Jacksonville Landing's food court closes

After closure, Landing owner announces it's withholding lease payments to city

By Colette DuChanois - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The food court at the downtown Jacksonville Landing has closed.

In a statement issued Friday, Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC Chief Operating Officer Michael McNaughton said the riverfront mall's food court officially closed in October due to "lack of support and sales from area workers and residents."

McNaughton said they are working to find a new use for the second-story area of the Landing.

JLI is a subsidiary of Sleiman Enterprises Inc. The city owns the land on the Northbank of the St. Johns River, but has leased the property to Sleiman for more than 15 years.

The food court closure comes after the mass shooting that unfolded Aug. 26 during a gaming event hosted by a business inside the Landing and amid the legal back and forth between the city and the Landing. In May, the Landing’s owner, Toney Sleiman, sued the city over its failure to repair the nearby docks. Then a month later, the city dropped the Landing’s lease and countersued.

In the statement emailed last week, McNaughton said that the city "has willfully and brazenly ignored their obligations to maintain the property as agreed," citing the damaged docks along the Northbank riverwalk and property landscape. McNaughton said that has contributed to the Landing struggling "to compete in for commercial viability and market relevance."

McNaughton announced in the statement that JLI will be withholding rent payments to the city to make up for lost revenue, as first reported by News4Jax news partner the Jacksonville Daily Record.

"Effective immediately, The Landing has elected to exercise appropriate 'self-help' provisions and will take on these items of disrepair and offset the costs through withheld rent," he said in the statement. 

The statement goes on to say, "With nearly 40 years remaining on the lease for the property, we remain hopeful and continue to invite the city to enter into a productive and mutually beneficial discussion to work together on improving downtown and restoring The Jacksonville Landing as the catalyst for public activation, congregation and unification as it was intended decades ago."

The Landing opened to great fanfare 32 years ago as downtown's showcase riverfront mall. It had national chain stores and several well-known restaurants.  

When Sleiman took over in 2003, he had an entirely new vision for the property. Four years ago, he proposed spending  $250 million to rebuild the site with retail, residential and a long overdue parking garage. 

"We are going to bring in new Fortune 500 companies that will want to come to Jacksonville. We’re going to bring hotels downtown, national restaurants," Sleiman said at the time.

That all fell apart. The city and Sleiman blame each other. Sleiman claims that the city has not kept up with maintenance, security and parking. The city argues that Sleiman has not brought in quality tenants. 

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