The combination of Mayor Alvin Brown’s proposed 2014-15 city budget and the Downtown Investment Authority’s proposed strategic plan has given two urban core developers a new – and positive – outlook on Downtown’s future growth.
Sleiman Enterprises President Toney Sleiman and Mike Langton, president of Langton & Associates, were joined by Downtown Vision Inc. Executive Director Terry Lorince on Friday for a panel discussion hosted by the Downtown Council of the JAX Chamber.
The discussion was moderated by Jim Bailey, publisher of the Daily Record.
Bailey described Sleiman as a “big project, catalyst project developer” and Langton as specializing in smaller retail projects.
Sleiman said Brown including $11.8 million for improvements at the Landing could be the spark that will lead to the major renovation Sleiman has sought since he purchased the riverfront retail venue 10 years ago. He proposes to reconfigure the building, open up a corridor to the St. Johns River and develop new retail and residential elements on the site.
“If the Landing gets done, you’ll see Downtown boom,” said Sleiman. “The future looks good.”
Langton, who purchased the W.A. Knight Building along West Adams Street 14 years ago and converted it into 12 apartments, said the project has reached a turning point.
“It became profitable for the first time last month,” he said.
Langton said the DIA board approving $750,000 for grants to developers and small business owners to cover part of the cost of renovating retail space for occupancy is a step in the right direction.
Langton, who is renovating a 102-year old former office building along Forsyth Street into a ground floor restaurant space with offices above, said he’s going to apply for a grant and plans to purchase as many as four additional Downtown buildings.
“We need little pockets of development,” he said. “If I can do it, you can do it, and more of us need to be doing it.”
Lorince said Downtown Vision continues to focus on keeping Downtown clean. The agency is also working to change the perceptions that there is nothing to do Downtown, it’s unsafe and there is no place to park.
When asked about the next step for DVI, Lorince said the Downtown Vision Alliance, which she described as a “grassroots organization” similar to the Riverside and Springfield historic neighborhood organizations, will work to create stronger advocacy for Downtown and “find better ways to tell the story of Downtown.”