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“Let’s move forward”: City of Jacksonville taking over the Jacksonville Landing
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“Let’s move forward”: City of Jacksonville taking over the Jacksonville Landing

“Let’s move forward”: City of Jacksonville taking over the Jacksonville Landing
Photo Credit: Getty Images

“Let’s move forward”: City of Jacksonville taking over the Jacksonville Landing

Ending a lengthy legal dispute and aiming to redevelop one of the most prominent features of Downtown Jacksonville’s Riverfront, the City is officially taking over complete ownership of the Jacksonville Landing.

And that means the Landing itself is going to soon come down.

“I agree it’s iconic. I was here when it was built, and I miss the kind of vibrancy and excitement that the Landing brought to Jacksonville once upon a time. But, that’s kind of history. That isn’t where we are today, and it’s not going to regain that stature by us wishing that it would. So, it’s time to move on, take the next step, and replace it with Jacksonville’s future, as opposed to kind of wishful thinking about Jacksonville’s past,” says Councilwoman Lori Boyer.



In a 15-1 vote, the City Council has approved an overall $18 million package. Councilwoman Anna Lopez Brosche was the sole “no” vote, while Councilmen Garrett Dennis, Matt Schellenberg, and Samuel Newby were not present for the vote.

$15 million is a payment to Jacksonville Landing Investments to end the long-term lease they have with the City. The City owns the land, but JLI owns and operates the Landing building, and that arrangement was slated to last through at least 2056. The relationship strained recently, with the Landing claiming the City was not providing the maintenance and security it was required to, and the City contending the Landing was not the first-class facility that had been promised. 

The fight led to disputes over rent paymentseviction, and related areas- but that mostly comes to an end with this agreement, which is why there was support on the Council. 

“This is about settling litigation that’s been hanging around for more than two years I think, and what it’s going to cost us to get out from under some risk that we have if we continue the litigation. Because the tenant- the plaintiff- has a 37-year remaining term on their lease. So this isn’t about buying a building, this is about getting ourselves out from under a lawsuit and moving forward with Plan B, and Plan B’s gotta be better than Plan A, who’s ribbon was cut in 1987,” says Councilman John Crescimbeni, who characterized the Landing as destined to not succeed.

There is one remaining legal matter, dealing with a parking lot on the eastern portion of the parcel. The settlement allows the City to take ownership of the lot, despite the administrative and accounting matters that will still be addressed by a judge. 

AUDIO: What you want to see happen with the Jacksonville Landing site

The remaining $3 million is split equally between closing out subtenant leases and demolishing the building /restoring the site.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes, who is also serving as the Interim CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, says there are fewer than three dozen remaining businesses, and almost all are on month-to-month leases. Of those few that are not, one is in the process of being evicted, two have specific closeout terms in their leases, and one has been having “meaningful conversations” with the City, according to the Administration. The City and DIA intend to work with all of these businesses about possible relocation in other areas of Downtown.

“As much as people may have had issues with Mr. Sleiman [of JLI] about one thing or another and his operation of the property, he’s a really good shopping center operator, and he’s got shopping centers all over the city. And if he felt like he couldn’t get first class tenants in this building and keep those spaces full, and we’re only at 50% occupancy, how in the world do you think the City of Jacksonville as a government entity is going to run a shopping center. I mean, that is not our job, it is not our business, and we are certainly not going to go out and find better tenants and keep it more active and safer and more vibrant than it has been right now,” Boyer says.

The final share of the bill would be used to demolish the existing building and put grass on the property. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has previously put forward a plan for the property that involves public green space and two structures for development.

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Rendering of Jacksonville Landing

There was an attempt by Councilman Danny Becton to put the demolition funding “below the line”, meaning the Council would have to separately approve the demolition in separate action in the future. The intent of that, according to Becton, was to address concerns he has heard about there not yet being a defined plan for what the City will do with the property in the future. He also questioned the removal of what he called an “iconic” venue, which hosts many big events through the year.

