Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Liberty Harbor Isn't Dead, Says Mayor, Just Hibernating; Work Ended a Few Years Ago on Brunswick Project, but Thompson Still Holds High Hopes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Liberty Harbor Isn't Dead, Says Mayor, Just Hibernating; Work Ended a Few Years Ago on Brunswick Project, but Thompson Still Holds High Hopes

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Morrison

BRUNSWICK | Liberty Harbor, an upscale residential/commercial development along Brunswick's waterfront, is down but not out, according to Mayor Bryan Thompson.

Once touted as a billion-dollar project designed to lure in snowbirds from the north, work stopped at Liberty Harbor a few years ago when the economy was the only thing headed south. A single, unoccupied house stands on the 153-acre property at the mouth of the Brunswick River that was once home to a World War II shipyard, but Thompson said the future remains bright.

"You hear a lot of talk that it went under," he said. "Well, no it didn't. It stalled like so many other projects around here did."

To say the economic downturn wreaked havoc in the Brunswick and the Golden Isles is an understatement. Many real estate investors went bust, contractors scrounged for work and projects such as condominium developments and residential subdivisions fell by the wayside.

Even the venerable, Sea Island Co. was brought to its knees financially, forcing a sale to outside investors to remain open for business.

"It hit on all levels, from the small-scale contractors to the Sea Island Co. and Liberty Harbor," Thompson said.

What makes Thompson continue to have high hopes for Liberty Harbor's future is that oft-quoted mantra of the real estate profession regarding what makes a property valuable:

Location, location, location.

"It remains still a strong piece of property, the best piece of developable property in the city of Brunswick," he said.

And it's one thing that eventually could pull the struggling city out of a deep financial hole.

As the City Commission and staff worked to find ways to trim what had been projected as a $1.5 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year, Commissioner Johnny Cason had his mind on Liberty Harbor. With a shrinking tax base, a resurgence of the development would mean more money for the city.

"We have Liberty Harbor out there and unless we talk about it, focus on it, discuss it, it's going to become nothing but weeds out there," he said during a commission meeting last week. …

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