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Jacksonville Landing's 'Last Bash' Is This Weekend; A Look Back Through The Years

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Bill Bortzfield
/
WJCT News
This weekend marks the "Last Bash" at The Jacksonville Landing.

It appears “business as usual” will be winding down quickly at The Jacksonville Landing following Tuesday’s City Council approval to buy out the current ownership.

The Landing has announced its “Last Bash” weekend, on Friday, March 29, through Sunday, March 31,  the final weekend of public events at the Landing.

Just two restaurants, Fionn MacCool’s Irish Pub & Restaurant and Hooters — the last remaining original restaurant — are still open. The long-running Mavericks Live nightclub also remains open.

The “Last Bash” announcement follows City Council's sign off Tuesday on an $18 million deal that could have the Landing facing a wrecking ball. Fifteen million will be used to buy out Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC, which is led by Toney Sleiman.

Another $1.5 million is earmarked to help existing tenants relocate. The final $1.5 million is set aside to  demolish the Landing. An additional $4.2 million or more could be spent on Landing's parking area

WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record reported that Downtown Investment Authority interim CEO Brian Hughes said last week there will be “plenty of time for the administration, Council, DIA and community stakeholders to really have a discussion about what to do next.”

Hughes is also Mayor Lenny Curry’s chief of staff.

But petition organizer Amy Smith, who wants the demolition idea put on hold, isn’t so sure. She told WJCT News earlier this week the city has a bad record of demolishing buildings without having follow up plans in place.

Smith’s petition, which has more than 1,100 signatures, urges the city to consider adaptive reuse before bringing in any wrecking balls.

This weekend could be the final opportunity to experience the Landing in its current form as a festival marketplace with outdoor entertainment and events.

Here’s the full slate of activities:

Friday, March 29

7 p.m.-midnight: Live music by The 7 Street Band with special guests Special Formula Band from on the Sleiman Riverfront Stage.

Saturday, March 30

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Credit Bill Bortzfield
Plenty of classic Mustangs will be on display Saturday outside of The Jacksonville Landing.

8 a.m.–3:30 p.m.: Rumble at the River: The Jacksonville Mustang Club will hold its 17th Regional Mustang & Ford Show. The show is free.

7 p.m.: Dirty South Villains 4th Annual Meet: This regional meet up for the Bearded Villains of Jacksonville will benefit the National Kidney Foundation. Vendor tables and the beard competition are included. The event will be held in the Jack Daniels Bar. All proceeds from the event will benefit the National Kidney Foundation.

8-10 p.m.: Live music by The Band Be Easy

7 p.m.-midnight: Music provided by Party Solution Entertainment in the courtyard 

Sunday, March 31

5–9 p.m.: Soulful Sunday: Live music on the Sleiman Riverfront Stage by The Katz Downstairz. Food vendors will also be in the courtyard.

The Glory Days

The Jacksonville Landing opened to great fanfare in 1987 with bands, speeches and packed storefronts.

This opening day video from WJCT News partner News4Jax captures the excitement:

By 1991 the first signs of trouble were showing as The Sharper Image, one of the original tenants, closed:

Jacksonville developer Toney Sleiman purchased the Landing’s buildings in a long-term $5 million deal in 2003. He quickly unveiled plans to redevelop the riverfront marketplace and followed up over the years with additional ideas but Sleiman could never capture the incentives or approval he was seeking.

WJCT News partner News4Jax reported Sleiman planned to invest more than $44 million into the Landing at one point if he could secure a $21.5 million loan from the city, but the city said the money wasn’t there.

Fast forward to 2018: By this time the city and Landing were suing each other with blame being leveled by both sides for the festival marketplace’s decline.

Then on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, a mass shooting at the Landing’s Chicago Pizza & Sports Grille and GLHF Game Bar left three dead, including the gunman. Ten others were shot and survived.

While the Landing’s decline had been underway for decades, it accelerated following the shooting.

By October, the entire food court had closed.

Mavericks Live, the second-floor nightclub that took over the earlier arcade space, plans to keep going after this weekend's "Last Bash."  The nightclub has posted a full slate of entertainment through May 28 and said on its Facebook page, "We at Mavericks Live are still here, and we are going to continue throwing parties and hosting some of your favorite artists on our stage!"

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Credit Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News
Cinco de Mayo at the Landing closed in January.

As for Chicago Pizza, it briefly re-opened but closed earlier this year along with its long-time next door neighbor, Cinco de Mayo.  Other remaining businesses have yet to announce closing dates.

With most Landing businesses closed or planning their departures and the final lineup of outdoor entertainment announced, the attention now turns to whether the Landing will become a dead space for years to come. Or, perhaps, will a proposal be unveiled that ultimatly delivers on the Landing's opening day promise of long-term vibrancy?

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