As an adult, I revel in the nostalgia of my childhood where a visit to the Landing meant more than stale cookies and cafeteria smells. It meant boat rides down the river, tokens for the Ostrich Landing and a visit to The Toy Factory. In the cool reprieve of the U-shaped building, I was often occupied in wonder. For almost 30 years, the river-front destination had seen everything from Olympic torches to the Super Bowl. Today, not much happens at the Landing besides the occasional local festivity, and not many bother to come, aside from visitors attracted to its premium views of the St. Johns. The Landing stands lonely as a product of time. Empty corridors echo the absence of shoppers, and a line of darkened storefronts reflect only a ghostly era of promise and prosperity. Upstairs, things are not much better. This misfortune seems to be a fate the Landing has been moving towards since the very beginning.
However, with new proposals for a redesign, the slow demise of this iconic Jacksonville structure might be making an abrupt halt.
In addition to the recent proposals for the shipyards, the city’s financial committee will also be meeting early this month to discuss the budget for the Landing’s redevelopment. The project is one that owner Tony Sleiman has long desired to undertake. Assisting him is Tom Senkbeil, an Atlanta-based development veteran with 41 years of successful experience. Successful here is the key word. Senkbeil, who has been given full reign of the project development, has also been part of the force that expanded the Four Seasons Residences in downtown Austin and the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. Part of Sleiman and Senkbeil’s proposal for the Landing includes tearing down the existing structure and rebuilding anew to include residential apartments, parking areas, restaurants and retail space.
But reinventing the Jacksonville Landing comes with a steep price. An estimated $11.8 million of tax payers’ money is needed to back the project — a price tag that is still awaiting approval.
With all these proposals and ideas floating around, the future of the Landing is looking very bright.