Jacksonville Landing owner proposes to demolish riverfront mall and build “world-class” development.
If the financial stakes were already high for rejuvenating downtown Jacksonville’s core, they got even higher when the owner of The Jacksonville Landing unveiled a plan to tear down the mall and build a bigger development.
Twenty-six years after The Jacksonville Landing opened, Mayor Alvin Brown and the mall’s owner said the time has come to tear it down and build a “world-class” development in its place.
Sleiman Enterprises, the owner of the mall on downtown’s riverfront, unveiled its brand-new vision in a presentation to the Downtown Investment Authority board. Word of proposed changes to The Jacksonville Landing has created a buzz in social media.
Sleiman’s concept envisions a mixed-used development featuring a hotel, residential high-rise, parking garage, offices, restaurants, shops and an expanded riverfront promenade featuring eye-catching public art.
The renderings sparked a round of applause from audience members. But the concept is a long way from bringing bulldozers and construction cranes to the site. There was no talk of the redevelopment’s cost or what financial role the city could afford to play in such an undertaking.
Sleiman Enterprises still must line up partners such as a hotelier and other tenants. Until those details are worked through, it’s premature to estimate the cost, said company CEO Toney Sleiman.
“It’s got to be a public-private partnership,” Sleiman told reporters after the presentation. “We’ve got a mayor who wants this to work. We’ve got a developer who wants to make it work. We’ve got a city that wants to make it work.”
Brown said his administration will “focus like a laser” to bring the plan to fruition.
“It will happen,” Brown emphatically told reporters.
The copper-roofed Landing has been one of Jacksonville’s most widely televised images, captured countless times during broadcasts of NFL and collegiate football games. The two-story mall is home to a mix of restaurants and shops.
The Rouse Co., which built a similar festival marketplace at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, sold The Jacksonville Landing to Sleiman a decade ago. The city owns the land under the buildings.
Sleiman said he had been optimistic about the Landing’s prospect when he bought it. But he said the layout of the buildings makes it hard to succeed. At a December public meeting about the future of the landing, Sleiman put forward a plan that would have demolished some of the mall to open up the property between downtown and the riverfront.
After hearing comments at the public meeting, Sleiman went back to the drawing board with a new plan based on completely razing the Landing.
One of the major ideas incorporated into the new design involves demolishing an elevated entrance ramp that connects Water Street to the Main Street bridge. Taking down that ramp would open up more space for the proposed new buildings.
Downtown Investment Authority board members praised Sleiman’s overall plan.
“I think this is a dramatic improvement from the original design,” said Chairman Oliver Barakat.
Vice Chairman Jim Bailey called it “absolutely beautiful.
“We have a chance to do it right, and we need to do it right,” Bailey said.
Jacksonville architect Chris Flagg, who was among the audience members, told the board that if the city sets high standards for the redevelopment, it’s a chance to “to put world-class and Jacksonville together in the same sentence.”
Source: The Florida Times-Union