The big, abandoned car dealership on Interstate 95 in Jacksonville, Fla., is going to get a tenant. Camping World Inc. will move in next spring, opening an RV dealership.
The Florida Times-Union reported that it’s been more than three years since the plans to open a multi-dealership auto complex stalled. Construction began on the Jacksonville Auto Mall in 2008. But after the first building went up, construction stopped. And that one building, which was supposed to be a Hyundai dealership, was never occupied. It all just sat.
Fred Hassan of Jacksonville bought the 12.9 acres recently for $700,000 and will lease it to Camping World. Hassan used to own Suncoast RV, with 15 locations. He sold eight of them to Camping World and the rest to other companies.
“It needs a lot of work,” he said. “I’ll probably spend a couple million to get it [to] the tenant’s specs.”
Along with the Jacksonville location, Hassan is tearing down a shopping center along Interstate 75 south of Valdosta to make room for another Camping World dealership.
Camping World is the country’s largest RV and accessories dealer, with close to 90 locations nationwide, said Matt Bateh, general manager in Jacksonville. Locally, it has stores in St. Augustine and another store on Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, but business is doing well enough to warrant a third location, he said.
“Everyone thinks that because gas prices are up, people don’t drive RVs,” he said. “But if you’re willing to spend $350,000 for a motorhome, you don’t care about gas prices.”
He said he wasn’t certain, but he expected the new store to be bigger than Beach Boulevard, which carries about 125 units, and smaller than St. Augustine, which usually has at least 200.
Camping World also sells parts, accessories and other camping supplies such as kayaks and bikes. Bateh said he expected to hire about 35 employees, but that wouldn’t begin until next year.