JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Now that it seems that the Jacksonville Landing will be gone by next year, there are many questions about what will replace the downtown landmark.
On Tuesday night, the City Council sealed the deal and approved a plan that ends a lawsuit with the owner and also funds the demolition of the site.
On national TV, aerial video usually shows the Landing's iconic orange roof that highlights the Northbank of the St. Johns River. But what that footage doesn't show is the inside -- empty shops and very few people.
Many have started to get used to the idea that the Landing, which has been on the decline since it first opened 32 years ago, will be gone. But will it?
Jacksonville resident Cionna Allen is hanging onto the hope that the city will take a second look and maybe develop the site again instead of tearing it down, despite the City Council approving the $18 million deal that includes $1.5 million for the demolition of the Landing.
"It's a landmark for Jacksonville," she said Wednesday.
Others visiting the Landing that day said the same thing: The Landing is the city’s trademark. It’s been part of festivals, celebrations and most major events that take place downtown.
Two women from New York visited the Landing Wednesday after hearing that it's likely going to be torn down. They had been there before and know the history.
"It’s a beautiful place. And to us, it’s what Jacksonville is," said Cheri Mercer, one of the women visiting from New York. "It’s the excitement. It’s the place to go."
But Brian Hughes, who is with the mayor's office and heads the Downtown Investment Authority, said it's time to get rid of the idea of hanging onto the old.
"This nostalgia to leave buildings unoccupied, sitting as eyesores on our skyline does not make a lot of sense when you’re out in the world trying to recruit top-notch developers and investors to come into downtown," Hughes said.
As for demolishing the Landing, that is where the city is headed right now. It will cover the site with grass temporarily and then, hopefully, rebuild.
"We’re going to be looking at the mixed-use urban core model, which is office and residential and mixes thereof with one or two levels of retail," Hughes said.
But he added if the right offer comes along to reuse the building, city officials won’t turn their heads.