“In a Downtown that is limited with public space and venues giving visitors and groups of our city somewhere to gather, we are unnecessarily eliminating this facility that is used for events like the Georgia/Florida weekend, the TaxSlayer [Gator] Bowl weekend, Christmas festivities, and many other things, to name a few. We are eliminating the only iconic venue of our city for a grassy knoll,” he says.

The Administration says there is no final vision for the future of the property yet, as they intend to seek community input, but they don’t feel that any option would involve using the existing building. Council President took it further to say keeping the building would be a “maintenance nightmare” that would require constant security and surveillance.

“Every working day for the last eight years, I’ve gone to work across from the Landing. I will not go there. I go there occasionally, I go there about every six months, just to see really how bad it is- how many tenants have left, what tenants are still there, what is not working. The bathrooms are horrendous, I won’t even use them. The upstairs dining area is now closed,” he says, adding that he also actively tells other people not to go.


Councilman Bill Gulliford says the City likely would have given incentives to tear the building down to any future developer, so this just expedites the timeline. He further says no prior redevelopment plans have involved preserving the facility.

“I’m just tickled to death to see there’s movement on the Landing. We all know that it’s been in decline for the last however many years. I don’t have any heartburn about demolishing the structure, frankly. I think any suggestion as to space not being available for events will only will only be a short term or short period before you would come up with another solution,” he says.

$3.5 million of the $18 million tab is cash-on-hand, and the rest is coming through borrowed funds.

The City says they will formally close the deal on the lease termination within the next 45 days. Hughes expects closing out the subtenant leases to take up to four months beyond that, and demolition could happen within six months.

Beyond that, the Council has high hopes.

“Let’s move forward. Let’s move Jacksonville forward, let’s move our Downtown forward. Yeah, we’ve got the City Hall [Annex] demolished, we’ve got the old Courthouse demolished, we’ll have sooner than later the Jacksonville Landing demolished, and you’re going to see a beautiful new Riverfront, with lots of activities, and not have the building that we see today,” says Councilman Tommy Hazouri.

The outgoing management of the Landing is looking forward as well, announcing a “Last Bash” just hours after the Council vote.


Let us know if you support the changes by weighing in on Facebook:

BREAKING NEWS:The Jacksonville Landing will soon be coming down, with the City Council now signing on to an $18 million settlement package.

Posted by Stephanie Brown, News 104.5 WOKV on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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The Latest News Headlines

