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Ramona and Michael Cobb opened Accentuate, a specialty fashion accessory store, this month at the Jacksonville Landing.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 28, 201512:00 PM EST

Jacksonville Landing offering nontraditional leasing as future is being discussed

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

With the city and owners of the venue working with design firms on a new vision for the Jacksonville Landing, major changes might be on the horizon for Downtown venue.

Many involved agree that’s great, but what do you do in the meantime if you’re running a shopping center that has just about as many empty spaces as it does tenants?

“Nothing is stopping,” said Janice Lowe, Landing general manager.

But it takes a nontraditional retail leasing outlook.

Lowe said new tenants are not being required to sign the usual five-year contract with a five-year option. And the Landing is offering some of the most attractive lease rates Downtown or anywhere else in Jacksonville.

She declined to quote specific monthly rates, but said, “Our retail space is very affordable.”

Affordable rent combined with a short-term commitment brought three new tenants to the Landing this month: a clothing accessories store, an art gallery and a tech startup incubator.

All are aware they will likely have to relocate in a couple of years — or even sooner — but that’s OK.

The riverfront location in the center of the urban core and the Landing’s reputation as the foundation of modern-era Downtown retail made it the best choice for them.

Ramona Cobb and her husband, Michael, opened Accentuate, a fashion accessories boutique in the hallway near the Compass Bank.

She wanted to combine her background in marketing with her appreciation of fashion to help customers “elevate their style,” which is the store’s brand identity.

The 500-square-foot space is filled with jewelry, handbags, hats, scarves, sunglasses, neckties, bow ties and other accessories for men and women.

Michael Cobb said he and his wife understand the impending changes at the Landing, but they didn’t want to wait for the new concept before opening the business in the center.

Accentuate has a one-year lease with a one-year option. It’s the first phase of their three-phase plan.

“We have flexibility. When the time comes, we’ll move to another space Downtown and then we’ll come back,” said Ramona Cobb.

Matt Barker and two partners were moving into the former Body Shop space last week.

They opened CoLabJax, a business Barker describes as a “maker’s space.” It will provide resources for inventors and tech startups including fabrication machinery, 3D printing and mentoring.

Barker is president of Jenivox, a local engineering and manufacturing company. He and his partners wanted to offer some of the same services and equipment to people who are still in the early phases of their ventures.

Like the Cobbs, Barker and his partners wanted to get their business established even if it turns out there’s a move in their near future.

“The Landing is an awesome spot. There’s space available, so why not take advantage of it?” he said. “We’re not worried about changes.”

The Art Center Cooperative Inc. moved into a month-to-month space at the former location of the Sundrez card and gift shop.

The membership-based nonprofit for artists that offers studio and gallery space soon will mark its 10th anniversary.

It always has been a Downtown business. Since it was founded, the artists have exhibited along Adams Street, established working studios along Hogan Street and had a second gallery in Bank of America Tower.

When the two gallery spaces were leased to other tenants, they needed a larger gallery and the Landing was available.

Art Center President Annelies Dykgraaf said the group has become accustomed to packing up their canvases and paints and striking out for a new opportunity.

When the time comes for the Landing’s next iteration, the Art Center will take it in stride, she said.

“We expose a space to people and they see the potential and then we have to move,” said Dykgraaf. “When we were given the opportunity at the Landing, we took it, knowing there will be changes.”

The Art Center and CoLabJax are hosting a co-grand-opening at 4 p.m. Aug. 7.

Lowe said the Landing will continue to offer space for retail businesses and will continue to be a convenient dining and nightlife option for guests of Downtown’s business and convention hotels and the general public.

Activities ranging from concerts to charity events to car and motorcycle shows will maintain the center’s commitment that “there’s always something going on at the Landing” until the rebuild of the venue begins, she said.

“We’re already booking events through 2016,” said Lowe.

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