Gainesville’s plans for a downtown hotel have been put on hold due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but city officials are still hopeful that a hotel could eventually go up at the corner of Jesse Jewell Parkway and West Academy Street.
The city owns the 1.7-acre lot at that intersection, and a city park housing the historic Engine 209 occupies part of that property. In January, the city issued a request for proposals asking developers to submit their ideas for a hotel there.
But city officials announced Monday, June 8 that all proposals had been rejected and the project was shelved indefinitely. The decision was made “due to the uncertain hospitality market conditions” caused by the pandemic, according to a notice sent to prospective developers.
City Manager Bryan Lackey said officials still believe the property would be well-suited for a hotel when economic conditions improve.
“When economic times recover, we have every intention of pursuing this again,” he said in a statement. “Right now, the timing’s just not quite right.”
The Gainesville Redevelopment Authority took over the site in 2018. Georgia law allows cities to create development authorities that can purchase, lease and sell properties. City governments have to sell land to the highest bidder, but development authorities can be more selective. Gainesville created its redevelopment authority in 1999.
Local developer Tim Knight had planned to build a mixed-use development on the Engine 209 site, but in February 2019, the Gainesville City Council voted to release his option to purchase it, as Knight had decided to not move forward with the development.
The Northeast Georgia Health System was also given the option to purchase the property for $1.2 million as part of an agreement with the city when Gainesville took over NGHS’ $10 million contract for the property on the end of the downtown pedestrian bridge. NGHS decided not to purchase the property in April 2019.