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City’s landscape to change

Developer to build 13-story hotel, 11-story office building

POSTED: February 17, 2008 5:05 a.m.

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GAINESVILLE — The Gainesville City Council voted unanimously to approve a zoning request for a $35 million development that promises to kick off the redevelopment of Gainesville’s Midtown district.

City View Plaza LLC, owned by Gainesville’s Wendell Starke, recently purchased the city’s public safety building and other property to make room for a 13-story hotel and two 11-story office buildings and change the landscape of the city’s center.

"When you look at the Midtown Redevelopment Plan, this fits it like a glove," said Julius Hulsey, who spoke on behalf of City View Plaza LLC. "This is a project that we hope will be the springboard to put that plan into action."

City View proposed to rezone 5.46 acres in Midtown from general business to planned unit development, and the developer’s request did not face any opposition.

In January, Gainesville’s Planning and Appeals Board Member Joe Diaz said the development was "just what the doctor" ordered for Gainesville shortly before the board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project to the city council.

On Tuesday, no one spoke in opposition to the request and the Gainesville City Council praised the proposed development before raising all their hands — Councilman Robert "Bob" Hamrick raised two — to approve first reading of the rezoning request.

"This is going to bring on a new Gainesville, in a way," said Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann. "I look at it as being a jewel for Jesse Jewell Parkway."

Along with the two proposed high-rise buildings, City View Plaza LLC plans to build an enclosed pedestrian walkway over Jesse Jewell Parkway to the Georgia Mountains Center.

The development includes a 250-room hotel, 8,000 square feet of retail space, a 5,000-square-foot conference area and 995 parking spaces on a block surrounded by Jesse Jewell Parkway, Bradford Street, College Avenue and Townview Plaza.

An Atlanta-area firm, Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates, is designing the project. The firm has developed office towers in San Francisco, Atlanta and other major metropolitan areas.

Starke and Atlanta-based Jim and Lee Caswell have joined their properties to form Gainesville City Center LLC, which will oversee the development of the Midtown project.

City View Plaza LLC currently owns much of the property it proposed to rezone for the development, which spans the Town View Plaza shopping center and two smaller strip malls.

Some of the property belonged to the city of Gainesville until about two weeks ago, when the developer closed a deal with the Gainesville Redevelopment Authority to purchase the Gainesville Fire Station No. 1 and Gainesville Police headquarters for $2 million, the appraised value of the property, said Gainesville City Manager Bryan Shuler.

"They felt pretty confident," Shuler said concerning the developers’ decision to purchase the property ahead of the council’s vote.

Early in December, the Gainesville City Council voted to give control of the sale of the city’s public safety building to the Redevelopment Authority. In the agreement, the city required that the Redevelopment Authority sell the property for at least $2 million and with the condition that the city can use the public safety building until June 2010.

The two-year time frame allows the city time to relocate the public safety building, and the city has yet to find property for the new police and fire stations, said Shuler.

"We’re working on a site," Shuler said.

The project is set to begin as soon as the city can vacate the public safety property, and the developers plan to use that specific piece of property as the hotel site. The city will most likely stay in the public safety building until sometime in 2010, said Shuler.

 



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