City moves to evict Landing owners

Attorneys ask judge to remove Sleiman Enterprises from the Downtown riverfront shopping center.

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  • | 7:40 a.m. June 1, 2018
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The city of Jacksonville has moved to evict the operators of the Jacksonville Landing one week after terminating the company’s lease.

City attorneys filed a counterclaim Thursday to a 2017 lawsuit from Jacksonville Landing Investments Inc., asking 4th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Virginia Norton to remove the company from the city-owned property and for a trial by jury.

The action is the latest in a legal fight which began Oct. 16 after the Office of General Counsel sent JLI a default letter accusing the company of violating terms of a 1985 lease agreement.

JLI, a subsidiary of Sleiman Enterprises Inc., owns the three buildings comprising the Downtown riverfront mall. The city owns the land.

In response to the default letter, JLI sued the city in November with its own claims of breach of contract.

The company filed a separate complaint in May over the condition of damaged bulkheads and docks outside of the mall along the St. Johns River caused by hurricanes Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017.

On May 25, the city notified JLI it was terminating the lease because the company allegedly “failed or refused to take any action to cure its breaches.”

The six-page motion signed by Assistant General Counsel Christopher Garrett on Thursday night echoed the city’s previous claims that JLI doesn’t operate and maintain the Landing as a “first-class retail facility” comparable to other urban retail facilities.

City attorneys also allege JLI hasn’t kept up with annual maintenance and improvements to the 31-year old mall or used “all reasonable efforts” to lease space to subtenants “who will provide a balanced mix of goods and services consistent with the standards” in the lease agreement.

Garrett wrote that the city is “entitled to immediate possession and control of the property” and that JLI remains in control “without the consent of the city.”

In 2003 JLI purchased the buildings for $5.3 million from Rouse-Jacksonville Inc. and extended a 56-year lease with the city in hopes of redeveloping the mall into a mixed-use project.

Those projects did not proceed, leading to lawsuits.

A separate suit filed by the city in 2015 centers on unpaid property taxes and the purchase of an adjacent parking lot.