The Office of General Counsel has informed the operators of the Jacksonville Landing that
the city is terminating the lease agreement tied to the riverfront mall.
Attorneys for the city issued a letter Friday stating that Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC, a subsidiary of Sleiman Enterprises Inc., had defaulted on the lease agreement for failing to act to cure a breach of contract.
In October, the city threatened to terminate the lease and remove JLI from the property within 30 days, citing five reasons why the company breached terms of the agreement.
Sleiman Enterprises is led by President Toney Sleiman.
Through JLI in 2003, Sleiman purchased the 32-year old mall from the city for $5.1 million. The sale was part of a lease agreement between JLI and the city for the land beneath the mall, which runs through 2056.
According to the letter signed Friday by Assistant General Counsel Christopher M. Garrett, the city demands that JLI provide it with “immediate access to, and possession of, the Leased Property and all building improvements and other fixtures thereon.”
“Additionally, the city request that JLI provide copies of all sub-leases currently in effect for the Property,” Garrett wrote.
Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes issued a statement Saturday on the litigation.
“If necessary we are prepared to demonstrate, in any venue necessary, that JLI has been out of compliance with their legal obligations. Mayor Curry is committed to ensuring the value of taxpayer assets is protected and that the property is put to its best use for the people of Jacksonville," Hughes said.
On Saturday, Sleiman Enterprises issued a statement calling the city's action a "non-event" and that the "city is the cause for the unfortunate state of The Jacksonville Landing." (The full statement is in the sidebar at right)
City Chief Administrator Officer Sam Mousa and Curry also were subpoenaed by JLI to provide depositions in the Landing lawsuit. Both are to appear in August.
This is the latest development concerning a legal battle which began Oct. 17 when the Office of General Counsel informed JLI it had breached terms of the agreement for failing to operate and maintain the Jacksonville Landing as a “high-quality, first-class retail facility.”
The city cited five reasons for the breach, with claims that include JLI not using all reasonable efforts to lease storefronts with high-quality merchants “consistent with the site and location.”
JLI sued the city Nov. 16 claiming the city was the party in breach of contract, and not JLI. The case resides with Judge Virginia Norton in the 4th Judicial Circuit.
On Dec. 15, the city filed a motion to dismiss the suit, stating JLI’s complaint “is little more than a laundry list of stale grievances, false and incomplete assertions and gratuitous and self-serving statements.”
In May, the Landing’s operators claimed the city was guilty of another breach of contract concerning the damaged state of riverfront bulkheads and docks outside the mall.
Attorneys Rutledge Liles, Michael Lee and Ryan Mittauer with Jacksonville-based Liles Gavin P.A. filed the motion on behalf of JLI asking the circuit court to force the city to repair docks along the St. Johns River damaged by hurricanes Mathew and Irma.
JLI’s attorneys claim the city has “made no effort to repair the docks” in the months since the storms.
The property also is caught up in a separate 2015 lawsuit between the parties over unpaid property taxes and the purchase of an adjacent parking lot.