Garrison Investment Group is planning to invest about $21 million to redevelop Lakeshore Mall, and part of the plan involves Gainesville’s making the property a tax allocation district.
The proposal was just one of several issues discussed during the Gainesville City Council work session Thursday morning. The council is expected to hold a public hearing on the plan at its Dec. 4 meeting.
“It’s all about economic development and the creation of jobs,” Councilman George Wangemann said.
Tax allocation districts are a way to fund redevelopment of areas that are suffering from urban blight, economic or physical decline, and deteriorated infrastructure. Gainesville currently has one TAD for the Midtown district.
Lakeshore meets state requirements for a TAD because small tenant space is only 70 percent occupied, the building is more than 50 years old and both of those issues have severely impacted the economic value of the retail center, according to a Nov. 10 report by Bleakly Advisory Group, based in Atlanta. The tax district would encompass just the mall property, about 50 acres, although it could be expanded in the future to the surrounding retail areas.
If the TAD is approved, the market value of the district after the mall’s renovation is projected to be about $29 million, with the market value of new private capital investment totaling $20.3 million. The TAD would finance $2.2 million in public infrastructure improvements, including signage, streetscape and landscape.
The mall was built in 1961 and was bought by Garrison in 2010 after the previous owner filed for bankruptcy.
Lakeshore has been the city’s largest retail center for more than half a century, but it was identified in the Gainesville 2030 Comprehensive Plan as one of the most pressing redevelopment areas in the city.
The redesign, which is scheduled for completion in 2015, will replace the current layout, which is focused on small tenant spaces, with larger spaces to appeal to national retailers. One retailer, Dick’s Sporting Goods, has already signed on as a new anchor tenant. Phase I, relocating current smaller tenants to one side of the center so demolition and construction can begin on the other side, has already begun. Phase II is expected to begin early next year and will continue with tearing down and rebuilding. The J.C. Penney store will be torn down and rebuilt and the layout will be more exterior-focused.
“We were fortunate to have them come in and buy the mall,” said Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said of Garrison Investment Group. “We need to work with them.”
City staff and officials also discussed workers compensation, budget reallocations and adjustments and sewer capacity improvements at the work session.