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Sleiman, Mayor Reach Jacksonville Landing Deal That Could Result In Demolition

Jacksonville Landing owner Toney Sleiman and Mayor Lenny Curry both flashed thumbs-up on Wednesday, announcing they’ve reach an agreement after years of butting heads that could result in demolishing part or all of the Jacksonville Landing.

“On behalf of the citizens of Jacksonville, I appreciate their willingness to work with me so that Jacksonville can consider an alternate path forward for the location of the Landing,” said Curry in a statement emailed to WJCT News.

The email concluded by saying there would be no further statements made outside of legal proceedings regarding the Landing and the adjoining land parcels.

However, an ordinance just introduced by Council President Aaron Bowman requests $18 million to deal with the Landing situation.

The ordinance states $15 million would be used to "settle certain litigation between the city and Jacksonville Landing Investments, LLC."

The ordinance goes on to say the Landing's lease will be terminated. It also calls for $1.5 million to terminate sublease obligations and $1.5 million for "demolition of the Landing Building improvements and site preparation costs."   

The joint statement from Curry and Sleiman did not specify exactly what would happen next but did write: 

“It is important for stakeholders to always consider new possibilities. With that in mind, Jacksonville Landing Investments (JLI) and Mayor Curry on behalf of Jacksonville have entered into a Settlement Agreement for the terms by which the Jacksonville Landing and the property at its location would see their best and highest use realized. Both parties agree that with the future of Jacksonville shining so bright, now is the time to forge this path forward.”

Previously both sides have accused the other of not living up to the terms of the original agreement, in which Sleiman Enterprises bought the rights to the Landing’s buildings in what is essentially a long-term lease, while the city retained the property underneath.

JLI, which is part of Sleiman Enterprises Inc., has been in a legal battle with the City of Jacksonville, each accusing the other of breaching their operating agreement.

If the city were to take control of the Landing, Mayor Lenny Curry’s office told our Jacksonville Daily Record news partner in June it would look at bulldozing the festival marketplace to make way for an urban park.  Neither Curry or Sleiman said Wednesday whether that idea is still in play.

LandingParkRendering.png
Credit Jacksonville Parks & Recreation Department / Via Jacksonville Daily Record
This rendering from Jacksonville's Parks and Recreation Department illustrates a vision for the land where The Jacksonville Landing stands today.

JLI has previously countered that the Landing has invested more than $1.5 million into redevelopment efforts and has maintained the company has been ready to redevelop the Landing since 2003.

Tenants have been steadily leaving the festival marketplace. Cinco De Mayo and Benny’s Steak and Seafood both closed last month and last year the entire food court was shut down.

In announcing the settlement, Curry was complimentary of the work that Sleiman’s company has done over the years.

“For years, Jacksonville Landing Investments and Sleiman Enterprises have contributed immeasurably to development and job creation in and around Jacksonville,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “The Landing has been a fixture in the community much like the Sleiman organization, who stepped in at a time when the property’s future was in doubt upon the exit of the original developer." 

There have been indications that at least some tenants saw a future at the Landing. Hooters, an original tenant, was recently remodeled as was Fionn MacCool’s. 

Chicago Pizza has said it has been working on remodeling its Good Luck Have Fun Game Bar. Chicago Pizza reopened in October following a mass shooting at the facility while the game bar remains closed during the remodeling.

Both sides will likely remain quiet on the Landing’s future until the settlement agreement is presented in court.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.