Final Jacksonville Landing tenants pack with uncertain future

Most remaining businesses have to be out of complex by Friday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The time is ticking for some of the Jacksonville Landing’s final tenants to move out.

While most are already gone, a few shops and restaurants remain open. It won’t be for long, however, as city leaders said they have to close by Friday.

It comes after the city bought out the lease from Sleiman Enterprises for $15 million. City leaders are debating the future of the iconic downtown complex, with options ranging from a renovation to a full teardown. The City Council's approval of the deal to break the lease also included $1.5 million to demolish the building and another $1.5 million to buy out the long-term leases from businesses operating at the Landing. Though that money will help some businesses move on and find new places downtown, not all tenants will see compensation.

On Tuesday, the News4Jax I-TEAM spoke with some of the remaining tenants and the city about what’s next.

“It’s really sad,” said Michelle Rhoades-Jones, owner of Hana and Her Sister Fine Jewelry.

She’s seen the rise and fall of the Landing after being in business for 32 years.

“When my parents opened this business, I was 11,” she said. “Now we are closing it and my son is 11.”

She and her husband don’t know what’s next. She said she hopes to relocate and open somewhere else downtown, where she’s established loyal clients.

“I’m just disappointed in the (city) administration for how they’re handling it,” Rhoades-Jones said.

She said communication has been scarce since the city took over from Sleiman Enterprises and she doesn’t know if she’ll get any money for relocating against her will. With nowhere to go, she’s liquidating much of the jewelry she has in stock to pay for the move and storage.

“We would go up to the food court and all the stuff spots,” said Alfonso Ellison, a long-time Landing customer who went through the riverfront mall one last time Tuesday.

Almost every shop was already closed. Some store owners hired companies to move their merchandise. Others were giving away what’s left. 

Near the entrance, Coastal Cookies has been a favorite for 33 years. Now, loyal employees were preparing to serve up their last batch of homemade sweets.

“I was just lamenting to my friend that it is crazy that they’re closing,” businesswoman Tiara Morrison said as she bought cookies for old time’s sake. “We’ve had so many memories here.”

Maverick’s, an entertainment venue on the second floor, was preparing for a closing concert Tuesday night.

The Hooters and Compass Bank in the Landing can stay for now, according to an agreement with the city. But their future days could be numbered, as well.

Employees at other business said they’ll be gone by the end of the week -- not sure what’s next and what, if any, payment they’ll receive from the city. 

Following a request for information from the I-TEAM, Nikki Kimbleton, director of communications for the city of Jacksonville, sent an email saying:

“Not everyone is getting relocation money. The bulk of the tenants had agreements with 30 day termination options in their lease. In some instances, rent has been waived by using budgeting money -- in some cases, the city bought out the leases. Also, there was an obligation legally to fulfill financial obligations of JLI because of tenant improvements that some of these larger businesses made to the spaces. So that would be another reason for what some are receiving. And many of those same spaces had much longer leases without the same terms for termination of the lease.

" In addition, many of these tenants are struggling to find space within the same area because what they were paying at The Landing is under market value.”

The mayor’s office provided a list of remaining tenants and a history of communications with them about the process.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.