JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the announcement this week of a settlement that includes legislation that would fund the demolition of the Jacksonville Landing, some are taking to Change.org to encourage the City Council to hit the pause button on demo day.
An online petition, which had more than 200 signatures by Sunday evening, asks the City Council to take a longer look at what's next for the iconic riverfront mall and not be in such a hurry to tear it down.
Vote on our USay Poll: Should the city tear down the Landing?
The city of Jacksonville owns the land on the Northbank of the St. Johns River, but it has leased the property to Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC, a subsidiary of Sleiman Enterprises Inc., for the last 15 years.
That lease was supposed to last through 2054, but a public feud between Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville Landing owner Toney Sleiman appeared to end in a truce this week with the announcement of a settlement that would squash any existing disputes between the city and Sleiman, pay off Sleiman and set aside funding for the demolition of the Landing, paving the way for redevelopment.
Several ideas have been tossed around for the future of the downtown landmark, from a new mixed-use complex to a public park.
"It’s past its prime. I think we need to think about something else. What that is is up for debate," City Councilman Jim Love said.
City Council President Aaron Bowman told News4Jax that legislation filed as part of the settlement calls for $18 million regarding the Landing. According to Bowman, under the bill, $15 million would be used to settle litigation with JLI and Sleiman, which means lawsuits over the Landing will be dropped and the city of Jacksonville will get the property.
Bowman said $1.5 million would be used for subleased tenants to terminate their leases. He said he believes many tenants have already been notified and the city will help them get out of the leases, which will take several months. He said the remaining $1.5 million would be used for demolition, meaning the city has no intention of keeping the Landing as it currently is.
"This is what the mayor and JLI have come up with -- reasonable terms that they've agreed upon," Bowman said. "If approved by the council, it'll be executed and it'll be over. If the council doesn't like it or disapproves it, then it's going to go back to the drawing board.”
The online petition asks City Council members to deny the demolition of the riverfront mall “until a clear, suitable vision is achieved, and to be transparent in the measures taken to do so.”
City Councilman Matt Schellenberg seemed open to the suggestion.
"I don’t want to demolish anything until we have a plan," he told News4Jax on Sunday. "I wouldn’t necessarily knock down the Landing. I think buying the Landing back is probably a great idea, but I wouldn’t knock it down until you actually have an idea of what you’re going to do with it."
Bowman said the bill will be introduced Tuesday and then there's a six-week cycle before it would come up for a vote.
The petition takes issue with the recent demolition of downtown properties with what its author called "no clear vision of future development.”
The city recently imploded the old 15-story City Hall and demolished the old courthouse building downtown, but plans aren't currently in place for what to do with those properties.