The first dozen exotic collectible cars have been parked inside the 58,802-square-foot Jacksonville Sports Car Museum, ranging from a sleek 395-horsepower BMW Z8, its removable hardtop stacked nearby, to a rare 1980s Lamborghini Jalpa P350 in very Italian red.
As museum managing member David Gonzales walks past more, like three Aston Martins, a formula race car and a Ford GT, with Museum Director Tanner Nicolson, they discuss what’s needed to get the facility at 7601 Centurion Parkway open next month.
So far it’s taken about $1 million for the head of Jacksonville’s Acorn Property Holdings to convert the former Enterprise Integration IT facility into a museum with a private club area as well as a huge main event room that will be rented for parties, meetings and more.
Old Lamborghini USA headquarters shifts gears: Becoming the Jacksonville Sports Car Museum
“Overall, there is nothing like this in Jacksonville. Jacksonville needs this,” Gonzales said. “We will be open for people to join the museum as a member and put their car in here because it is a hurricane-proof, highly secure building, and if you have more cars than garage space, it’s a good place to put it. As we attract members in the club, more people will be members of the museum as well. If you are a member, you keep your car here.”
Building has exotic past
The J-shaped two-story Deerwood Park office building began as Lamborghini’s U.S. headquarters in 1990, handling parts, marketing and new car dealer distribution. Among the cars shipped there from Italy were Donald Trump’s blue 1997 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster, displayed in the lobby before it was delivered to him.
In the late ’90s, Lamborghini shut down the Jacksonville headquarters when its ownership changed. An insurance company took over the facility, then Enterprise Integration bought it a decade ago. The original Lamborghini parts area became a 25,000-square-foot IT services nerve center with a 165-foot-wide video screen.
Put up for sale, Acorn bought it for $4.1 million on April 28. The 14-year-old commercial real estate company is owned by David Gonzales and his son, also named David. The company owns and manages about a million square feet of office space, including business parks in Southpoint, Deerwood, Butler Boulevard, Baymeadows Road and World Golf Village in St. Augustine.
Plenty of renovations
Changes made since then include a new paint job and landscaping outside, and upgraded lighting inside. Office space at the building’s west end was converted into the museum with a new sign, security cameras and a larger door to facilitate entry and exit of display cars.
At its other end is a cocktail area for guests and members to hang out, with a former training room nearby also modified as another social gathering area.
“There’s new flooring, we did some demolition and air-conditioning work,” Gonzales said, pointing to alcoves off the museum display floor. “… These used to be offices. We just eliminated those.”
A ground-floor office area has been converted into a bridal preparation suite with sofas, bathroom with shower and video screens for weddings. The lobby now opens directly into the sprawling former IT services nerve center. Cleared out of all office cubicles, the huge video screen still spans the back wall of the facility’s main event room with an upgraded full audio system coming and even plans for movie nights with dinner.
“That is going to be a venue for corporate events, weddings, parties, private concerts and Christmas parties,” Gonzales said. “… We could fit 600 people, but it is up to the city. You can go in there and have whatever event you want. We will put in a stage.”
The second floor, formerly wood-paneled executive offices, is undergoing a major change into what will be called The Patrons Club that could also open next month.
Along with a balcony overlooking the event space below, the former glassed-in boardroom behind it becomes a two-level lounge with wet bar under a “Patrons Club” logo glowing blue in the ceiling. Behind it, other offices have been converted into virtual racing areas with widescreen driving simulators, plus a pool table lounge and ping pong game areas, again with widescreen TVs.
Plenty of offerings
“Depending on your level of membership, you can use it for three days a week during the day,” he said. “We will have multiple gatherings and networking upstairs where we will serve food and drink, all part of the membership.”
Club member rallies will include regional race track days for members and their cars, the first on Nov. 3. Members will have access to a boardroom overlooking the building’s front, as well as dedicated office space for meetings. Acorn is also moving its office management company to the south side of the building.
The museum plans to charge between $10 and $15 admission per person once its car display opens with an expected 45 vehicles. Exotic car storage costs could range from $350 to $500 per month depending on terms and space needs, with car battery trickle charging and other services, Gonzales said.
The facility plans to host local car club activities with 217 parking spots on the 6-acre site also open for other outdoor events and will help area nonprofit groups host fundraisers and other events as well as automotive education programs.
Trying to separate from the rest
This isn’t the city’s first automotive museum.
In 2016 the Jacksonville Automotive and Motorcycle Museum opened in the former Montgomery Ward’s department store at Regency Square but closed a year later after a leaking roof forced its operators to sue. That group was initially part of Gonzales’ plan, but split when the new museum went from a nonprofit to profit-based facility.
In 2020 The Brumos Collection opened in 2020 at 5959 S. San Pablo Road with 50-plus historic race cars, classic cars and automobilia in a 35,000-square-foot display area with meeting space. And the Classic Car Museum of St. Augustine also opened in mid-2020 at 4730 S. U.S. 1, owned by local businessman and collector Sidney Hobbs.
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Gonzales said he is aware of other classic car storage facilities that also offered space for social events, including Obi’s Garage 54 off Bowden Road, which closed a few years ago. But he said there are significant differences between that business model and his.
“We are catering only to exotic cars,” Gonzales said. “We are catering only to upper- echelon club members, and we also have a massive event space. So we think that our facility is much better. … We have a lot of flexibility. This is a club with events.”
More information will be coming on soon on the museum’s Instagram @jaxsportscarmuseum.
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