The Jacksonville Landing: Parking Myths vs. Reality

May 11, 2010 48 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

"These mom and pops are in trouble, and until I can get what I need and what was promised, and what 23 years of promises have been, there is a problem," Sleiman said. The city said it doesn't believe there is a problem with parking.

1. True or False: The Future of the Landing lies with restaurants

Sleiman said the future of the Landing lies with restaurants and entertainment venues.

Answer: True

Restaurants have become the anchors in regional retail centers.

Restaurants — The New Anchor

“Polished casual” restaurants attract many upper-income shoppers and upscale retailers.

Irv Siegel

Shopping center developers are always looking for an advantage — a new retailer to bring in shoppers, a unique entertainment venue to attract visitors, and in the past few years, restaurants have been a main attraction. Whether developers are building new centers or re-tenanting old centers, they focus on the restaurant offerings.

Entertainment — including food — drives retail. You can't do a deal today without a department store asking about your food program. Retailers want to know that you're going to attract a very compatible part of the public to their operations.

Today's restaurants are so powerful that they anchor centers. When opening new centers today, developers sign anchors first, then restaurants, then specialty retailers. But it is getting to the point that fashion anchors are asking about the food program before they sign. Every segment of a development that offers entertainment — including theaters and specialty retailers — ask developers about the food program at a center.

Retailers don't go just where retailers are. While restaurants can stand alone, retailers can't. And the retailers know this. They understand the new equation for success: the better the restaurants, the better the clientele. And, of course, developers understand that better retail follows better clientele.

Norfolk's Waterside Festival Marketplace is the Jacksonville Landing's older Rouse sibling.  Like the Landing, it also struggled to keep first tier retail tenants.  Its fortune changed when a plan was implemented to fill the entire struggling retail center with restaurants, bars and clubs.  Today, it's a major waterfront destination and southern anchor for Tower Point Park.

2. True or False: There is no parking problem.  People need to learn how to walk more than a block.

Answer: False

The Landing's parking situation has nothing to do with an individual finding or not finding an adjacent parking space.  To attract national retailers, the Landing must be able to provide adequate parking to meet their site selection requirements.

When he contacts national chains, such as Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang's, he said, a conversation-ending question is whether he can dedicate 150 spaces for the restaurant's use.

He said he can't make that commitment now because the mall's existing lot has 240 spaces, so the Landing's other restaurants and stores would get squeezed on parking needs for their customers.

Restaurant chains often have location specifications spelled out for use by brokers and potential franchisees. This example shows the criteria that one casual-dining restaurant chain uses.

• Requires a metropolitan area with 50,000 population.

• Expects 20,000 cars per 24 hours on all streets of exposure; 24-hour traffic, at least four-lane highways.

• Must have residential back-up, plus motels, shopping centers, or office parks.

• Minimum frontage is 200 feet; approximately 45,000 square feet of land. If the restaurant is in a shopping center, a free-standing pad for a 5,000-square-foot building and adequate parking are necessary.

• Area must demonstrate growth and stability.

• Location must include easy access and visibility.

• All utilities must be available to the property, including sewer.

The world does not revolve around downtown Jacksonville.  If the we can't and continue to refuse to get our act together, retailers will continue to elect to invest in millions of other urban cores across the globe, such as Indianapolis (pictured above), before conforming to the Jacksonville way.

3. True or False: The JEDC's parking solution would solve the issue of "DEDICATED" parking for the Landing

Barton said in his letter the parking options would be within the range that's acceptable for suburban malls such as St. Johns Town Center and "very much the norm" for a downtown. He said it also would be a way to help the Landing by using city-owned parking facilities and "still being mindful of the current budget constraints."

He gave the City Council a three-pronged recommendation:

1. Immediately designate the county courthouse lot as free parking for patrons of The Jacksonville Landing and Bay Street area clubs after 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and all-day on weekends until 3 a.m. That lot has 379 spaces.

2. Starting May 1, the Landing's customers and employees can park for free anytime at 300 spaces in the city-owned Water Street Garage, located three blocks from the Landing. A validation program would let Landing customers park free for up to three hours at the garage.

3. The JEDC will propose an agreement with the Parador Group, the main owner of the SunTrust Tower, to build a parking garage with at least 250 spaces across Independent Drive from the Landing. The city would pay $2.2 million to Parador Group after the garage is built.

A validation program would provide free parking in the garage to Landing customers after 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and all-day on weekends until 3 a.m. At least 200 spaces would be accessible to the Landing during those hours.

Barton's letter said those three parking options would be on top of the 243-space lot that Sleiman previously purchased from the city east of the Landing.

