City agrees to take possession of Jacksonville Landing in $15 million agreement

City Council must approve plan that includes $1.5 million to demolish the buildings.

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  • | 3:22 p.m. February 20, 2019
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Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Wednesday that the city has come to a $15 million settlement agreement with Sleiman Enterprises Inc. that will give the city possession of the Jacksonville Landing. 

In a joint statement, Curry and Sleiman President Toney Sleiman announced they had come to an agreement “by which the Jacksonville Landing and the property at its location would see their best and highest use realized. Both parties agree that with the future of Jacksonville shining so bright, now is the time to forge this path forward.”

The deal includes the city paying Sleiman subsidiary Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC $15 million to buy out a 2003 lease agreement that is scheduled to run through 2056.

The city also agreed to pay $1.5 million for terminating tenant leases, relocation costs and other expenses. 

Legislation approving the agreement will be introduced to Jacksonville City Council. Legislation also will include $1.5 million to demolish the buildings so the city can proceed with future development.

“For years, Jacksonville Landing Investments and Sleiman Enterprises have contributed immeasurably to development and job creation in and around Jacksonville,” said Curry in the statement

“The Landing has been a fixture in the community much like the Sleiman organization, who stepped in at a time when the property’s future was in doubt upon the exit of the original developer. On behalf of the citizens of Jacksonville, I appreciate their willingness to work with me so that Jacksonville can consider an alternate path forward for the location of the Landing,” Curry said.

Sleiman added that Curry “is having success in Jacksonville and Downtown.”

“The JLI team and the entire Sleiman organization want to see that success continue and we are ready to see this process come to a mutually agreed conclusion,” he said.

Toney Sleiman bought the buildings of the 36-year-old mall for $5.7 million in 2003.
Toney Sleiman bought the buildings of the 36-year-old mall for $5.7 million in 2003.

Through Jacksonville Landing Investments Inc., Sleiman bought the three Landing buildings that comprise the 32-year-old mall for $5.7 million in 2003 from Rouse-Jacksonville Inc., the original developer.

The city owns the land at 2 Independent Drive W. and leases the property to JLI.

The sides have been engaged in two lawsuits since 2015 over the operation and maintenance of the mall and over who controls an adjacent parking lot.

In 2015 the city sued JLI for failing to close on a $4.7 million purchase and sale agreement for what is referred to as the East Parcel, a surface level parking lot next to the Landing.

As of Wednesday, a two-day nonjury trial in the 4th Judicial Circuit Court was still scheduled for July 29-30.

According to a copy of the settlement, “for avoidance of doubt, this Agreement does not address JLI’s claims for repayment of amounts paid by it to the City in contemplation of JLI’s possible acquisition of that property known as the East Parcel.”

The settlement mainly addresses concerns revolving around a 2017 lawsuit initiated by the JLI.

The ownership group sued the city for failing to maintain the surrounding property, including docks and bulkheads that were damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and again by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

That case also is active according to the 4th Circuit.

The city began eviction procedures in 2017, arguing that it was the Landing ownership that has failed to maintain the property as a “world class facility.”

The city sent JLI a letter in 2018 informing the group it had terminated the 2003 lease agreement and in January returned a $107,000 annual rent check from JLI.

While development ideas have been introduced by both the city and Sleiman over the past 15 years, nothing has materialized.

Last year the mayor’s office released a rendering of how the property could look if the Landing were to be demolished. It showed a large riverfront park and a pair of mixed-use towers toward the back of the property.

Meanwhile, the mall continues to lose restaurant and retail tenants with business owners citing the lack of foot traffic and concerns about safety.

A mass shooting took place during a video game tournament in August at the GLHF Game Bar inside the center. The alleged shooter injured a dozen people, killing two others before taking his own life.