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Gainesville officials seeking downtown hotel proposals for Engine 209 site
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The historic Engine 209, pictured in December 2018, is located in a small park just off Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

Downtown Gainesville could be getting another hotel, and city officials are seeking proposals from developers to make it happen.

The city owns the 1.7-acre property at the corner of Jesse Jewell Parkway and West Academy Street, with a city park housing the historic Engine 209 train on the western portion of the property. The city has issued a request for proposals for the property, asking developers to submit their purchase offers and ideas for building a hotel there.

Officials want “a unique hotel development with meeting and gathering space that does not currently exist in Gainesville and helps activate the Downtown area,” according to the request for proposals. Developers are asked to propose a building with at least four stories and a pedestrian network throughout the property. The hotel should also have meeting and gathering space open to the public.

Proposals are due to the city by 2 p.m. March 9. 

The Gainesville Redevelopment Authority took over the site in December 2018. State law allows municipalities to create development authorities that can purchase, lease and sell property, as well as apply for grants and loans to improve properties. Municipalities have to sell land to the highest bidder, but development authorities can be more selective in land sales. Gainesville created its authority in 1999.

When the property is sold to a developer, Engine 209 would be relocated to another park space, possibly along the Midtown Greenway.

Developer Tim Knight had planned to build a mixed-use development on the property, but in February 2019, the Gainesville City Council voted to release Knight’s option to purchase it, as Knight was no longer interested in developing.

The Northeast Georgia Health System had also considered purchasing the property. NGHS had been given the option to purchase the land for $1.2 million as part of an agreement reached when the city took over the health system’s $10 million contract for the land on the southern end of the Jesse Jewell Parkway pedestrian bridge. After a due diligence period, NGHS decided not to purchase the Engine 209 spot in April 2019.

The city put out another request for proposals in May 2019, looking for developers to build mixed-use projects on two properties, the 6.8-acre site near the Jesse Jewell pedestrian bridge and the 4-acre former Hall County Jail site at Parker and Main streets. Atlanta developer Terwilliger Pappas was chosen to build on both properties and has plans for 400 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail or restaurants.

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