  • The Jacksonville Humane Society and Animal Care and Protective Services announced the city of Jacksonville, once again, earned the no-kill designation for the year of 2019. According to Best Friends Animal Society, “A no-kill community is a city or town in which every brick-and-mortar shelter serving and/or located within that community has reached a 90% save rate or higher and adheres to the no-kill philosophy, saving every animal who can be saved.'  According to a release put out by the JHS, the save rate for APCS was 90 percent and for JHS it was 95 percent, making a citywide save rate of 93 percent.  In total, 16,874 animals entered the JHS shelters in 2019, which is a significant decrease from 19,366 animals in 2018, according to the JHS.  According to JHS, Jacksonville earned the distinction of being the largest city in the United States to earn a no-kill status. The city has maintained that status until last year when ACPS save rate fell to 86 percent.  “Examining the data and trends in 2017 and 2018 resulted in our renewed focus on cats and kittens in 2019,” said Deisler. “As a community, we had to take a look at ourselves ask – what can we do to save those lives? We knew that with the help of our community, a return to no-kill was possible. We are excited about the results from 2019 and even more excited for 2020. Thank you, Jacksonville!”
  • Thirty-nine years after three Florida Highway Patrol troopers were killed in a plane crash, the state is honoring their sacrifice with a roadway designation. On July 13, 1981, Cpl. Cleo “Tommy” Tomlinsons, Trooper Merle Cook and Trooper Robert Pruitt were in an airplane that crashed in St. Johns County while assisting in the search for two suspects wanted for breaking and entering.  “We had received a call requesting assistance from the Sheriff’s Office on some burglary suspects they were trying to track,” retired FHP Trooper Rick McIntyre said.  McIntyre said it happened on a Monday. He dropped off his co-worker and friend, Tomlinson, at the airport so he could help search the wooded area. On his way back to assist on foot, he witnessed the horrific plane crash.  “A person goes into shock when they see something like that,” McIntyre said. “At the time, I had less than five years on the patrol and it was something horrible to witness.”  As the calls went out over the service radio, Tomlinson’s son was on the receiving end. He was in training to become a trooper.  “I can remember every detail about that day,” Tomlinson’s son and retired FHP trooper Chet Tomlinson said. “That day I was in recruit training at Parris Island.”  That day, three families lost a husband and father. The community lost three troopers who were protecting their homes.  Now, almost four decades after the crash, family members said they are thankful that their fathers’ sacrifices have not been forgotten.  “Hopefully the people and the citizens of the state of Florida understand the sacrifice the officers make each and every day when they walk out the door,” Tomlinson said.  Of the 48 FHP troopers who have died in the line of duty, fewer than half have received a roadway designation.  The sign, which includes all three troopers, is on U.S. Route 1 and stretch about 5 miles long. The FHP said it is in dedication of their sacrifice and a reminder for drivers to stay alert while on the road.
  • Dozens of strangers showed up Friday afternoon at the Jacksonville National Cemetery to make sure a local homeless veteran got the proper burial he deserved. Many of the people attending didn’t know John Meade Jr. was a veteran when he was alive. But they wanted to honor him properly, now that he’s gone.  “He was very much appreciated, and we all appreciate the service that he did. Not only for everybody else, but what he stood for,” said Shirley Greco, who attended the ceremony.  He had a lot of family at his funeral – maybe not in blood, but in spirit.  “I really do wish that he could be here to see the turnout today for him, I really do. And I think there’s a way that he knows how it turned out today,” Greco said.  “Whoever the vet is, doesn’t get buried with no family, so we become their family,” said Wayne May.  For at least 10 years, Meade sat on a bench in downtown St. Augustine every single day, and was a friendly face to everyone who passed by.  While he talked to everybody, no one knew much about him.  After Meade died, an officer with the St. Augustine Police Department spent 80 hours digging for information about him.  When the officer found out he served in the Army, he wanted Meade to have a proper burial. He asked the community to come out to Jacksonville’s National Cemetery, and they showed up by the dozens.  “People did care about him, and he’s never alone,” said Ken White, a veteran.  “I wish I would’ve known him,” another veteran said.
