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Urban Connectivity: The Jacksonville Landing

The Jacksonville Landing opened its doors to the world with much fanfare in 1987. Over the following 20 years the 125,000sf complex would see several national tenants, like the Banana Republic and The Sharper Image flee to greener pastures, partially due to the city?s negligence in providing the required parking it promised two decades earlier.Things changed for the better once Toney Sleiman took over in 2003, and its future appears to be a bright one, with the parking issue finally being resolved. Nevertheless, when it comes to the subject of urban connectivity, there are a few things Sleiman can do? even if the city never sells the land underneath the complex.

Published March 22, 2007 in Urban Issues      19 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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After years of neglect, Toney Sleiman has been very successful in bringing crowds back to the complex by hosting special events on a regular basis.

 

Riverfront restaurants, such as Hooters, continue to see large crowds on a daily basis at the complex.  Sleiman's success is easily visible by looking at the new tenants in the center, such as Demola's, Club Paris, Deep Blue, Twisted Martini and soon... Fuddruckers.

 

 

The Problem

Sleiman's original plans involved expanding the retail complex, moving the food court to face Independent Drive and opening the central courtyard to visually connect the river and it's activities with Laura Street.  Unfortunately, this plan has been put on ice, due to shaky negotiations with the city, which include the city refusing to sell Sleiman the land beneath the existing building. 

Since the building's design embraces the river and turns it's back to the downtown core, all the new activity being generated by the complex remains walled off from the rest of the core, which becomes a major negative for both the Landing and the Northbank. 

 

If downtown were the Avenues Mall, imagine Laura Street being the central arcade and the Landing being Dillards.  However, in this case the central arcade entrance serves more as a back door to Dillards instead of the grand entry it should be.



Although the Times Union Center, One Independent Square (MODIS), and Riverwatch all sit across the street, little to no vibrant activity fronts Independent Square.  A little focus in this area could make the struggling retail spaces in the background prime locations. 

 

The Solution

The solution is a simple one.  If the original expansion plan is dead, then lets work with what we have and find ways to embrace Independent Drive.  Embracing Independent could be a winner both for downtown and the Landing financially.  For downtown, a portion of the Landing's energy makes its way into the core, potentially spreading to connect with what's going on in the Hemming Plaza area.  For the Landing itself, now those struggling interior mall shops have direct access and visibility to Independent Drive and other planned complementing developments in the area, making them highly viable locations for additional retail and dining use.



Before Rouse sold to Sleiman, the company flirted with an idea that included putting in storefront entrys for the spaces on the west wing, patio seating, and a new courtyard facing Independent Drive.  The Starbucks Coffee shop was the first phase of that plan.  Maybe it's time to dust it off and take advantage of the open space and visibility the center has at the corner of Independent Drive and Hogan Street.

 

In this photo, vacant storefronts line the entrance facing Laura.  While it would have been ideal to see this area eliminated to create a new open air entrance to the courtyard, it still can be easily configured to become a restaurant or cafe with outdoor seating,  facing Laura Street. 



The theme to embracing Laura is somewhat captured here with Starbucks and Demola's both opening up to the Northbank.  Now, take this concept and spread it throughout the center and a new open air hub of activity that could be just as popular as the central courtyard would now face downtown and enhance the viability of the retail spaces currently only facing the interior arcade.

This strategy would also help increase the center's attractiveness in pulling in national dining chains that have no local presence in the region, which was one of Toney Sleiman's original goals.  Over the past year that list has continued to grow and will continue to do so as more people discover our community.

 

Here's a sample list of chains considering new locations in the Jacksonville area.  Why not downtown and the Landing, instead of the next strip center popping up in the suburbs.

Chipotle Mexican Grill
http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/022207/bus_8109217.shtml

Houlihan's Restaurant & Bar
http://jacksonville.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2006/01/30/story6.html

Times Grill
http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2007/03/19/story3.html

Urban Flats Flatbread Company
http://orlando.bizjournals.com/orlando/stories/2006/09/04/story5.html

 

A Rouse Marketplace Example: Station Square - Pittsburgh, PA 

To solve issues with one former Rouse marketplace, it's only fitting to take a look at another.


While Station Square's central courtyard faces the river, similar to the Landing, the complex is also designed in a fashion where storefronts open up into the street.  Being able to see vibrant activity coming from storefronts and their illuminated signage, help create the image that this is a place worth checking out, as well as adding additional light into the street.



In this photo, the complex addresses the street with a restaurant that includes a large outdoor patio (right).  In the background, there are office buildings and hotels in the area that include street retail as well, stimulating continuous pedestrian traffic around the entire center on a regular basis.



Theming is another important element of Station Square that the Landing should embrace.  The complex is full of interesting displays, structures and elements paying homage to the city's steel making history.  Centering the Landing around Jacksonville's past as a maritime and shipbuilding epicenter is something that would help efforts in turning the complex into a unique place that can't be duplicated in the suburbs.

