In the mid-1980’s, the mayor of Jacksonville, Jake Godbold, wanted to introduce a riverfront marketplace to his city and create a place that tourists and locals alike could go to for good food and a great time. The Rouse Company was brought in to make the project a reality, as they had created similar structures for other cities such as Miami, Boston, and Baltimore.
On June 25, 1987, Jacksonville Landing opened with a week-long celebration that included a drum and bugle corps, balloon release, and community choir performances. The first floor of the center had many retail businesses such as The Gap and Foot Locker, while the second floor was given the name “Founders Food Hall” for its food court-like design with 18 different restaurants.
In 1988, Jacksonville residents approved a half-cent increase in sales tax to banish tolls along roads. To celebrate, The Landing had a courtyard celebration that many people remember fondly. There was also a big party for the launch of Florida’s Lottery Fantasy Five game in 1989. Then, in 1992, then-president George H. W. Bush stopped at the Jacksonville Landing during a campaign tour hoping for re-election.
Beginning in the mid-1990’s, the Jacksonville Landing started on a decline. There was less foot traffic, which many people attributed to the parking situation downtown. This caused many national retailers to begin looking at less costly spaces at places such as the new Avenues Mall.
In 2003, The Rouse Company announced that it would sell The Landing to a local developer named Toney Sleiman for $5.1 million. Then, in 2010, the Jacksonville City Council passed a bill to contribute $3.5 million towards purchasing a parking facility across from The Landing.
In 2019, the final stages of changing The Jacksonville Landing occurred. On February 20, Sleiman Enterprises and the city of Jacksonville reached a settlement of $18 million that transferred ownership of The Landing to the city and included a buy out of the remaining tenant’s leases and a budget to demolish the mall for future redevelopment. In May, the city sent letters to the remaining businesses telling them to vacate the premises in 30 days.
Currently, there aren’t any set plans for a replacement for The Landing, but there is a lot of speculation. Mayor Lenny Curry has mentioned plans to include residential buildings, restaurants, and possibly a museum. He stated that he envisions it as a combination of green space and buildings that are iconic and serve the public. He also said he wants to make sure the river can be seen from Laura Street.