Answer: False

Retailers need dedicated parking set aside 24 hours / 7 days a week. The JEDC's proposal provides dedicated parking on weekends, after 6pm on weekdays, and hopes that a third party will one day build an additional garage in the area.  

In addition, the isolated Water Street garage is neither easily accessible or visible enough to qualify as an adequate dedicated parking solution for attracting national retail anchors.

Restaurant chains often have location specifications spelled out for use by brokers and potential franchisees. This example shows the criteria that one casual-dining restaurant chain uses.

• Requires a metropolitan area with 50,000 population.

• Expects 20,000 cars per 24 hours on all streets of exposure; 24-hour traffic, at least four-lane highways.

• Must have residential back-up, plus motels, shopping centers, or office parks.

• Minimum frontage is 200 feet; approximately 45,000 square feet of land. If the restaurant is in a shopping center, a free-standing pad for a 5,000-square-foot building and adequate parking are necessary.

• Area must demonstrate growth and stability.

• Location must include easy access and visibility.

• All utilities must be available to the property, including sewer.

The JEDC's proposal includes waiving parking fees for the Landing in the courthouse parking lot after 6pm on weekdays.  Two problems:  1.) The courthouse parking lot is already free to anyone who chooses to park there after 6pm and on weekends. 2.) National chains require dedicated parking 24/7, not after 6pm only.

4. True or False: Can Metro Jacksonville show some examples of national chain parking requirements?

Regardless of how many may personally feel about Toney Sleiman, the Landing and the concept of dedicated parking, the issue is a significant one with retail site selection.  

Barnes & Noble Booksellers, ESPN Zone and Hard Rock Cafe are examples of chains that require adequate dedicated parking that could also benefit the Landing by serving as possible anchors.

Answer: True

Here are a few examples of parking requirements for retailers that are compatible with the Landing's goals of revitalization.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Spirits

Red Robin is a franchise located throughout the United States. It basically specializes in gourmet burgers, includes other entrees, salads and appetizers. It focuses on the family style restaurant. Red Robin restaurants are non-smoking facilities with bar areas where the focus is not on alcoholic beverages.

"Tauber advised that Red Robin's requirement for parking is 125 spots and that is because most of their items are homemade and there is a large number of staff before, during and after hours.  They probably have anywhere from 30-45 employees.  The restuarant will seat between 200-210." Red Robin Rest.pdf

P.F. Chang's China Bistro

P.F. Chang's features Chinese food with a flair for the unusual.  The chic bistro setting offers an open kitchen blending traditional Chinese cuisine with American hospitality, offering the "Best of Both Worlds."

Real Estate Requirements:

Size: 7,000 Sq. ft. approximately

Parking: 125 spaces

Meal Period: lunch, dinner

Site Preference: Pad in upscale or lifestyle center, free standing

Demographic Preference:    Median HH Income of $55,000, 5-mile population of 150,000

Buffalo Wild Wings

"You must be willing to open restaurants in one of the territories or cities where Buffalo Wild Wings is looking to open new restaurants. Current locations are available in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Main, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.  Each restaurant must be located on a hard corner with a freestanding pad and offer end caps. The building should be 4,000-7,000 square feet and offer at least 120 parking spots. You must have a location with good visibility that provides strong signage options. Traffic should be able to easily enter and exit your location by a traffic signal and you must be able to obtain a 7 day a week liquor license.  

The general area should have a minimum population of 40,000 individuals with 80% being between 20 and 50 years of age with an average of $30,000 or more median household income. The daytime (or lunch) population should be at least 10,000 individuals. Try to locate near a lifestyle center with stores that have a big draw such as Pet smart, Home Depot or Kohl's to increase traffic. Also consider locations near first run movie theaters, colleges, regional malls, Super Wal-Marts or Super Targets, or a location that offers many other restaurants of national prominence. The traffic in front of your location should be at least 25,000 cars with 10,000 on a side street adjacent to the property. You should also have significant afternoon and night traffic.

CVS Pharmacy Corporation

CVS looks for locations large enough so that the retailer can have convenient access, a drive through and have good visibility. There are two prototype locations, both of which are altered based on the individual site so that no two stores are the same. Each of the prototypes has three different sizes. The prototypes vary between 11,500 and 13,000 square feet. The site must also contain enough area for 60 or more parking spaces. There are also two prototypical architectural styles to the stores.

Using the examples above, the adjacent 300-space parking lot serving as "DEDICATED" parking for the Landing would make it feasible to accommodate a Red Robin, a Buffalo Wild Bill's, and a CVS Pharmacy to anchor the struggling downtown retail center.

