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Gainesville awards bid for convention center study

POSTED: May 22, 2013 12:04 a.m.

Gainesville City Council approved awarding the bid for the convention center and hotel feasibility study to consulting firms Key Advisors Inc. and the Bleakly Advisory Group on Tuesday evening.

The city received nine responses to the request for proposal it sent out. Bids were opened April 22.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development gave the city a grant of $25,000 for phase I of the study. If Gainesville decides to continue with Phase II, the city would pay all of the cost.

The study is designed to address several specific issues, including market demand, economic impact, construction costs and facility operation. There are two tiers of work, with the second tier delivering more detailed information.

The study is supposed to determine what options Gainesville has in developing a venue successful in attracting large meetings, conferences and entertainment. Ideally, the request for proposal states, the city would play a supporting role to a primary developer, hotel operator or other party. The purpose is to create the biggest economic impact possible and strengthen Gainesville’s position as an economic leader within Northeast Georgia, the bid request stated.

The Gainesville City Council approved the study earlier this year with a $25,000 cap. The bid award was $24,500.

The Georgia Mountains Center, the former convention center, was 18,000 square feet with a 2,600-seat arena, 4,500 square feet of meeting space and a 300-seat theater. The city leased it to Brenau University last year as part of the school’s expansion. Now called the Brenau Downtown Center, the building is being remodeled by the college to create classrooms and labs for graduate classes.

City Council members have said that the convention center was too small to attract big-name talent and was losing $300,000 to $400,000 a year.

The former convention center became a venue for local and regional events, but it was never expanded to accommodate larger conventions or to grow with demand, the proposal request stated.

“The Mountains Center was not large enough to host any named entertainers because there weren’t enough seats, and we missed out on a lot of that,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said in February. “The meeting space is just too small, and we turned down multiple requests to have conventions here.”

Gainesville expects tier one work to be completed before the end of August.

In other business, the council approved the city budget for the next fiscal year. The property tax will stay at $3.06 on each $1,000 of taxable property.

The city’s budget for 2014 is about $29.2 million. The capital fund is budgeted at $2.2 million and includes $1 million for roads, information technology improvements and the downtown master plan.

The budget also includes $150,000 in possible funding to the Lake Lanier Olympic Center, and the Parks and Recreation Department will also make some capital improvements.

The property tax amount approved Tuesday doesn’t include the rate for the Gainesville Board of Education.


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