Millions of dollars in public financing is set to change the face and character of downtown Gainesville, likely bringing chain restaurants to storefronts that have been locally owned and residents to what is almost entirely a commercial district.
“I look for that to happen,” Councilman George Wangemann said. “I view this whole thing kind of as a public-private partnership.”
City officials are expected on Tuesday to unanimously approve more than $3 million of funding from the midtown Tax Allocation District to support construction and related costs on four projects set to break ground this year.
“A lot of times people pick that area because they want to get the TAD funding,” Councilman Sam Couvillon said.
The centerpiece project is a $20 million mixed-use retail and residential development planned for the “fourth side of the square,” which currently exists as a parking lot.
When the project is completed, it would pay a combined $239,728 in city, county and school taxes annually.
But that money will first be used to finance the project to the tune of about $2.5 million, meaning it would take about 10 years for the subsidy to be recouped. TAD funding accounts for 12 percent of the total project cost.
Couvillon said numerous developers had “kicked the tires” about developing vacant city lots downtown, but that the TAD was an “integral part” in moving the mixed-use Parkside on the Square project forward.
The midtown TAD, which also includes the downtown square and adjacent blocks, exists to accelerate redevelopment, raise property values and generate new or increased tax revenue for the city, county and school district, according to proponents.
“In simple terms, the increased property taxes that would be generated by a development’s improvements are temporarily used to fund those improvements,” the city’s website states. “Once the improvements are paid for, a development’s taxes are then distributed traditionally.”
City Council is expected to also approve TAD financing of about $500,000 for Carroll Daniel to develop its new headquarters and office space for lease downtown; about $42,000 for renovations to the Troy Millikan law office off Academy Street to turn it into a restaurant; and $74,000 for JOMCO Contractors to renovate a building off Main Street.
“While you’re not getting the property tax, you are going to be getting sales tax revenue,” Couvillon said.
But with the loss of small boutique shops like Frames You-Nique and Gem Jewelry in recent years, Wangemann said he expects to see new restaurants moving in.
“That seems to be the type of place that does well downtown,” he added. “You’ll have people that live downtown now. I think it’ll be a meeting place, as well as an eating place.”
Couvillon said he expects architectural requirements to help balance the changing look of downtown.
“I do know that chains have been mentioned,” Couvillon said. “I think it will add to it. I think variety is a good thing.”