JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council voted 15-1 on Tuesday night to approve an $18 million deal that sets the stage for the city to demolish the Landing.
As part of the Landing deal, the city will pay $15 million to the company that has leased the property for the last 15 years -- Jacksonville Landing Investments, which is owned by Toney Sleiman. The settlement breaks his company's lease with the city and settles an ongoing legal fight.
The deal also includes $1.5 million for the demolition of the riverfront mall and another $1.5 million to buy out long-term leases from stores and restaurants.
There was some discussion among council members prior to the final vote. Demolition of the downtown landmark was the biggest sticking point. But many council members called the site a failed venture after early success in the late 1980s.
"That isn't where we are today. And it's not going to regain that stature by us wishing that it would," Councilwoman Lori Boyer said. "So it's time to move on to take the next step and replace it with, you know, Jacksonville's future as opposed to wishful thinking about Jacksonville's past."
While the price of the settlement had been questioned before the vote, both the mayor’s chief of staff and the City Council President Aaron Bowman say the settlement is fair and forges a path of progress for downtown.
"I think some people view it as a historic monument. Some people think it's crazy to knock down a building," Bowman said. "I can tell you that that building, it would be impossible to repurpose it."
Brian Hughes, Mayor Lenny Curry's chief of staff and head of the Downtown Investment Authority, estimates the Landing could be gone in four to six months.
"There's better days ahead. What was a brand new shopping mall in the '80s has declined in a serious way," Hughes said. "Although its unique shape and orange roof often make it something that gets photographed, it doesn't change the fact that it's been the site of a mass shooting. It's had real struggles."
There's no word yet about what will be put in the Landing's place, though the plan is for grass to be planted and, eventually, the site could be developed. In the coming months, proposals will be requested for demolition.