Above: TGI Friday's in urban Nashville. TGI Friday's is another example of a national restaurant chain that requires a certain number of dedicated parking set aside for its employees and patrons.  Depending on the restaurant's footprint, Friday's requires 130-154 dedicated parking spaces before committing to a specific location.

5. True or False: Does Sleiman have more vision than the Mayor's Office?

Sleiman's Position

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.

Mayor's Office response to Sleiman's position

Skipper, an aide to Mayor John Peyton, said Sleiman's proposal wouldn't boost parking availability because he's looking to buy an existing lot that's already open to the public.

"Our position is that we continue with the contract and if a garage is completed, then at that point we have an obligation to provide the money," she said.

City Council President Richard Clark, who favors Sleiman's request, said the type of parking facility doesn't matter, so long as it meets the Landing's needs.

"They're talking semantics," Clark said of the mayor's office. "The goal isn't a parking garage. The goal isn't a floating barge with cars on it. The goal is dedicated parking for the Landing."

The mall, he said, "is dying a slow and painful death" but more parking would clear the way for attracting restaurants that would re-energize it.’s-office-balks-landing-owner’s-plea-parking-subsidy

Answer: True

Despite $1.1 billion invested in downtown over the past decade, the district continues to struggle because financial investments have been too isolated.  Sleiman's parking proposal and plans to reconfigure the Landing to face downtown promote the idea of compact connectivity, which leads to pedestrian synergy and the vibrancy everyone has been waiting on.  On the other hand, the Mayor's Office and JEDC intend to sink millions more into another isolated project that will have limited impact on improving the everyday downtown atmosphere (read below).

What's ailing downtown revitalization?

A Times-Union analysis into what’s ailing Jacksonville’s downtown found major obstacles to revitalization and a pattern of resistance by city leaders that belies long-playing save-the-core rhetoric:

* Just as residential development was picking up steam, the city pulled back from offering critical financial incentives. A flurry of proposals for new high-rise towers never got off the ground.

* While downtown development authorities in other cities grow stronger by the year, Jacksonville eliminated its agency in 2006 in the name of streamlining.

* There hasn’t been an office skyscraper built downtown in 20 years because high vacancy rates keep such projects from being viable. The rate currently tops 22 percent and the number of downtown workers has fallen this decade.

* City Hall has hit the wall financially on its revitalization programs. Millions generated by a special district that plows taxes back into downtown have been virtually exhausted. Another downtown fund was tapped to cover cost overruns at an animal care shelter in Riverside.

* City Hall hasn’t picked any concentrated area of downtown for a fully funded, complete revitalization that would create a walkable area where businesses, venues and residences can feed off each other’s foot traffic.

As a result, Jacksonville ranks near the bottom of the list nationally on two key indicators of a healthy core: the number of residents and retail stores.

Today, there are an estimated 2,600 downtown residents — well short of the 10,000 city officials and revitalization experts say are needed to give retailers the confidence to set up shop.

Despite this observation, City Hall refuses to invest in a concentrated area by proposing to spend $8.2 million on a park located a mile from the downtown core, as opposed to $3.5 million to resolve a 23-year old obligation to enhance the Northbank's premier destination.

Mayor's Office's plans for revitalizing downtown

Although lauded as a downtown project, the proposed $8.2 million in improvements to Metropolitan Park will have little to no impact on downtown, which can be seen in the distant background from Metropolitan Park.

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton stepped closer Thursday to finalizing $23 million in improvements for downtown parks and amenities, among the mayor's top goals for his last 18 months in office.

Peyton unveiled the final version of the plans, filing a bill that almost half of the 19-member City Council has already endorsed.

The money will be divided into three main projects: $11.9 million to repair the Southbank Riverwalk; $8.2 million for the first phase of enhancements to Metropolitan Park; and $3.2 million to fix and landscape Friendship Fountain.

With these quotes in mind, it appears that Sleiman's ideas for the Landing will lead to more immediate connectivity and pedestrian level vibrancy. Investing $8.2 million into a park that sits one mile away from the heart of the downtown core will not.


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.

With dedicated parking, this area facing the Omni Hotel, Times Union Performing Arts Center and downtown would be renovated to include retail and restaurant space with outdoor seating, adding activity to what should be one of the most vibrant intersections in the heart of downtown.

It's time for the Mayor's Office, JEDC and Sleiman to stop playing politics with the health of downtown. Too much time, money, and potential has been wasted waiting for this game of semantics to play out. Now is the time for everyone to come together, solve this 23-year old city parking obligation and better integrate the Landing with the downtown core to stimulate synergy between the center and the surrounding area.

Article by Ennis Davis

Source of opening statement: