City Illustrates Vision of Park Space In Place Of Jacksonville Landing

Jun 14, 2018

If the city gets full control of the Jacksonville Landing, Mayor Lenny Curry plans to demolish the aging riverfront mall to make room for a sprawling urban park.

That’s the idea behind new design renderings obtained this week from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, according to our Jacksonville Daily Record news partner.

The conceptual art for the almost 6-acre site depicts an expansive mix of greenspace and pedestrian paths where the Landing stands.

It comes two weeks after the Office of General Counsel sent Jacksonville Landing Investments Inc. an eviction letter for allegedly breaching terms of the company’s lease agreement with the city.

JLI, part of Sleiman Enterprises Inc., owns the three buildings comprising the Landing. The city owns the ground underneath and leases that to Sleiman’s company.

JLI assumed the lease from Rouse-Jacksonville Inc. in 2003 and extended it to 2041.

Brian Hughes, Curry’s chief of staff, said Wednesday the rendering came after “a series of conceptual discussions with Mayor Curry” and the executive leadership team.  

“The design concept you have is the result of those discussions and was created by a city staff member,” Hughes said. He did not identify that staff member.

The renderings obtained Tuesday show pedestrian walkways through formal gardens, water features and vegetation, along with expanses of greenspace.

“Mayor Curry’s idea would utilize centrally located property that is on the river and in the heart of Downtown as a riverfront plaza,” said Hughes, who called the idea “a front lawn for the core of Downtown.”

The docks along the St. Johns River, which remain closed after sustaining damage from hurricanes Irma in 2017 and Matthew in 2016, also would be repaired — another sore spot for Sleiman’s company.

Flanked on either side by the Main Street Bridge and the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, the park would be along the existing Northbank Riverwalk.

The renderings show an entrance ramp for traffic coming from Independent Drive East onto the Main Street Bridge would be removed. A pedestrian and bike path would connect to the bridge from the park.

Away from the river, the design shows symmetrical buildings closer to the streets on either side of the park.

Hughes said the city would “invite economic development that utilizes proximity to natural, public space,” and that the move beyond concept would require collaboration between public and private partners.

“This drawing is really a launchpad for a discussion in our community,” he said.

Sleiman’s Response

Sleiman Enterprises spokeswoman Katie Boyles issued a statement Wednesday in reaction to the drawing, saying that the company has invested more than $1.5 million into redevelopment efforts.

She said the city of Jacksonville also spent millions in resources on new plans and studies.

“In 2015, the city spent $100,000 on its own public design plans and we loved it,” said Boyles.

“We wish they would pick one so we can get to work.”

Boyles said the company has been ready to redevelop the Landing since 2003.

A Familiar Look

For those who remember Downtown before 1987, when the Landing was completed, the new rendering is similar to an old concept. A look at that aspect is in a longer version of this story on the Jacksonville Daily Record.