Feud playing out over Jacksonville Landing's future

City owns the land; Sleiman Enterprises owns the buidings

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The man who runs the Jacksonville Landing blames the city for why it has languished for years without any improvements or complaints about parking addressed. The city, that owns the property, said the landlord, Toney Sleiman, and his lawsuit over parking and taxes are the major reason the 30-year-old riverfront shopping and entertainment center has not seen any improvements or crowds.

Mayor Lenny Curry on Wednesday announced he wanted the city to take over the Landing and make it a vital part of downtown again.

"I’m prepared to take the Landing," Curry told the Florida Times-Union editorial board. "I’m prepared for the city to have it and to begin in a very public way determining what its best and highest use is."

At lunchtime Thursday, the few restaurants and food court options that remain were not crowded. Neither were the retail stores.

"At this point, you probably have to start from scratch," said Landing customer Terry Craver. "It's just declined so much over the years. There's not a whole lot left here. It's tough."

Both Curry and Sleiman were uncharacteristically quiet on Thursday about the future of the Landing.

Curry did post to his Twitter account:

1. The Jacksonville Landing is owned by the taxpayers of Jacksonville.  Sleiman Enterprises leases the Landing from the city.
2.  Taxpayers deserve better for their investment and their asset."

A spokesperson for Sleiman told News4Jax on Friday that Sleiman was not ready to speak on camera at this point. But Sleiman's attorney said his client hopes to sit down and talk with the mayor. He also said if the mayor wants to bring in another developer, Sleiman would not mind a co-developer. 

While the city does own the land, property records show Sleiman's company bought the structures for $5 million in 2003. According to the property appraiser's office, it was valued earlier this year at just under $3.7 million.

"I've had it ready for the last 15 years, and we want to do something. I want to do something," a clearly frustrated Sleiman said last week. "I'm not going to blame any individual. It's the city."

Sources told News4Jax that Curry has been in contact with unnamed investors who would be willing to move in and take over the Landing. But Sleiman has made it clear he is not interested in selling and wants to redevelop the site, something he and the city had planned under previous administrations, but the idea fell through. 

"It should be torn down and redeveloped, 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," Sleiman said.

Businesses still operating at the Landing said something has to happen, and they hoped both the mayor and Sleiman will just sit down, work out their differences and do what is best for Jacksonville.

About the Authors: