On the 23rd of January 2020, the Camden County Joint Development Authority had its first board meeting of the year. At this board meeting, the first official step in a process that could bring extensive development to the City of St. Marys at the old Gilman paper mill site took place. Jacoby Development Inc. and the JDA had previously worked to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlined the details of a development agreement between the two entities. This MOU was voted on, and agreed to, at the board meeting. The board voted to instruct JDA staff to move forward on a development agreement that would officially start the redevelopment.

The Gilman Paper Company created the St. Marys Mill and began operation in 1941. It operated under the Gilman name until it was sold to Durango Paper Company in 1999 and lasted just three years before closing business in 2002. What was once the largest employer between Brunswick and Jacksonville, was a ghost town of hollow brick buildings and industrial refuse. Multiple attempts to revitalize the site were made in the 17+ years since the mill’s closing, but none to this point had been successful.

Enter Jim Jacoby. Born in Miami in 1942, Jim Jacoby served in the U.S. Navy before beginning his career in real estate development in 1973. He started out developing sites for Wal-Marts in over 40 locations on the East Coast before realizing his calling of development with more environmentally-conscious focus. Jacoby Development Inc. has specialized in the development of environmentally-sensitive sites and the reclamation of impaired former industrial sites. Jim Jacoby was the master developer behind that project that became Atlantic Station in Atlanta and former owner of Marineland (it was later sold to the Georgia Aquarium) south of St. Augustine.

As our chairman, Jeff Barker, said to the press after the board meeting, “The 27 page Memorandum of Understanding between JDA and Jacoby Development just approved is an essential first step in a process.  The next step will be actually formulating a Development Agreement with JDA, Jacoby Development, Camden County and the city of St. Marys.  The Memorandum of Understanding is the critical document that lays out the framework and parameters for the subsequent Development Agreement.” This MOU is by no means the last step and the residents of St. Marys should not expect to see excavators and men in hard hats tomorrow or the day after, but it is a sign of hope for big things to come to our community.