2: The public deserves a chance to weigh in on preserving the Landing

2015 redevelopment plan for the Landing.

Several different plans for the Jacksonville Landing have been kicked around over the last several years, but to date none, least of all the current one, have given the public a say on whether the Landing should be demolished. This is a glaring flaw, and should be resolved before we go Godzilla on yet another Downtown building.

To justify its Godzilla-esque “demo first” plan, the mayor’s office has misrepresented previous discussions about Landing redevelopment. Brian Hughes, the mayor’s chief of staff and interim head of the Downtown Investment Authority, stated that the public had already participated in a 2014 charette that recommended demolition, and so didn’t need to weigh in again. That isn’t really what happened in the charette, however. In addition to that project being entirely different than the one currently proposed - it had a firm plan to replace the buildings, for starters - the public never got to consider keeping the Landing. The decision to demolish the buildings and replace them had already been made by its then owner, Toney Sleiman, before the charette even started. The public only weighed in what the replacement would look like.

Now that the Landing is in public hands, the public deserves the chance to vet the possibility of keeping it. After all, they’re spending $22 million and counting for it.

1: A real plan commits us to moving forward

To reiterate, this is the city’s grand plan for the Landing.

Let’s be real, here. If we demolish the Landing without a clear plan of action for the future, the site is all but guaranteed to sit empty for years while we go through the process of developing next steps. In the case of the new convention center, the city started demolition of the old Courthouse only to abandon the project later, leaving the site to sit empty indefinitely. As we’ve pointed out before, the Downtown core has seen far more demolitions than new construction, leaving the center city pocked with empty lots and dead space.

Having a real plan in place, with design and funding, before calling in the wrecking balls would help prevent such an outcome at the Landing. A plan, whether it involves preservation, demolition, or some combination, commits the city to actually following through, minimizing the time this important site spends as a grass lot.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to see why the city is in such a rush to demolish the Landing without a plan. The most obvious explanation would be that the mayor’s office doesn’t actually want to commit to developing the site - that is, they plan on leaving it a grass lot for the next mayor to deal with. Whereas a plan or an undemolished building would force the city’s hand, a glance across downtown proves that empty downtown lots can stay empty for decades.

Hopefully there’s some other reason - and hopefully, the public will be brought into the loop soon.

Let the mayor and City Council members know what you think.

Article by J. D. McGregor. Contact J.D. at jdmcgregorjax@gmail.com