The Jacksonville Landing: What Should It Be?

October 3, 2014 163 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Sleiman Enterprises wants to redevelop the Jacksonville Landing. Most agree that something should be done. However, there's debate on what the final product should be, who should pay for it and how much public money should be invested in it. Here's a brief look at the rise and fall of the Landing and the variety of opinions facing its future.

A statement was made by Bob Rhodes, downtown task force chairman, on behalf of the Jacksonville Civic Council (JCC): “The Jacksonville Landing is a community asset and remarkable site that deserves a design that is iconic and inspiring. {…} After a preliminary review of the recently proposed design for the Jacksonville Landing, we believe rather than endorsing this proposal that our community should capitalize on the expertise of local and national leading architects and real estate developers but engaging in an open design process and community dialogue that brings the best and the brightest ideas to bear on this public venue.”

The City of Jacksonville contributed $20 million to the construction of the Landing in 1987. Since that time, the center's orange roof and associated signage have become iconic elements in Jacksonville's skyline.

Additionally, public forums hosted by paint a picture of locals opinions. While some do speak favorably and support the proposed plans for the Landing, many are reluctant to get on board. Overall, the general concerns include:

Fear of losing the Landing’s iconic orange roof and signage

Many people are worried about Sleiman, his demands, and the effects on taxpayer money

That the proposal, and overall idea, is rather uninspiring

That the road extensions discussed along the riverfront would separate buildings from the river walk

That the “awe” factor of the Jax skyline would be lost

Some “practical” construction approaches have also been proposed by readers. One reader (Tacachale) believes what’s most needed is a riverfront pedestrian space, like what exists today, that’s surrounded by restaurants and retail, but directly accessible and integrated with Laura Street. While Tacachale sees pluses in Sleiman’s plans, such as removing the Main Street ramp, he believes the new proposal should not take away everything that already works about the Landing.

JBTripper, another reader, suggests taking the existing iconic structure and splitting it down the middle with Laura Street running down the center as a pedestrian promenade. Then filling the remaining portion of the existing structure with restaurants and retail and adding seven to ten floors of apartments around the existing building.

Whislert, another reader, wonders why are we considering the design of an iconic space without reference to existing underutilized spaces fronting such as Hogan Street. Whislert believes this area should be converted into a pedestrian plaza and integrated with the Performing Arts Center.

For IrvAdams, whatever the Landing becomes, it should be river-oriented, bar and restaurant loaded, with a large crowd friendly courtyard and nearby ample parking.

As far as iMarvin is concerned, if the Landing is going to be demolished, another iconic structure should take its place. With this in mind, iMarvin suggests that something similar to Times Square South in Atlanta with video boards and bright lights would be nice to have.

Fiscal conservative urbanlibertarian suggests instead of incentivizing the Landing’s redevelopment, the City of Jacksonville should just sell Toney Sleiman the land underneath the Landing and let him do his redevelopment with 100% private money.

The Ferry Building in San Francisco is similar in size and scale to the existing Jacksonville Landing. However, the exterior of the building is designed to have strong interaction with the urban environment surrounding it. Photograph courtesy of Simms3.

Finally, Simms3 a reader with Jacksonville roots who currently resides in San Francisco, believes that city’s Ferry Building is the perfect analogy for the Landing. Built in 1898, the historic Ferry Building is a re-dedicated terminal for San Francisco Bay ferries, and gourmet marketplace with upper level office space.  The Ferry Building went through a dry-spell when ship traffic lessened, but with renovations, and the addition of a marketplace in 2003, it remains a popular area downtown. This reader (supported by others) suggests that application of this model to the Landing would have a similar effect, that “The Landing could be a central hub for Jacksonville's growing group of small craft/quality oriented business owners.”

The Ferry Building features around 50 retailers, restaurants, and vendors. The majority of tenants are local businesses. Photograph courtesy of Simms3.

The Ferry Building features around 50 retailers, restaurants, and vendors. The majority of tenants are local businesses. Photograph courtesy of Simms3.

The Ferry Building along the San Francisco waterfront. Photograph courtesy of Simms3.

There’s a very active thread on the Metro Jacksonville website, if you want to learn more, or provide your thoughts:,20328.315.html

However, while we debate what the Landing should look like and what the exact funding mechanisms should be, we may be avoiding the real bull in the china shop. No matter what the final configuration of the festival marketplace ends up being, its ultimate success may be more dependent on the overall health of downtown, moreso than anything else.

Article by Kristen Pickrell and Ennis Davis, AICP

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