Sleiman Enterprises, which operates the languishing Jacksonville Landing, a riverfront mall on the Northbank of the St. Johns River, is suing the city, “claiming multiple contractual breaches by the city that make it impossible” for the Landing to operate at its full potential.
The suit represents just the latest skirmish in a long-simmering feud over the operation of Jacksonville’s once iconic shopping center, which is run by developer Tony Sleiman.
Deteriorating exteriors, defunct shops and an ever-shrinking customer base have been a thorn in the side of a mayor who’s made downtown development one of his top priorities.
Mayor Lenny Curry last month told the Florida Times-Union he was sending notice to Sleiman Enterprises that if the retail real estate mogul couldn’t turn around the property in the next month, the city would be terminating its lease for a breach of contract.
“Regrettably, the city’s demand letter has forced Sleiman Enterprises to institute formal litigation around The Jacksonville Landing so there will be a fair hearing of its grievances,” said Sleiman Enterprises’ spokesperson Mitchell Legler in a Thursday news release. “We must stand up to the unfair tactics used by the city’s political leaders. We would have a successful property if the city would act in good faith and cooperate instead of it being all talk and no action for the past 14 years.”
Sleiman Enterprises argues the exterior areas of the Landing are the city’s responsibility and charges that it’s actually City Hall that’s not held up its end of the bargain over the last 14 years.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges the city has blocked all of Sleiman’s attempts to redevelop the property and bring it up to snuff, that the city has ignored its obligation to provide short term parking, has failed to provide adequate security and that city leaders violated the contract during a three month project to create the Laura Street roundabout.
“We’re being candid and transparent with the citizens of Jacksonville through this process since the Landing is an icon of our city,” Legler said. “It’s time that the city of Jacksonville is held responsible for its contractual obligations to the Jacksonville Landing.”
Accompanying the lawsuit, Sleiman Enterprises has also launched a new website compiling what they call “Landing Facts.”
A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office told WJCT that it did “not have any information to provide regarding pending litigation.”
This story will be updated.
Ryan Benk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.