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Gainesville: 4th side of downtown square for sale

POSTED: August 14, 2014 1:38 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Don Carter Realty announces the "fourth side of the square" is for sale in downtown Gainesville.

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Plans to develop the fourth side of the downtown Gainesville square have fallen through and the property owner is now looking to sell the site.

“We felt like it wasn’t feasible to do what we wanted to do with the economy like it is,” said Don Carter. “So we pulled back.”

Carter’s realty firm purchased the property, which residents know as the parking lot along Spring Street tucked between the square and the Brenau Downtown Center, for $400,000 from the city in 2001.

The firm had planned to develop a two-story, 40,000-square-foot mixed-use project including office and retail space.

Dubbed Preservation Plaza, the development would also include a restaurant and lobby area featuring local historical exhibits.

These plans coincided with the city’s vision for the property and the long-held desire to build out the fourth side of the square.

“The city envisions a multiuse development that would include retail, restaurant and possibly residential components,” said Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard. “Aesthetically, the city feels it is important for the development to be compatible with the other buildings downtown.”

But delays in renovating the downtown parking deck, coupled with the economic recession, put things on hold.

“Obviously, that put a stop to any new development projects here in the city,” said Doug Carter, adding that the firm’s window of opportunity has closed and it’s time to sell.

The parking lot has been used for events held by the city and Brenau University.

But city officials appear to have no interest in developing the site.

“The city has not pursued buying back the land,” Sheppard said.

Don Carter said he still believes the property is a great site for a mixed-use development and that he hopes to see it come to fruition one day.

“We certainly don’t want to make a mistake with that lot because it’s in a very strategic location,” he said, adding that his firm’s reputation is on the line as it tries to find the right buyer.

The assessed value on the property, according to Hall County records, is $368,500.

But this value may not reflect the true market worth or appraised value. The sale price is listed at $1.49 million.

“We are not going to sell it until we know what somebody’s going to use it for,” Don Carter said, adding that he has received inquiries from prospective buyers in recent weeks and months.

City officials said they could possibly assist in developing the property through tax incentives and credits.

“Any requests for assistance would be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” Sheppard said.

Residents have written to The Times criticizing the Carters for not developing the property and questioning their intention to ever do so.

But Doug Carter dismisses those charges.

“They’ll be somebody out there saying they didn’t keep their word ...” he said. “What I want people to realize is that we have, for 13 years, let the general public park on our lot free of charge.”



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