Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Marys Reaps Waterfront Cash $2 Million Materializes to Give Project a Boost

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Marys Reaps Waterfront Cash $2 Million Materializes to Give Project a Boost

Article excerpt

ST. MARYS -- City leaders needed help from the federal government and private donations to complete an ambitious $5 million waterfront development project.

They got help from both sources last week, when St. Marys was given a $1 million donation from the Howard Gilman Foundation -- the single largest donation from a private source in city history.

City officials also got good news Friday when U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., announced he had secured more than $1.1 million for the National Park Service at Cumberland Island.

The bulk of the Cumberland Island money is designated for improvements along the St. Marys River, including improvements to the visitor center in St. Marys and restoration of the federally owned Bachlott House in the city's waterfront district.

The Bachlott House, in disrepair for years, has been criticized repeatedly by residents who describe the building as an eyesore.

Kingston's announcement surprised the city, which had no hint that Congress was considering funding for waterfront development, said St. Marys Mayor Jerry Brandon.

A delegation of city and county representatives visited Washington last spring to lobby for federal funding for Cumberland Island and Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.

"Apparently, we got something done," Brandon said.

Work on the waterfront may have stalled if not for the windfall, he said.

Last week's donation from the Howard Gilman Foundation, however, wasn't a surprise to city leaders, who appointed a committee to approach the non-profit group for a donation, Brandon said.

"We've really been aware of the Gilman money for some time," Brandon said. "We were fairly certain it would happen."

Bill Davis, president of Gilman Building Products, said he acted as a conduit between the city and the foundation, based in New York.

Convincing the foundation to make a sizable donation was easy, Davis said, because of the late Howard Gilman's ties to the city and his love for the city's waterfront. …

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