As Jacksonville Landing turns 30, owner pushes for overhaul
City reponds that the owner is part of the problem
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of the River City’s best-known landmarks -- the Jacksonville Landing -- opened 30 years ago. Its owner admits it needs an overhaul and is asking the city to allow him to redevelop it so it can attract more people downtown.
"It should be torn down and re-developed, but if I can't work it out, then the next process is to come in and remodel it. Which we are willing to do," owner Tony Sleiman said.
Sleiman and his family own the buildings, but the city owns the land. That makes changes more difficult.
"They have riverfront property. They should be able to turn that into some kind of success," resident Michael Dampier said.
Sleiman said he’ll pay for it, but he needs the city’s approval. Despite dozens of meetings and plans over the last few years, they’ve been at a standstill for years.
"I've had it ready for the last 15 years and we want to do something. I want to do something," Sleiman said. "I'm not going to blame any individual. It's the city."
The Landing hosts 600 events every year – 100 for charity, where Sleiman doesn’t charge anything. Still many vendors have left, citing slow business.
Other tenants, including Fionn MacCool's Irish Pub, remain loyal.
"We want to stay here. We want to be part of downtown," said Paul Glaser, general manager of the restaurant.
But Glaser said it can be tough to get people downtown, especially after two high-profile shootings within steps of the Landing over the last year.
"I mean, we've got one of most beautiful spots in the city. And if it we just liven it up -- if it was remodeled, torn down and rebuilt, whatever -- we put some money into this thing, it would be awesome down here," Glaser said.
"Let's focus on the Landing. Let's focus on the core. Let's redevelop or redesign it or whatever. Fill it up, make it work and then expand it out into the downtown," Sleiman said.
Mayor Lenny Curry's spokeswoman, Marsha Oliver, responded to News4Jax's request for comment from the city, saying Sleiman and his company are the reason improvements have not been made to the Landing.
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."
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