City rejects $107K rent check from Jacksonville Landing operator

Tenant argues the lease isn't over yet, asks the city to 'come to the table'

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The ongoing dispute over the future of the Jacksonville Landing has taken another turn after the city spurned a six-figure rent check from the operators of the once-popular riverfront mall.

In a letter dated Jan. 22, the Office of General Counsel rejected a $107,000 check, described as an “annual rent payment," delivered by Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC to the city Jan. 11.

“As you know, the Lease Agreement between the parties for the Jacksonville Landing was terminated by the City on May 25, 2018,” the letter stated. “The City does not agree to waive termination of the Lease Agreement, or to begin accepting rent from JLI to create any new tenancy by JLI.”

The city owns the land on the Northbank of the St. Johns River, but it has leased the property to Jacksonville Landing Investments, a subsidiary of Sleiman Enterprises Inc., for the last 15 years.

Despite that longstanding relationship, the agreement hit a snag last May when the city informed its tenant it was terminating the lease, citing a breach of contract that wasn’t remedied within 30 days.

DOCUMENT: Read the city's letter to Jacksonville Landing Investments

But while the city views the lease as a thing of the past, Jacksonville Landing Investments believes it isn't over yet, according to a statement from Chief Operating Officer Michael McNaughton.

“The Landing paid the rent and disputes the city assessment that the lease is terminated,” he said. “The city is in violation of the lease and our rights have been infringed as have those of the citizens of Jacksonville for political purposes.”

The city’s letter is just the latest salvo in a simmering feud that has carried on for months and is currently tied up in civil court. 

In October 2017, the city threatened to tear up the lease and evict JLI from the property, saying the company failed to run the Landing as a “high-quality, first-class retail facility.” The next month, Sleiman sued the city, saying it failed to provide adequate parking, maintenance and security for the venue.

It remains to be seen what will become of the Landing, but McNaughton left the door open to the possibility that the two sides could salvage their agreement.

“Once again, we respectfully ask this administration to come to the table and engage in a dialogue on all that’s possible here.”

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