Toney Sleiman believes that the purchase of this existing parking lot will enable to Landing to finally attract first rate anchor tenants to the struggling riverfront complex.
This issue has lingered on for 23 years to the detriment of downtown. If the city really wants a vibrant downtown, it's going to have to find a way to get better utilization out of its most visited destination.
It is, in fact, Sleimans effort to collect on a 23-year-old obligation that calls for the City of Jacksonville to provide parking for the Landing.
The obligation stems from a promise of 800 parking slots made to entice the Rouse Co. to build the Landing in the mid-'80s. The failure to keep that pledge has cost the city tens of millions of dollars in lease revenue over the years because of a clause that allowed the Landing to avoid paying the city rent on the land, which is owned by the city, as long as the parking issue was not resolved.
That magical number of 800 has been whittled down over the years, modified most recently in 2006 to pledge $3.5 million for a built parking garage that designated 300 daytime spaces and 375 nighttime spaces for the Landing.
The failures of the scores of tenants who have occupied the Landing over the years are not uniform, but one struggle they have all given voice to is the lack of parking.
2. Compact Downtown Revitalization
Looking from the Landing into the heart of the downtown core.
Pedestrian friendly revitalization revolves around connectivity and density to create synergy. With that said, the Landing's centralized location makes it a critical element in bringing downtown back to life. In the sake of walkability, synergy and vibrancy, the Landing plays a more critical role than many projects (ex. Metropolitan Park, Shipyards, Brooklyn Park, etc.) currently on the board or dreamed about in the past.
Downtown Vision says $1.1 billion of public and private investment in downtown over the past decade has been spread too broadly across a 2.72 square-mile area.
The report says the city will get the most bang for its buck by concentrating redevelopment in a 25-block area centered by Laura Street on the Northbank, and Friendship Fountain and the Southbank Riverwalk on the other side of the river.
"We simply do not have the resources to undertake the rehabilitation of our entire downtown," the report says.
Downtown Vision Executive Director Terry Lorince said other cities have succeeded with a block by block approach.
"We absolutely believe that it starts in the core and works out," she said in an interview. "Let's make what we have work better."
3. Laura Street Streetscape
An opportunity exists to better integrate the Laura Street project with the Landing.
A. Philip Randolph Boulevard should show that it takes more than a nice streetscape to attract pedestrians. More important than the sidewalks themselves is the ability for that streetscape to connect and integrate with pedestrian friendly anchors. The Landing currently turns its back to Laura Street and Independent Drive. With the removal of the Jackson statue and resolution of the parking situation, Jacksonville has the unique opportunity to fully integrate downtown's major waterfront anchor with a publicly funded infrastructure project to create desperately needed pedestrian friendly synergy in the heart of the Northbank.
This $2.7 million project will establish the Laura Street corridor as the cornerstone of future revitalization for Downtown Jacksonville by creating a more walkable environment for pedestrians and improving vehicular flow.
Pedestrian improvements will include new sidewalks, lighting, street landscaping, directional kiosks, historical plaques and cobblestone accents.
Traffic improvements include re-establishing Laura Street as a two-way corridor, and installing a roundabout in front of the Jacksonville Landing. New street markers will also be installed to help both motorists and pedestrians navigate downtown.
Construction will begin the week of Feb. 8. On Feb. 10, Mayor John Peyton and District 4 Council Member Don Redman will celebrate the start of the project with a groundbreaking ceremony.
4. A Facelift for the Landing
This area has the potential to become an urban space filled with outdoor cafes, restaurants and seating facing Independent Drive and downtown.
By finally taking care of the parking situation, we have the opportunity to create a stronger pedestrian oriented streetscape at ground level between the Landing and downtown. Isn't that the whole point of downtown revitalization?
Sleiman also wants to redo the grassy area of the Landing now occupied by a large statue of Andrew Jackson. The city will relocate the statue to a roundabout being built in front of the mall as part of a Laura Street makeover.
Sleiman said the move will open up space for outdoor cafes. He said he would renovate the Landing so it has storefront entrances, rather than the solid wall that now faces the area with the statue.
He doesn't have an estimate for what that work would cost and said it's all contingent on getting more parking.
"For this to be successful, I've got to get the parking," he said. "If we go like we're going now, it's not going to be good."
The dead Landing space above could look similar to this lively courtyard in New Orleans' City Park with the resolution of the parking issue.
5. Income producer
The Jacksonville Landing currently does not pay rent to the city for prime riverfront property.
Not only will resolving the parking situation improve walkability, vibrancy and the Landing's tenant mix, it will also be an income producer for the city.
For now, Sleiman will not pay rent, but that will change if the city fulfills a parking obligation.
The city has been in default of an agreement with the Landing's owner to provide 800 parking spaces to Landing patrons. As a result, Sleiman will forgo paying rent of about $100,000 a year. Sleiman will receive a $275 rent credit for each day between Sept. 1 to Feb. 28, 2004, that the parking issue is not resolved, according to terms of the city's agreement.
"When the city delivers on the parking, then Sleiman will have to pay the rent, so that has to be factored into the value," said Jack Garnett, owner of Garnett Commerical Real Estate. "But for now, Mr. Sleiman took on a $100,000 liability, and that is factor to take into consideration when you look at the price. It's a good deal, but he does not own the land."