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Gainesville rejects bids for downtown development

POSTED: July 31, 2014 8:34 p.m.

Gainesville has rejected all bids to develop a mixed-use project near downtown along Jesse Jewell Parkway.

“Based on the review, the committee recommends that none of the proposals be accepted,” Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard wrote in a memo to City Council members obtained by The Times. “We feel that the location and visibility of this property is too important for the city to compromise on its development.”

Three bids were submitted to develop a 2-acre site comprising parking lots between Main Street, Broad Street, Jesse Jewell Parkway and the former Gainesville Midland railroad land.

This land includes the site of the old Cooper Pants factory, which burned in 1936 after a tornado ripped through Gainesville, killing 60 to 70 workers.

For years, city officials have targeted this land for a residential and retail development that can act as a gateway to the downtown square.

A similar request for proposals to develop the land was initiated in 2011, but the city passed on those bids because they did not fit the ideal and aesthetic officials envisioned.

The same is true this time around.

The Sizemore Group LLC proposed partnering with several firms to build town homes, a farmers market, restaurant and office.

But city officials said they desired more residential living. Moreover, Sizemore did not include a proposal certification page, thereby disqualifying the company from official consideration.

Meanwhile, Walton Communities LLC proposed a 264-unit apartment complex, but no retail component.

City officials said the lack of retail, in addition to requests for financial assistance, such as tax breaks and limited lease payments, ultimately led them to deny the proposal.

Finally, Community Development Partners Inc. did not submit a development proposal, citing time constraints and costs associated with preparing architectural renderings.

The company asked for a development agreement based on its experience and qualifications alone, but city officials said they could not evaluate the merits of an undefined project.

With bids now scrapped, city officials intend to fold the property into the Downtown Master Plan.

Any future proposals to develop the land will be evaluated as part of that plan and its scope to manage growth in and around the square for years to come.


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