movie studio in the early days of Hollywood. He redeveloped the marine exhibit, and then, in 2011, sold it to the Georgia Aquarium for its Marineland Dolphin Adventure.

“[Jacoby has] never done it small, and he's never done it simple,” Versel said. "That's what attracted me to work for him."

The likely next project will be a multifamily mixed-use project in the City of Palm Coast, Florida, just north of Daytona Beach. There, Jacoby acquired 17 acres, including a parcel next to a golf course, where it plans to build a hotel and market-rate apartments and townhouses, Versel said. The project could break ground next year.

“Palm Coast is something that is ready to be developed,” he said. “There's been very little new apartment development there.”

Jacoby also is working on plans to develop 37 acres around Marineland Dolphin Adventure and along the Intracoastal Waterway into a resort village that could include an oceanfront hotel and a single-family housing community containing vacation rentals and for-sale houses. The land at both Florida projects was acquired from Atlanta-based Pulte Group, Versel said.