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Fazoli’s out of the picture in Gainesville
Developer blindsided when New Holland property sold to mystery buyer

The much-talked about opening of a Fazoli’s Italian restaurant in the New Holland area has been derailed, The Times learned Thursday.

Earlier this week, the Gainesville City Council gave final approval to the annexation and rezoning of 6.32 acres on the intersection of Jesse Jewell Parkway and White Sulphur Road for a commercial development to be anchored by Fazoli’s.

However, local businessman Wayne Keel, who had planned to develop the property, said he recently was shocked to learn that it had been sold to another buyer.

“We were floored because we understood we were the preferred buyer of the property from Pacolet Milliken,” Keel told The Times on Sunday. “We had made plans with the city to put a Fazoli’s and a car wash there. Well, none of that happened because Pacolet Milliken signed with someone else.”

Keel said he does not know who bought the property instead.

“We’ve asked a couple of times and they won’t say,” Keel added.

Keel said he’d been dealing with The Simpson Company, a commercial real estate firm in Gainesville, which was representing Pacolet Milliken. He said a representative from The Simpson Company told him the property had been sold to someone else.

The Times left a voice message with a Simpson manager Thursday, but did not get a call back.

Sam Nelson, Fazoli’s vice president of franchise recruitment and development, confirmed to The Times that the deal to bring a franchise to Gainesville is dead because Keel is no longer in the picture.

“Late last week we learned that Mr. Keel was not in control of this real estate,” Nelson wrote in an email. “At this time, we do not have a Gainesville location for a Fazoli’s Restaurant.”

Although hurt, Keel said he’s not bitter.

“We feel like we were a little out-done by somebody there,” Keel said. “I can’t blame Pacolet Milliken for selling their property. I know they wanted to. We had every intention of buying. We had contract in hand ready to sign.”

Keel said the contract he never got to sign would have paid Pacolet Milliken $1 million for the property. He said his lawyer did not recommend taking legal action.

“There’s no reason to fight it,” Keel said. “It might cost more to fight it and there’s a chance of losing in the end anyway. It’s the big guys against the small guys, that’s all it is.”

A Hall County resident for more than 30 years, Keel said he lost thousands of dollars trying to make the deal work, hiring an engineer and an attorney.

Reached by phone, Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said he was not aware of what transpired with Keel and the plans to open a Fazoli’s.

“He was the applicant and we approved it,” Dunagan said. “We made the condition that it had to be a restaurant. As far as any of their dealings in the back doors and stuff, I don’t know anything about it.”

Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said the city council approval covers the land use for the property and does not set requirements for the names of the businesses to be located at any site. However, Lackey said approval came with a condition requiring a restaurant be located on the lot closest to the intersection.

“We are looking forward to a quality development at this location,” Lackey responded by email.