Fate of former Deluxe Laundry and Cleaners building still uncertain

Fate of former Deluxe Laundry and Cleaners building still uncertain
The building that formerly housed Deluxe Laundry and Cleaners on Oak Street in Riverside remains in disrepair.

The long vacant former Deluxe Laundry and Cleaners building has remained greatly unchanged for the past several years, except for the boards put over the windows after the building was condemned in February.

But a special magistrate hearing, held Oct. 10 ruled that building owner Anthony Saleeba has 90 days to correct the building’s code violations, including a leaky and damaged roof, broken windows, mold and mildew, unfinished walls and other deterioration. Failure to comply within the 90 days could result in fines or demolition of the building. 

There has been an ongoing battle about plans to open The Roost, a proposed 150-seat restaurant, which has been put on hold for more than four years due to a court case filed by opponents who disagreed with the Jacksonville City Council’s decision in 2016 to approve the Planned Unit Development (PUD) rezoning. 

The Council’s decision overrode the current CRO zoning and historical overlay, which states that only small retail, mixed use and restaurants up to 60 seats are allowed to be developed by exception while following standards that protect the character and historic appeal of Riverside. 

In April 2018, the First District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in favor of a group of Riverside residents who petitioned against The Roost. The judges determined the opponents have the right to appeal City Council’s decision to allow the PUD. The case has been returned to the Circuit Court, and a hearing date has not been set. 

After the City condemned the building in February, a special magistrate hearing was scheduled and took place in June. At that time, building owner Anthony Saleeba was given 90 days to correct the violations, but did not comply.

A letter dated Aug. 13, written by Attorney Paul Hardin to Ted Stein, who, along with J.C. Demetree, is the developer of The Roost, stated the following, “Please tell Saleeba to convey to the Magistrate regarding the condemnation issue that the delay is as a result of lack of activity from people other than him.”

What Hardin was referring to, as indicated in the letter, was the result of the City’s filing of a motion to dismiss the court case. “This is to confirm we are awaiting an order from the Court providing an oral argument date. The briefing activity has been completed by us and the Plaintiffs, but the City filed a motion to dismiss. The Judge wants to hold the oral argument after the ruling on the motion to dismiss, and the City has filed a response. We have asked them to move apace. As soon as we get a hearing date on the oral argument, we will let you know,” the letter said. 

Neither Saleeba nor Stein responded to emails or telephone calls from The Resident for an interview. However, Kevin Pettway, one of the circuit suit plaintiffs who is also a part of the Positive Riverside Optimized Urban Development citizen group, otherwise known as PROUD, expressed satisfaction with the way things have progressed thus far. 

“I always assumed that we would be steamrolled by the massive apparatus on the other side of this issue, both by their money and their extensive contacts within the city government. The fact that this is still ongoing is a testament to the power of the hundreds and hundreds of neighborhood residents who united, stood up and said, “These are our homes, and we do not want your bar here.” I am so proud to be among them.”

By Kandace Lankford
Resident Community News

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