City Buy-Out Of Jacksonville Landing Passes First Council Vote Test

Mar 19, 2019

A $15 million city buyout of The Jacksonville Landing’s owner cleared its first stop Monday at City Council in a 6-1 vote for an agreement that supporters say gives the city a chance to retake control of the riverfront land and replace the Landing with a new kind of development for the next generation.

Our Florida Times-Union news partner reports City Council member Garrett Dennis cast the lone vote against settling a lawsuit that pits the Sleiman family, which owns the Landing, against the city.

Dennis said it appears the city is spending too much to buy out the Sleimans.

“Do I think we need to do something with that area? Absolutely,” Dennis said. “But that doesn’t mean we overpay for that area.”

He said the lack of a certified appraisal for the market value of the mall’s building “is problematic for me” in light of the cost to the city.

His opposition sparked accusations from Councilman Tommy Hazouri that Dennis was playing politics in the run-up to the Tuesday election.

Hazouri, who cut the ribbon when the Landing opened in 1987, said ’“in its time, it was great,” but it fell into decline. He said the settlement agreement is justifiable and “an opportunity for Jacksonville to start shining with the best location in Jacksonville’s downtown.”

“It’s long past overdue, and the problematic aspect of this, Mr. Dennis, is you,” Hazouri said.

Dennis later shot back, “It’s not politics. It’s looking out for taxpayers.”

The 6-1 approval by the neighborhoods committee sends the action next to the finance committee on Wednesday and then the full City Council next week.

A longer version of this story is available on Jacksonville.com.