Jacksonville Landing wars with city over lease deal

Jacksonville Landing owners fight back in court

By Scott Johnson - Reporter, Roxy Tyler - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A war of words is turning into a court battle between the owner of the Jacksonville Landing and the city of Jacksonville as subpoenas are issued for the mayor and his chief administrative officer.

Sleiman Enterprises, which owns the Jacksonville Landing, is responding to a letter Jacksonville's General Counsel sent Friday notifying Sleiman it was terminating its lease on the riverfront property, calling it a non-event.

Sleiman's written response Sunday called the termination letter by the city, "a desperate attempt to disrespect and circumvent the legal system where we’ve already filed in court to prove the city, not Sleiman Enterprises, is the defaulting party."

"We are disappointed in the continued bullying tactics by Mayor Curry and his administration that do not seek a mutually agreeable resolution for the benefit of Jacksonville’s taxpayers on this ongoing dispute. Sleiman Enterprises will add the letter to the matters to be resolved by the courts." 

Sleiman Enterprises' attorney said the city is the cause for the unfortunate state of The Jacksonville Landing. In its lease agreement, there are three primary items the city agreed to provide to make the Landing successful: security, access and maintenance.

"It has provided none of these. In addition, the city has not even answered our Oct. 2017 complaint that states that the city is in breach of contract. We’ll have our day in court and we're looking forward to the truth coming out," said Sleiman Enterprises. "It’s a shame that our downtown – and our city – will never reach its full potential due to it lack of real leadership. We need leadership that doesn’t depend on political power plays, bullying others and disingenuous actions."

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 city first threatened to terminate the lease last year because the mall was not being run as a “high-quality, first-class retail facility”.

The general counsel's etter sent to Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC, a subsidiary of Sleiman Enterprises Inc., said Sleiman defaulted on the lease agreement by failing to act to cure a breach of contract within 30 days of notification.

City Hall issued a statement Sunday regarding the legal action taken by the owners of the Jacksonville Landing: 

“If necessary, we are prepared to demonstrate, in any venue necessary, that JLI has been out of compliance with their legal obligations. Mayor Curry is committed to ensuring the value of taxpayer assets at the landing.”

The debate over the future of the Landing is causing confusion for workers who don’t know what the future will bring.

Kayla Burlinghoff showed up to work at the Landing on Sunday unsure of what will happen with the longtime landmark.

"It’s a little concerning, but honestly right now, yeah, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I hope the city ends up improving it. I hope more people come down here," said Burlinghoff.

Burlinghoff works in a restaurant at the Landing and said she saw the news Friday that the city of Jacksonville is terminating its lease with Jacksonville Landing Investments. 

Caught in the middle of the dispute between Sleiman and the city are customers at the Jacksonville Landing, who have their own thoughts about the Jacksonville Landing and what should be done.

"It’s always needed rehabbing and now it looks like it's under construction. So that might help, but some of those restaurants, they’re a little dingy and a little dirty," said Kat Clark.

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