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Regions property could become green space
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Now that the legal struggle is settled, the site of the Regions Operations Center on Jesse Jewell Parkway may one day be turned into green space.

The 1.23-acre tract was not part of the original plan for City View Center - a planned high-rise hotel and office complex touted as a keystone of redeveloping Gainesville's Midtown. Now that Gainesville City Center owns the property as part of an out-of-court settlement with Regions, developer Wendell Starke said he still has no plans to incorporate the tract into his development. Doing so would only delay the development more than the lawsuit already has, Starke said.

"We've discussed the possibility of that being a park with green space," Starke said. "That's the most likely outcome for that property."

The lawsuit between the bank and the developers stemmed from a struggle over whether a 1984 deed granting the bank access from Bradford Street through Gainesville City Center's property was perpetual or expired in 1994. The legal battle ended Friday with Gainesville City Center purchasing the Regions Operations Center for nearly $828,000. That's less than the $1.014 million Starke offered for the property in 2007 in a letter to a Regions' real estate executive, Keith Pressley.

Starke said the settlement will allow the developers to move forward with their plans for the Midtown development.

"We're glad to get this particular issue behind us," Starke said. "And we hope that this time that we've lost will not be as costly as it could be."

The next step for Gainesville City Center, Starke said, is to go back to the prospective tenants of their first planned office building "and see if we can bring them back into the fold."

Designs for the pedestrian bridge over Jesse Jewell Parkway connecting the development to the Georgia Mountains Center are also underway, Starke said.

The three men behind City View Investments LLC who had a contract to purchase the operations center at the time of the lawsuit, also said they are pleased with its outcome.

Tread Syfan said he and his partners in City View Investments - Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver and Commissioner Billy Powell - were paid to back out of their contract to purchase the bank property.

"We were paid a little additional consideration but I'm not willing to disclose that," Syfan said. "I feel good about it. I think it worked out reasonably well for everybody and hopefully the project can now go forward."

Oliver said the money received for backing off the deal may help the businessmen "break even after we pay attorneys fees."

Powell did not return a call seeking comment, but Syfan and Oliver both said they were glad to see Gainesville City Center move forward on their development plans.

"I felt like it was for the good of the community that we just move this property and let (Gainesville City Center) go ahead and build a hotel and center and I personally am delighted that they went ahead and bought the Regions building," Oliver said. "With them having bought the building it makes the project a lot smoother and a lot nicer and I'm personally glad that we moved out of the way and it's over with."

Times reporter Melissa Weinman contributed to this story.