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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jun. 25, 202005:10 AM EST

Toney Sleiman may make second run at The Jacksonville Landing site

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The developer owned the Downtown shopping center for 15 years before turning it over to the city in a settlement.

If and when the city issues a request for proposals for the Jacksonville Landing site Downtown, developer Toney Sleiman will take a hard look at it.

Sleiman owned the Landing for 15 years while the city owned the land beneath it. After years of contention and lawsuits, the city took control of the Landing in February 2019 after a $15 million settlement with Sleiman Enterprises Inc. 

Developer Toney Sleiman

The deal included the city paying Sleiman subsidiary Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC $15 million to buy out a 2003 lease agreement that was scheduled to run through 2056. The city also agreed to pay $1.5 million for terminating tenant leases and $1.5 million for demolition to prepare for future development.

“If it comes out, we probably will look at rebidding it, and we’ll see where that goes,” Sleiman told the Southside Business Men’s Club on June 17 and repeated in an interview afterward about a request for proposals.

“I would seriously look at it depending on what … the restrictions were and everything. And I have an idea for it. It depends on what they want there,” said the Jacksonville-based developer and owner of shopping centers.

Sleiman reminded the business group that he provided music and entertainment at the riverfront site.

“The part that I loved about owning the Landing was all the events we did. And we did them for free,” he said.

“Anybody that wanted to use the Landing, we always did it for free. And we never charged them. And I know the city’s missing that now.”

Sleiman said after the meeting that he understands a request for proposals “is in the works.”

“I’m going to look at it seriously and maybe bid on it. I haven’t 100% said that I am,” he said.

“It depends what they want there.”

The former Jacksonville Landing riverfront marketplace occupied the site at 2 Independent Drive for 32 years before it was closed and demolished. 

Site work began in August. The contractor removed the buildings and the site was sodded this spring.

Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer said June 19 the DIA would first focus on the public space on the 8-acre Northbank site and probably start with a request for qualifications.

She hopes to have that request in July to the city procurement division, which oversees the bidding and purchase process for all that the city buys, leases or rents.

“We want to focus on the public space and what will be a really iconic signature space for Downtown,” Boyer said.

The Jacksonville Landing stood at this site for 32 years before it was demolished.

DIA is working on defining where the marketable pads would be for the private development. 

“Ultimately we would really like to see a competitive design effort,” she said, although “I don’t see a full-blown design or architectural competition. A lot of work has been done.”

The 8 acres includes the Main Street Bridge ramp that will be removed. Boyer said the state Department of Transportation is working toward that.

The sodded site is fenced but has not been programmed.

 “The green space is an asset as it is right now,” Boyer said. “It does provide an opportunity for some pop-ups and special events.”

The private development would be mixed uses, such as hotel, multifamily and office, with the expectation that the ground-level space facing Laura Street and the public area would be “activated.”

That typically means retail, restaurants and bars. It could include museum or experiential space, she said.

Boyer said the public space would be developed more quickly than the private pads.

 “Even if you are moving as fast as you can, you will not see completed buildings in two years,” she said. “That does not mean they are not in process.”

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