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The school also denied the allegations that bullying had been reported to administrators by the girl or her family. “We have concluded our internal investigation to the allegations of bullying which led to this senseless death. There have been no findings of any reports of bullying by either the student or family,” a Dec. 11, 2018, statement from the school district said, according to the Tuscaloosa News. “The findings of this internal investigation are consistent with the results of the investigation of the Linden Police Department at this point in time.” McKenzie’s family begged police to reopen the investigation. Her mother and grandmother are adamant that the bullying was reported to school officials multiple times. “Her case deserves a second look,” her weeping mother, Jasmine Adams, said at a news conference last January, according to WBRC in Birmingham. “There are things that could have been missed on the first go-round. And I just feel she deserves a second look at her case.” Hundreds of mourners attended the girl’s funeral, which was held in the gymnasium of her school. According to the News, a wreath of flowers spelling out “You are loved, little one” stood near her white casket. McKenzie, who family members said hoped to be a scientist when she grew up, wore a silver tiara as she was laid to rest. McKenzie’s mother and grandmother, Janice Adams, filed Thursday’s lawsuit on behalf of the girl, whose death made national headlines. Named in the lawsuit are the school, the Demopolis school system, Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff, then-U.S. Jones principal Tori Infinger, then-assistant principal Tracy Stewart and fourth-grade teacher Gloria Mims. Infinger resigned in April 2019, according to the Demopolis Times. It was not immediately clear Friday where Stewart is currently employed, but Mims remains listed as a teacher on the U.S. Jones website. “The Demopolis City Board of Education has only recently learned of a lawsuit filed against them on behalf of McKenzie Adams,” the school system’s attorney, Alex Braswell, said in a statement obtained by WSFA in Montgomery. “While we are not permitted to discuss pending litigation, the Demopolis Board of Education can say that we look forward to defending this case and dispelling the allegations made therein.” ‘Tell it to the wall because I do not want to hear it’ The lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, alleges that McKenzie, who was enrolled at U.S. Jones Elementary for the 2018-2019 school year, was “targeted and taunted” by a white 9-year-old in her class, who called her the N-word and an “ugly a** bit**.” The abuse took place both in the classroom and in the school gym, her family claims. “According to information and belief, on Oct. 24, 2018, (the boy) passed a note to McKenzie in which he called her a “bit**” while in the classroom of defendant Mims,” the lawsuit states. He also used sexually explicit terms in the note. The Adams family believes the abuse stemmed from the fact that McKenzie went to and from school with a white friend and the friend’s mother. McKenzie wrote in her diary Nov. 5, 2018, that two boys at school had been bullying her, the suit alleges. “Upon information and belief, on the date of her death, Dec. 3, 2018, (the boy) told McKenzie to kill herself, told her that she was better off dead, and instructed her on the manner to take her own life,” the lawsuit says. McKenzie’s mother and grandmother say Mims, who was McKenzie’s math teacher at the time of her death, was aware but “deliberately indifferent” to the bullying taking place. Janice Adams, the girl’s grandmother, attempted in August 2018 to set up a meeting with Mims to discuss the ongoing abuse. “Plaintiff Janice Adams never received a return call from Mims,” the suit states. She tried again in September to set up a meeting to discuss the abuse and what it was doing to McKenzie’s “state of mind.” “On Oct. 1, 2018, she received a generic notice that there was no need for a parent-teacher conference,” the lawsuit says. Progress reports came out that month, and McKenzie’s report indicated she was failing math, the class Mims taught. Ordinarily, her family told media outlets, McKenzie excelled in math. “Plaintiff Janice Adams was aware that McKenzie was struggling in the course due to emotional challenges resulting from the bullying and harassment that McKenzie was experiencing in her class,” the complaint said. “Concerned about McKenzie’s state of mind, plaintiff Janice Adams went to Mims’ classroom on Oct. 12, 2018, to request a meeting with Mims. “At that time, Plaintiff Janice Adams identified (the alleged bully), informed Mims that McKenzie was being bullied by him, and asked that the school address the bullying. Plaintiff Janice Adams left her contact information for a follow-up meeting. Mims failed to call her back.” The lawsuit states that Infinger was present for the meeting and was made aware of the supposed bullying going on in Mims’ classroom. Janice Adams claims the principal failed to act. On Oct. 24, Mims obtained the harassing note the boy passed McKenzie in class. Mims contacted the girl’s grandmother and told her that, instead of disciplining the boy, McKenzie would be disciplined for responding to the bullying, the lawsuit states. Talking to law enforcement officials later, Mims admitted that there were two boys, including the one indicated in the lawsuit, who “bothered” everyone in the class, the court document says. Mims told police the boy was “often jumping around and striking other children.” She called him a “clown” and said the boy was always in trouble. Despite his behavior, the lawsuit alleges, no action was taken to discipline the boy for his harassment of McKenzie. McKenzie complained to the teacher multiple times about the bullying. “Upon information and belief, on numerous occasions, Mims instructed McKenzie to ‘tell it to the wall because I do not want to hear it,’” the lawsuit states. Read the entire federal lawsuit filed on behalf of McKenzie Adams below.  