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Anyone have a rendering of this?

http://www.bizjournals.com/industries/real_estate/construction/2005/04/11/tampabay_story1.html

Tampa Bay Business Journal

From the April 11, 2005 print edition
Floating city steams ahead
Engineer's dream gains attention
Jane Meinhardt
Staff writer

A wave of new possibilities is floating Norm Nixon's dreamboat.

The Sarasota engineer's concept of a floating city on a ship that circles the globe caught the attention of a New Jersey firm now trying to line up initial financing for Freedom Ship International Inc., the company Nixon formed for the project.

For the first time since Nixon floated the idea about 10 years ago, the $9-billion Freedom Ship project appears closer to reality. The idea, which has been evolving over the decade, was a response to disappearing land for development and an interest of Nixon's in waterborne residences.

The New Jersey firm, which Nixon would only identify as a company involved in the construction and sale of high-priced homes, wants to sell the ship's residential and other units in return for obtaining some project financing.

"It's looking unusually good," Nixon said.
A city at sea

Freedom Ship is planned as a mile-long home afloat with all the amenities of a city on land that would cruise around the world. It is designed to have schools, residences, acres of outdoor park and recreation space, an airport, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, 10,000 hotel rooms, medical facilities and commercial space.

Over the years, naval architects have tweaked the design, which has passed engineering muster and once appeared on the cover of Popular Mechanics magazine.

The latest design shows a barge-like vessel larger than any other on the sea, with a width of 750 feet and 25 decks.

Freedom Ship would have 18,000 residential units. Prices are now projected to range from $180,000 to $44 million for what the company calls "premium suites."

With Internet and teleconferencing, the ship's commercial units would have similar price points. An international trade center is planned for onboard companies, which would allow them to do business in different countries as the ship circumnavigates.

The business community's interest in onboard commercial enterprises has been "unreal," Nixon said. Restaurants, dry cleaners, hair salons, travel agencies, banks, financial services, grocery stores and other businesses would be aboard.

But enough financing to get ship construction started has, until now, been elusive.

The New Jersey firm is courting private investors with the aim of raising the first $100 million for the project.

Then Freedom Ship International plans an initial public offering, Nixon said. The desire is to have $1 billion to start construction.

The chances of raising that much money through an IPO would depend on how sound the project's business plan is, said David Cribbin, estate and wealth management consultant at Merrill Lynch in Clearwater.

"Once an investor has ownership, what does it mean?'' he said. "The question would be whether or not it generates the return investors are looking for."

The company currently has about 100 shareholders who believe enough in the project to provide time and investments worth $1 million.
High risk, hefty return

Roger Gooch, a Largo-based investor and former travel agency owner, predicts a return that could be "appreciable."

"This is a very high-risk venture," he said. "There are some unknowns but also high returns in the event of success. Now there is a resurgence of a large amount of activity with the project."

Gooch has no concerns about the viability of the ship's structure because of current marine technology and engineering. The latest renderings show a vessel more amenable to the typical vision of a cruise ship.

He anticipates property aboard the ship will be most appealing to business owners seeking a presence in a global market who also want to live on board and travel.

The ship probably would sail under the flag of European country. It would not be "a tax haven," he said.

Project financing will determine construction strategies and locations.

Since the ship's skeleton would be fabricated sheets of steel bolted together, that construction would be relatively simple. Other components would be constructed elsewhere, shipped to the assembly location and installed in the skeleton.

The company currently is considering Honduras as a construction base and assembly yard because of the labor pool and low costs, Nixon said.

Freedom Ship also plans to help finance construction at locations in different countries through export loan banks.

"This is based on creating jobs in return for loans with really dirt cheap rates," Nixon said. "We trade our jobs for loans in France, Germany, Japan, India and other countries."

It will not be quick construction. He expects it would take three years to float Freedom Ship once construction starts.

For Gooch and other ground-level investors, the start of Freedom Ship construction will provide a comfort level beyond an engineer's vision.

"We're getting pretty excited," he said.

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I remember hearing about this idea a year or more ago. It sounds like a cool idea, but I'm not sure it will ever happen. Are there any renderings floating around out there?
 

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This will either be the biggest waste of money in history, or be a very good way to help alleviate land shortages and population crunches. To me, from the price estimates for housing, this boat looks a little bit more like a big retirement cruise ship for old folks.
 
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