JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hours after the owner of the Jacksonville Landing released a letter that warned the retail landmark was at a crossroads for redevelopment, the mayor’s office responded with a blistering statement identifying Sleiman Enterprises as an obstacle and claimed the Landing suffered from mismanagement.
The Jacksonville Landing has been a landmark in Jacksonville since opening in 1987 and has tried to take part in the conversation concerning the Northbank’s redevelopment.
During the spring of 2015, First Coast News reported about the most recent plan by a Georgia-based company to attract more people to The Landing. The plan included apartments to aide in foot traffic at the riverfront property but so far no visible changes have resulted from workshops with the firm.
A complication with any type of redevelopment is that city would need to agree on the terms, since Sleiman Enterprises owns the buildings at the Landing andthe city owns the land the buildings sit on.
Sleiman Enterprises has argued that a full redevelopment of the Landing is crucial for the retail center’s success but says none of the previous plans regarding revitalization have taken place because of lip service by city leaders.
First Coast News reached out to the mayor’s office statement and received the following response: “Since taking office, Mayor Lenny Curry has continued to demonstrate his commitment to the development and improvement of downtown Jacksonville. As a notable and recognized landmark, the Landing should be flourishing and contributing to the area’s economic growth and success. The mayor and his administration have met with Mr. Sleiman on several occasions to discuss opportunities and options for improvement. Sleiman Enterprises has demonstrated no interest in our offer and solution. Sleiman Enterprises is the obstacle. It is clear that the Landing is being mismanaged. The Mayor will not ask taxpayers to bail out a mismanaged development. Because there is pending litigation, there is no additional information to provide at this time.” - Marsha Oliver, Director, Public AffairsFull letter by Sleiman Enterprises:
Nearly 15 years ago when Sleiman Enterprises bought the Jacksonville Landing, there was all kinds of excitement. While we’re still excited about Jacksonville’s iconic venue’s potential, our hands are tied by politics and external forces that don’t want progress.
We are now at a critical point in the Landing’s life cycle. We must either undertake a complete redevelopment of the property or enter into new long-term leases of the current facilities to maintain the Landing’s economic viability. The two options are incompatible with one another.
We agree with most civic leaders that a complete redevelopment of the Jacksonville Landing is best for our city and for the Landing. However, without the support of the city of Jacksonville, no redevelopment can take place. Since the city owns the land and we lease the building, we must collaborate.
For 15 years, we’ve worked with the city to try to make the Jacksonville Landing great. While downtown is always an administrative priority, the Landing seems to get more lip service than actual support.That lack of political support is the reason that the original developer, Rouse, sold us the Landing for pennies on the dollar.
Our company, Sleiman Enterprises, has invested more than $1.5 million in past redevelopment efforts. We even supported the city's most recent 2015 redevelopment plans.
In our company’s 60 years of history, we’ve made significant contributions to our local retail industry and economic development. We want to do the same thing at the Landing.
If the public agrees that a full redevelopment of the Jacksonville Landing is best for the city, we ask that people communicate that to their city council representatives. If the city does not get behind redevelopment right away, the opportunity will be lost for another 10–15 years because signing new long-term leases will prevent redevelopment.Sincerely,
Toney, Eli and Joe Sleiman, Partners
Sleiman Enterprises, Jacksonville