Innovation Community to Breathe New Life into The Landing

Jul 10, 2015, 12:04pm EDT UPDATED: Jul 10, 2015, 12:56pm EDT

The Jacksonville Landing

The Jacksonville Landing

Colleen Michele Jones

Reporter- Jacksonville Business Journal

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A group of local entrepreneurs are banding together to move into The Jacksonville Landing.

The lease, which takes effect next Wednesday, provides nearly 5,000 square feet on the ground floor for maker space CoLabJax as well as several other startup businesses and grassroots organizations that will take up a wing of the retail complex on Jacksonville’s waterfront.

Matt Barker, one of the co-founders of CoLabJax, declined to say how much the group will pay in rent but said Landing owner Toney Sleiman’s management company was “making it worth our while.”

The idea is to make the space — which organizers are calling the Jacksonville Entrepreneur Coalition — a hub for innovation, technology, art, self-manufacturing and other entrepreneurial ventures. Other tenants will include JaxCoE (Jacksonville Community of Entrepreneurs), an incubation program for veterans called the Bunker, Renaissance Jax, and other early-stage enterprises.

Barker said bringing the innovation community together as a kind of district in Downtown would not only build upon the momentum of Jacksonville’s reputation for entrepreneurial activity but also breathe new life into the Landing, which has struggled to bring in foot traffic and keep commercial tenants.

“Downtown is kind of depressed, and the Landing is definitely depressed,” said Barker. “So what we’re doing, we want to bring together the folks in this city who want to make things happen, to start businesses and create new technology and innovation.”

Janice Lowe, general manager for The Landing, said, "We're excited to be working with them. This is a fun group and will bring a lot of energy to The Landing."

Sleiman has proposed a redevelopment of the mall, and a forum in June sought public input for a redesign and potential uses for the site.

But Barker said the uncertain future of the Landing did not bother him or others involved with the coalition.

“I’m not concerned, because I see the momentum around what we’re doing,” said Barker. “We have time to show what we can do with this and we’ve gotten a lot of support from city leaders. I don’t think we’re going to get kicked out anytime soon.”

The group will begin moving in next week and take some time to renovate the space for their purposes. A grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 7.

“We’re gonna change things,” said Barker.

Colleen covers the innovation economy, focusing on technology, start ups, finance and health care.