Developers may seek Midtown permit by year's end
Published: Friday, August 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 1, 2003 at 1:37 a.m.
Developers of a high-rise complex outside of downtown Gainesville should be ready to apply for a building permit by the end of the year.
The $250 million Midtown project will include two apartment buildings that will house about 500 units with room for 1,500 students, and a 300-room hotel. The trio of structures will average 280 feet in height, and the city's Development Review Board approved the project earlier this year with a set of stipulations.
Midtown's developers are currently fine-tuning the construction designs in accordance with the requests of local officials, said Ben Schachter, president of Boca Raton-based Midtown U.F. LLC, which will manage the development.
"We're still working to meet all of the city's conditions on the plan," Schachter said. "The fire department, for example, wanted more details on the sprinkler systems, and there were some questions on the water retention plans. We're moving ahead with those requests."
Schachter said he expected the plans to be ready for the city's building department "in the next four or five months." If the city signs off on the project and grants a building permit, it would clear the way for a 30- to 35-month construction schedule that would culminate in the fall of 2006.
The complex will stand in a four-block area at SW 2nd Avenue and SW 6th Street, and will include restaurants, shopping venues and an enclosed, 1,100-space parking garage. One of Midtown's apartment buildings will cater to undergraduate students at the University of Florida, and the other residential building will target UF's graduate student population.
Financing for Midtown is being provided by an international lending institution, which project officials haven't identified because of a confidentiality agreement. The lender is waiting until receipt of a building permit before the first round of money is released, Schachter said.
In mid-July, Midtown officials also arranged for a "focus group" to gauge interest in the project. Participants consisted mainly of current UF students, and although most of them won't be in school when Midtown is finished, their opinions were taken as a representation of Midtown's anticipated tenant mix. The focus group study was conducted by a private market research company unaffiliated with Midtown U.F. LLC.
"There were three separate sessions, and I'd say we had at least 10 people at each session," said Jenna Emmons, a Gainesville resident who helped with the focus group. "They were shown drawings of the buildings and asked for their opinions on the project. There were a mix of reactions."
Schachter said some of the study's participants expressed reservations with the elevator systems in the apartment buildings, which will operate on a key-card system and are designed to go directly to a tenant's front door. But overall reactions to Midtown were positive, he said.
"Some students wondered how they were going to visit their friends in the building," Schachter said. "They didn't want to feel prohibited from seeing their friends, but we explained that the building will have a large rooftop deck and there will be gathering areas at the surrounding restaurants. There will be plenty of opportunities for interaction among tenants."
Joe Coombs can be reached at (352) 338-3102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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