JACKSONVILLE, FL -- "Can't get worse than it is now," says Benny Yousefzadeh, namesake of Benny’s Steak and Seafood at Jacksonville’s Landing. The centerpiece of downtown has been Benny’s home for the last four months. He and his brother already owned Vito’s, an Italian restaurant, when four months ago they thought they’d give Benny’s a try.
"We opened up at a slow time,” says Benny, “but it's been a good time because we're the new restaurant and everyone is going to come try you out.” The optimism comes as Jacksonville’s commercial real estate king, Toney Sleiman, puts a bid in to buy the property.
The Jacksonville native has big plans for the epicenter of downtown, “This thing could work," says Sleiman who already owns scores of shopping centers across Northeast Florida. "We want to go in there and make it better and bring people to it. And make it a place that people will come not just at lunchtime, but at nighttime and the weekends."
Those changes mean new colors, awnings and a new welcome mat of sorts. A block wall running on the north side of the Landing would go. It would be replaced by storefronts to entice people in. Look for hundreds of new boat slips, but Sleiman says don’t look for a new name. "If you notice every photo of downtown, the Landing's in, so I don't think I want to change the name."
Sleiman is also contemplating installing 400 to 500 stadium seats on the property’s second floor. He says he hopes to fill the courtyard with music, Boy Scout gatherings and charity parties. That music would not come from the existing simple stage; it would come from a floating band shell on the St. John’s River.
They are all energizing ideas that sound good to family business owner Benny Yousefzadeh
"He knows what he's doing and changes need to be made here."
First Coast News