The lawsuit alleges that Mims admitted to law enforcement that she was aware that the boy was engaged in conduct defined as bullying by Demopolis City Schools, that he specifically targeted McKenzie and that McKenzie’s family was concerned about the emotional impact the bullying had on the girl. “Upon information and belief, Mims was aware that one risk factor for suicidal ideation was bullying,” the suit says. The complaint states that Mims violated school and district policy by failing to notify Infinger, the principal, or the central office of the first instance of bullying. She also failed to inform them of the continual bullying and failed to take action on her own to stop the harassment, the document says. “Defendant’s deliberate indifference created a dangerous environment and barred McKenzie’s access to a safe learning environment. As the direct result of Mims’ conduct, McKenzie committed suicide,” the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit also blames Infinger’s lack of action for the girl’s death. It states she had actual knowledge of the behavior toward McKenzie and failed to train teachers and administrators on gender- and race-specific bullying. Stewart is named in the lawsuit because McKenzie’s family alleges that Mims gave the harassing note of Oct. 24, 2018, to the assistant principal and she did nothing to stop the bullying. “Stewart contacted McKenzie’s family on Oct. 25, 2018, regarding the note,” the lawsuit states. “At that time, plaintiff Janice Adams informed Stewart that McKenzie was being bullied and had been bullied since the commencement of the school year.” Stewart informed Adams that McKenzie would be punished for responding to the note. It was not clear in the filing what the girl’s response was. “Following the phone call with plaintiff Janice Adams, Stewart spoke on a three-way phone call with plaintiff Janice Adams and McKenzie’s mother, plaintiff Jasmine Adams, to discuss McKenzie’s discipline regarding the note,” according to the lawsuit. “Plaintiff Jasmine Adams expressed concern about the bullying, the harassment and the fact that McKenzie was being disciplined by U.S. Jones.” The distraught mother informed Stewart that she planned to contact the State Department about the persistent bullying and harassment. “Stewart asked plaintiff Jasmine Adams not to contact the State Department and stated that U.S. Jones would handle the matter,” the suit says. “However, U.S. Jones did not handle the matter.” The lawsuit alleges that the school system did not adhere to state and federal anti-bullying measures. It claims that all the defendants named in the complaint had participated in the Jason Flatt Suicide Prevention Program, a program by The Jason Foundation designed to provide professional development for teachers and youth workers so they can better identify children at risk for suicide. The foundation was created in 1997 by Clark Flatt after his 16-year-old son, Jason Flatt, died by suicide. The lawsuit also claims the school and district failed to comply with the Jamari Terrell Williams Bullying Prevention Act, which AL.com reported was enacted to strengthen the state’s 2009 anti-harassment law. The act requires schools to define, control, report and stop bullying. The act is named after 10-year-old Jamari Williams, a gifted Montgomery dancer and honor roll student who took his own life Oct. 11, 2017, after being bullied for “being different,” according to the website for a foundation set up in his name. The federal lawsuit in McKenzie’s death accuses the district of violating Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment based on gender, as well as Title VI, which prohibits discrimination based on race. The lawsuit also accuses the school system of denying Adams equal protection under the 14th Amendment. It asks for compensatory damages “in an amount that will fully compensate McKenzie and her family for all they suffered” and such punitive damages that would “properly punish them for the constitutional, statutory and common law violations perpetrated upon McKenzie as alleged herein, in an amount that will serve as a deterrent to defendants and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future.” Since McKenzie’s death, her aunt, Eddwina Harris, has been working to kickstart an anti-bullying organization called the McKenzie Foundation. A GoFundMe page set up to collect donations has raised $12,830 of its $20,000 goal. A large portion of the work of the McKenzie Foundation appears to be public speaking on the dangers of bullying. “If you knew your child was at a place where there was a ticking time bomb, you would come and get them out,” Eddwina Harris told the News following her niece’s funeral. “The time is now to get them out of a dangerous situation.” As for the national publicity McKenzie’s death received, Harris said she believed it would do some good in the wake of tragedy. “It’s touching that one little 9-year-old girl has changed the lives and minds of so many people and it’s going to stick with us for the rest of our lives,” she said.
  • Two months after a young mother was found shot to death in a southside apartment off Gate Parkway, Jacksonville Police have announced an arrest.  Police obtained an arrest warrant on Thursday for 23-year-old Keeshawn Glover for charges of second degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. 24-year-old Felisia Williams was found dead in her home at the Gardens of Bridge Hampton Apartments near Belfort Road.  Family and friends say Williams had a 4-year-old daughter.  According to JSO, Williams and Glover knew each other, but they did not elaborate on their relationship.  

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