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- 2012 - October - 5th -

Sleiman pushes for Downtown convention center

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

Downtown’s re-emergence and how to properly revitalize the area has gained traction since Mayor Alvin Brown took office, but Landing owner Toney Sleiman says one project should be at the forefront.

“Building a convention center is the most important thing we can do for Downtown right now,” Sleiman told a group of about 170 attendees of the GrayRobinson Community Leader Forum on Thursday.

Sleiman, CEO and president of Sleiman Enterprises, was the keynote speaker for the quarterly event for the firm’s clients, friends, public officials and others.

Most of his attention was focused on Downtown and, in particular, a convention center built in the location of the old county courthouse.

He said that such a facility would attract more groups and conventions, and attract people “that come, spend money and then leave.”

“We need more tourism in Jacksonville,” he said.

He said the city missed out on 61 conventions last year, many which went elsewhere because of the lack of facility. He provided as an example a cheerleading convention that at one time was in Jacksonville but moved their event to Daytona and now has two meetings a year.

Sleiman also briefly discussed several retail projects and tenants moving to his company’s shopping centers, but largely did not provide company names. Among the larger, he said a company was close to moving in to a 70,000-square-foot space in the Oakleaf area in the next 90 days.

During the discussion an question-and-answer session, he also praised the “mom and pop” business mentality and expressed his anti-tax sentiment while also stating his support for a continued moratorium on the mobility fees — charges paid prior to approval of final construction and/or engineering plans.

City Council passed a one-year waiver of the fees last year, with the intention to spur development and jobs. There have been discussions to again extend the waiver through legislation.

Sleiman said he has pushed forward on several deals in an attempt to beat the potential ending of the moratorium.

dchapman@baileypub.com

356-2466

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