There are no shortage of ideas of what to do with The Jacksonville Landing, now that the city is buying the waterfront marketplace from longtime owner Toney Sleiman’s company.
Although demolition money has been allotted - and there are many who favor demolition - there are also plenty of voices that favor repurposing the current structure.
Thursday’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross featured a robust discussion with incoming At Large Group 4 Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Carlucci.
Callers and social media commenters also had plenty of suggestions about what to do with the property next.
Jason in San Marco called in to to say the space should be repurposed to take advantage of Jacksonville’s unique history. “For example, Jacksonville's own Southern rock museum, a LaVilla greats of jazz interactive space, a Jacksonville Navy town theater museum, maybe a tribute to the Great Fire.”
Lucy, who called in from the St. Johns Town Center area, would like to see a combination of restaurants and green space. “Have elevated restaurants above, and people could walk and stroll underneath the restaurants and provide shade during the hot summer day,” she said.
A community discussion has been gaining momentum since Carlucci announced he wanted a variety of ideas explored before any bulldozers are brought in.
He’s called for a charrette – an intense period of design or planning activity. “The Downtown [Investment] Authority would be the authority that would put something like this together,” Carlucci said. He said it doesn’t have to take a long time, adding, “It just gives people a chance to buy in.”
Patrice on the Westside suggested having a branch of Florida State College of Jacksonville move in. “I think that was the interesting mix between the business community and the businesses and the community because any education is going to feed into the business sector,” she said.
Carlucci said despite all its problems, “It’s still beloved. It’s like the centerpiece on the Thanksgiving table. That’s what I call it.”
The Jaxson has released a series of renderings put together by a group of Jacksonville architects that illustrate one vision of how the Landing might be repurposed. The proposed design shows the center portion of the Landing being removed to open up a view from Laura Street to the river.
That idea is not new. Sleiman unveiled a similar proposal soon after he bought the Landing in 2003 but he wasn't able to secure the incentives he was seeking to make it happen. This 2004 archived video freeze frame from WJCT News partner News4Jax shows a model of the Landing:
Sleiman's company paid $5 million to buy Landing in a deal that had the city retaining ownership of the land. Now, his company is getting $15 million to turn full control back over to the city. Another $1.5 million has been alloted by the city for demolition along with $1.5 million to relocate the remaining tenants.
At one point Sleiman planned to invest more than $44 million into the Landing, according to WJCT News partner News4Jax, but he couldn't secure a $21.5 million loan he was seeking from the city.
Some Social Media Comments To WJCT About the Landing:
Demolish. Move forward with a different plan.
— Just me (@dblanch100) April 25, 2019
— Rory Diamond (@RoryDiamond) April 25, 2019
Destroying this Jacksonville landmark will not take away the problems associated with this beautiful property.
— J. Quigley (@JQuigley17) April 25, 2019
Oh wow. I thought it was decided. - My question is, why isn't it working as it is in the first place? Like what would a new structure (if any) do that this one isn't doing?
BURN IT DOWN!
— Jack Twachtman (@jackdiablo) April 25, 2019