BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA – Robert M. Torras Sr. is standing by his assertion that plans to expand the Glynn County Detention Center will hurt his marina business.But in a seeming contradiction, Torras fights the expansion on the east side of Newcastle Street while he adds more dock space to his sprawling Brunswick Landing Marina across the street.
The demand for dockage at the sheltered marina on Academy Creek in downtown Brunswick remains strong even in the midst of a nationwide economic slump and concerns that the jail expansion will lower property values in the area.”We’re adding 56 new slips,” Torras said, “and more than half of them are reserved already.”The new slips are situated along a 1,250-foot dock that stretches from the northern end of the marina to Torras’ boat yard on Newcastle Street Extension. Twenty-eight “fingers” extend from the dock, each capable of accommodating two 50-foot boats.The marina is the largest saltwater marina in the state, and the new slips will raise capacity to 317 slips.With the expansion, however, Torras has run out of water.”That’s it,” Torras said. “We’re done.”
The marina opened in 1996 after a 10-year permitting process. Torras and Robert Torras Jr. have expanded it slowly, adding additional dockage only as the marina reached full capacity.Boaters like the marina because it is located well away from the ocean, Torras Sr. said. It has developed a reputation as a “hurricane hole,” providing sheltered harbor for the pricey yachts forced north by the insurance industry.”I’ve been told that boats docked south of here are not insurable because of the hurricane problem,” Torras said.About 70 percent of the boats docked at the marina are owned by out-of-towners, Torras said. They base their boats here but take them on long trips into Florida and the Caribbean.
With no more room to expand, Torras will concentrate on the adjacent 24 acres he owns. That property already has been adversely affected by the jail plans, he said.An Ann Arbor, Mich., developer had been working on a plan to build a $160 million, 380-unit condominium complex on the property. But then the jail plans were announced.”The developer now wants to talk about a revised plan,” Torras said. “He believes the expanded jail complex would present a security risk that he would have to overcome to develop the property.”Torras, however, continues to fight the proposed jail expansion. The county used eminent domain to force Torras to sell it two parcels of land he owns on the site of the jail expansion. He asked a judge to reverse the county’s actions but lost. He has appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.The boaters have boosted downtown businesses by patronizing downtown shops and restaurants that are within walking distance.
The marina also is nice to look at, said Torras Jr., who manages it and the boat yard.”I sit on our dock and look at the sunset and it’s as beautiful as any place I’ve ever seen,” he said.Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson calls Torras Sr. a shrewd businessman with a unique and seemingly prescient ability to make business decisions that will stand the test of time.”He’s always thought long-range with all his planning,” Thompson said. “He has systematically come in and expanded his business to keep pace with the market.”And Torras has an ally in the city.”The city has been consistent from the very beginning of this,” Thompson said. “We are not in favor of the jail expansion on that site.”