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For the life of me, I can’t follow the wisdom of city officials regarding the Jacksonville Landing.

When first built in the late 1980s, it seemed as if it would be the crown jewel of downtown, much like Baltimore’s popular Inner Harbor, which was built by the same company.

It was a beautiful facility, attracting shoppers to stores and restaurants and the waterfront view. They came by foot, boats and cars.

But after a few years, the lack of parking – promised by city officials but never delivered – and security proved to be a serious problem. Rouse Co., the developers, bailed.

Local developer Toney Sleiman took over and did his best. But the same problems persisted.

Eventually it devolved into finger-pointing, the blame game and lawsuits.

But recently city officials and Sleiman made a deal, which means both sides got what they wanted.

Sleiman will walk with $15 million plus $1.5 million to wind it down. The city’s total cost, with $1.5 million to demolish the structure, will be $18 million.

That’s the part I don’t get. Why tear it down?

There is vague talk of an “urban park,” whatever that means.

It means trouble and a waste of space, I think. It would be a bum magnet and there is a park on the Southbank, not to mention Hemming Plaza, Springfield Park, Riverside Memorial Park, Boone Park, etc. Jacksonville already claims to have more park and recreation space than any other city.

The only thing worse would be for the city to try to run the Landing. They tried that with another property on the Southbank and made a mess of it, as you would expect.

An online petition has been set up, opposing demolition of the Landing. Also, not all City Council members are on board with the idea of tearing down something that could be an attraction, again.

“I don’t want to demolish anything until we have a plan,” Council Member Matt Schellenberg told News4Jax. “I wouldn’t necessarily knock down the Landing. I think buying the Landing back is probably a great idea, but I wouldn’t knock it down until you actually have an idea of what you’re going to do with it.”

Surely, someone could be found who could handle the rehab job. Where are the Rummells, Khans, Haskells and others who have the money and expertise? The city’s job merely is to provide them some parking and keep out the thugs.

Come on, City Haul. You can do better.

Lloyd Brown
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Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida.  He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union.  He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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