For more info on Station Square: www.stationsquare.com








19 Comments

Jason

March 22, 2007, 02:05:22 PM
Excellent article.  The original plans for the Landing (if finished prior to the superbowl as planned) would have been a huge boost towards increasing the activity downtown and along the riverfront.

Chris Pizzolorusso

March 28, 2007, 03:57:03 PM
Although there tends to be many vendors that support a daytime and weekend nature downtown and at the Landing, have there been any talks about introducing basic ammenitits such as a 24 hour drugstore , convienience store, or 24 hour eatery?  With the many housing projects going in downtown on the north and southbank, I think the landing needs to rethink its identity.  Instead of being a destination from other areas, it will now be in the center of where many people live , work on a 24 hour basis, instead of a 9-5 living environment.

I would be interested to know what possiblities there are in the next decade for the landing.

Michael-Lee

March 28, 2007, 04:15:36 PM
There is so much that needs to be done to the Landing. They need a real drug store, not some little dump that sells overpriced Nyquil and gum. Walgreens? CVS? Also, why is there a Nine West outlet store? That whole side of the Landing is dark, damp and creepy. Lighten it up a little .And can we get Hooters to update their decor just a little?

wwanderlust

October 10, 2008, 10:24:46 AM
...or move?

Charles Hunter

October 10, 2008, 09:42:02 PM
So, wwanderlust, do you want to bounce Hooters out of the Landing?

Jason

October 13, 2008, 09:24:01 AM
No WAY!!  What's wrong with Hooters?!  IMO, the best location in the city for fireworks and cold beer.  :)   

Doctor_K

October 13, 2008, 09:38:04 AM
No WAY!!  What's wrong with Hooters?!  IMO, the best location in the city for fireworks and cold beer.  :)   
Yay fireworks and beer!

Plus it's one of the very few tenants that's been there (I think?) since the very beginning.  Practically everything else in that place lasts a few years at best then is gone. 

The only other tenant that comes readily to mind that's been there for a long time is that toy store east of the central plaza.

Hooters is a solid anchor for the Landing.  Needs to stay, IMO.

tufsu1

October 13, 2008, 10:49:21 AM
So, wwanderlust, do you want to bounce Hooters out of the Landing?

The Hooters at the Landing is the highest revenue-generating corporately-owned store in the chain....its not going anywhere!

copperfiend

October 13, 2008, 10:54:12 AM
So, wwanderlust, do you want to bounce Hooters out of the Landing?

The Hooters at the Landing is the highest revenue-generating corporately-owned store in the chain....its not going anywhere!

They are always busy so it does not surprise me.

thelakelander

October 13, 2008, 11:04:40 AM
Its amazing to see Hooters do so well, but the other ground level restaurant spaces on that end struggle to stay open.

copperfiend

October 13, 2008, 11:23:53 AM
Its amazing to see Hooters do so well, but the other ground level restaurant spaces on that end struggle to stay open.

That whole end of the Landing is dark and despressing. What is there now? A Nine West outlet?

thelakelander

October 13, 2008, 11:37:49 AM
That and Mongo's.  That's about it.

copperfiend

October 13, 2008, 11:42:35 AM
Considering the Omni and the T-U Center are right there, that end could be better utilized. But then again, you could say the same thing about the entire property.

Doctor_K

October 13, 2008, 12:56:33 PM
Considering the Omni and the T-U Center are right there, that end could be better utilized. But then again, you could say the same thing about the entire property.
True story.

The American Cafe's been there for a while too, if I'm not mistaken.  That makes three restaurants on the long-term. 

All this makes me wonder if this all doesn't go back to having its roots in the fact that the central plaza doesn't open up onto Water Street like we all wish it would. 

copperfiend

October 13, 2008, 01:11:30 PM
If it opened to Water Street, that would help. The whole thing really needs to be re-done. What would be wrong with having more bars and clubs? What about valet parking?

tufsu1

October 13, 2008, 01:12:44 PM
maybe...but I think the real problem here is that Sleiman has invested in festivals/concerts but not in the building's upkeep....it really needs a good scrubbing and paint job!

copperfiend

October 13, 2008, 01:21:48 PM
maybe...but I think the real problem here is that Sleiman has invested in festivals/concerts but not in the building's upkeep....it really needs a good scrubbing and paint job!

I've been to the Landing a few times during the free concerts. How many drunk idiots can you fit into one courtyard?

Shwaz

October 13, 2008, 01:47:05 PM
Vito's has been there for quite awhile too.



 

tufsu1

October 13, 2008, 02:30:42 PM
maybe...but I think the real problem here is that Sleiman has invested in festivals/concerts but not in the building's upkeep....it really needs a good scrubbing and paint job!

I've been to the Landing a few times during the free concerts. How many drunk idiots can you fit into one courtyard?

Saturday's Dennis DeYoung (and the music of Styx) concert was really good...and fortunately/unfortunately hardly anyone was buying alcohol.
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