1972, 1974 and 1980 San Marco Boulevard shortly after the 2013 completion of Balis Park.

The development of the original 80-acre San Marco subdivision by Telfair Stockton & Company dates back to 1925, fours years after the opening of the Acosta Bridge, providing direct automobile and streetcar accessibility to the City of South Jacksonville. On September 13, 1925,Stockton’s Mediterranean-themed San Marco shattered all previous records for subdivision sales in the region when every lot offered was sold in three hours. That same year, a triangular shaped commercial area began to spring up around the intersection of Atlantic and San Marco Boulevards. This commercial area, which included a multi-level fountain at its center, was called San Marco Square and based on the Piazza di San Marco in Venice, Italy.

Initially occupied by Towne Pump Drugs and Sundries, 1974 San Marco Boulevard was the first commercial structure completed to anchor San Marco Square. 94 years later, the historic building and two neighboring structures have a new owner with a familiar name in the urban core retail scene. Profiting from its The Jacksonville Landing settlement with the City of Jacksonville, Jacksonville-based Sleiman Enterprises has recently announced the acquisition of a collection of buildings in iconic San Marco Square. Overlooking Balis Park, the acquisition of three prominent properties, places Sleiman Enterprises at the heart the trendy San Marco Dining District.

The showcase of the purchase is 1974 San Marco Boulevard, a historic 8,200-square-foot, two-story building dating back to 1925. The collection also includes 1980 San Marco Boulevard, currently a Starbucks Coffee, and 1972, a Beau Outfitters. The celebrated buildings boast unique exterior and interior architectural features, including exposed brick throughout, domed terrace doors and high vaulted ceilings. The company has big plans for San Marco, which could involve utilizing the first and second floors for a prime retail or restaurant opportunity seeking to provide the area with a unique-to-market customer experience.

“In acquiring these properties in San Marco Square, we intend to provide Jacksonville with an experience like no other. We’re confident this acquisition will only further elevate San Marco Square,” said Toney Sleiman, CEO of Sleiman Enterprises.

The last few months have turned out to be a year of change for Sleiman Enterprises, which was founded by Eli and Josephine Sleiman in 1955. Owning and managing more than five million square feet of retail space in the southeastern United States, after a long and contentious legal battle over its future with Mayor Lenny Curry, the firm agreed to a $15 million settlement resulting in the city acquiring The Jacksonville Landing. With little experience of operating a retail center, the city has aggressively moved to evict tenants and demolish the property, leaving its future in doubt for the foreseeable future.

Inside The Jacksonville Landing

Unable to establish a working partnership with the city in the revitalization of the iconic property, the privately-held real estate company with retail properties throughout Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia has swiftly moved to invest in other properties throughout the urban core. Immediately following its exit from downtown, the company acquired the Lakewood Promenade shopping center, at the intersection of San Jose and University Boulevards in May 2019 for $24.5 million. With Winn-Dixie and Stein Mart as anchors, it plans significant upgrades for the 200,000-square-foot Lakewood property.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com