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Developers assert Midtown projects viability
Regions attorney rejects claim that lawsuit is holding up plans
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A legal spat over a right to access the Regions Operations Center through a planned Midtown Gainesville development has halted progress, the developers of City View Center say.

But the attorney for Regions Financial Corp. questions whether that claim is valid.

The bank and Gainesville City Center LLC, developers of the high-rise hotel and office complex, are headed to court to determine whether a 25-year-old easement giving the bank rights to parking and access through Bradford Street expired in 1994.

The developers say it has; the bank filed a legal complaint to the contrary.

If it is determined the lawsuit is holding up the development as Gainesville City Center claims, it could mean Regions is later liable for damages, Regions’ attorney Steve Gilliam said last week.

In response to the developers’ claim, Gilliam asked lawyers for Gainesville City Center to turn over documents submitted to Gainesville’s planning authorities for building and land disturbance permits along with an extensive list of pre-trial requests filed in court last week.

"We don’t admit liability for anything," Gilliam said. "I don’t think we’re holding up the project."

Gilliam has not been alone in questioning the Midtown project’s viability.

A report from a construction tracking service fueled local rumors that the City View Center project had fallen apart last month when the report circulated through local e-mail.

Reed Bulletin, a subscription service published weekly by Reed Construction Data, reported on Jan. 23 that the Midtown development had been abandoned. A representative from the company called the report a mistake, however. More recently, the bulletin reported the project is in a "master planning" stage.

Gainesville granted both land disturbance and building permits for Phase I of the project last week, according to multiple city officials. The permits give the developers 12 months to start construction on a 10-story office building and a three-story parking deck.

Lee Caswell, managing agent for Gainesville City Center, said the permits should be proof that City View Center is a viable project.

"We spent $58,000 on those permits last Friday. We didn’t do that for fun," Caswell said. "... We pulled those with the intention, obviously, of building a building."

Caswell said he is already shopping three general contractors for Phase I of the project. When all phases of the project are complete, it will include a hotel and two high-rise office buildings, a parking deck and a pedestrian walkway that will connect the development to the Georgia Mountains Center across Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Caswell said he is also negotiating the sale of the future hotel site and has possible tenants for the first office building.

The lawsuit, however, may hinder those plans, he said.

"Everybody wants to get in by a particular date and the Regions lawsuit has clearly slowed us down," Caswell said. "We’re not going to start the office building until this is resolved."